Review the research procedures

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The previous chapter examined the literature significant to this study stressing on some of the important findings of previous research. This chapter intends to review the research procedures concerned in carrying out this study. Firstly, it explains the research design used in this study justifying the reasons for selecting the design. Secondly, it considers the selection of research locations and subjects for this study. In addition, this chapter also underlines data collection techniques, reliability and validity; as well as ethical issues.

Research philosophy

For the purpose of this research, the researcher has adopted the positivism philosophy, an epistemological point of view that is concerned with the studying of circumstances, which would enable this research to generate the quantifiable data for the development of BC's future business and marketing strategy. (Bryman & Bell, 2003) In view of the current economy recession and bad company turnover, the researcher hopes to find out the perceptions of Malaysian's parents towards high-quality, high-priced baby products; as well as ways of improving company turnover.

Research approach

By using a deductive approach, the research first established the theory of the recent economy recession and limited financial resources plays significant roles in forcing parents to purchase low-quality, low-price baby products (Robson, 2002). Secondly, the theory of advertisement in printed media would facilitate BC in creating additional awareness to the company's offerings. The researcher also developed the theory of sales promotion as a marketing tool for attracting and increasing BC's turnover. Later, these five hypotheses were tested.

Although there were limited past studies on consumer behaviour, particularly on parents and infant supply industry; there were a number of literatures on consumer behaviour and general retail industry. There were also studies on the effects of advertisement and in-store promotion activities on increasing store traffic and turnover. This has allowed the researcher to establish theories and hypotheses required for the deductive approach. Research using an inductive approach is likely to concern with acquiring knowledge of the meanings of humans factors attach to the events. Thus, it is more appropriate for study on a small sample of subjects, compared to the large number as with this research (Bryman & Bell, 2003).

Research design

This will be an explanatory research, as the management of BC would be interested in understanding the reasons of the disappointing turnover and to develop a suitable business and marketing strategy to rectify this downfall (Cooper & Schindler, 2003, p. 11).

Exploratory studies is not appropriate for the reason that it focuses on learning what happen and look for insights to subject matter, without drawing any conclusions to the subject under research. It is useful if the company is unsure of the nature of the problem and hope to understand more clearly. In this project, poor turnover is evident of the problem faced by BC; thus investigation and rectification would be the management's main concern (Adams & Schvaneveldt, 1991). Moreover, exploration is often connected to subjectiveness and non-systematic design.

Descriptive studies deals with finding answers to the questions who, what, when and how of a subject. It may or may not have the probability of drawing an effective conclusion, which the management required for its future strategies (Saunders et al., 2009).

Although this may be deemed as a descriptive study, considering it is concerned with understanding the consumer buying behaviour. However, the management of BC is likely to require this research to draw up an effective conclusion, as a means for its future plans; which descriptive study lacks. Nonetheless, scholars argued the possibility of descripto-explanatory studies for this scenario (Saunders et al., 2009).

Research strategies

The researcher uses survey to collect primary data from a sample size of 400 populations. Surveyis usually linked to deductive approach and it is the most accepted and frequently used strategy in business and management research. It allows a researcher to collect a large amount of quantitative data from a sizeable population, in the most economical way. Original data direct from the samples is crucial to this research. With the information gathered from the feedback of customers of BC and other competitors, BC may be able to develop the most suitable business and marketing strategy (Saunders et al., 2009).

A researcher may choose to use experiment, survey, case study, action research, grounded theory, ethnograph or archival research for collection of primary data. Experiment is not suitable for this research because the volunteer subjects are usually divided into one or more experimental groups, which given the nature of this survey, it would be a challenging task (Hakim, 2000). Archival research uses past administrative records and census documents as its main source of data. Data collected may not contain the recent or relevant for BC's business and marketing strategy (Yin, 2008).

Primary and secondary data collection

This research uses a four-page self-administered questionnaire, which is attached as Appendix IV. The questionnaires were administered to the customers and patrons of three baby speciality stores and one departmental store in Malaysia. This research is confined to three main cities, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Kuala Lumpur. BC's own store in Petaling Jaya, BC's own store in Subang Jaya, Mothercare and a major departmental store in Kuala Lumpur. Both BC's own stores were selected for understanding the profile of own customers and patrons for its business and marketing strategy purposes. While the two stores in Kuala Lumpur were selected for its population density and degree of competition.

The population was defined as ‘parents of children under the age of five who uses baby nursery products'. Target populations were divided into groups of 100 respondents from each BC outlet, and 100 respondents from Mothercare store and another 100 respondents from the major departmental store. The survey questionnaires were distributed personally by an interviewer who explains the aims of the survey and how to fill out the questionnaires. The respondents were allowed several minutes to complete the simple survey, and it is return and the spot. Although it is similar to face-to-face interview, but it incorporate the advantages of this data collection method. It is less time consuming and able to obtain a higher response rate than mail surveys (Yin, 2008).

The research was conducted in January and February 2011, over seven days per week and covering different range of time periods so as to acquire as representative a sample of population as possible. The researcher is able to collect 118 questionnaires from the 400 questionnaires distributed to all targeted groups. Although the questionnaire is administered by the researcher personally, there were scenarios whereby the subject's were reluctant to respond immediately and promised to deliver at a later stage. However, it did not materialise. This is one of the reasons for the low response rate. Out of 118, only 100 were able to be used for the purpose of this study; due to incompletion of questionnaires.

The questionnaire consists of three sections: section 1 consists of demographic information; section 2 contains five-point Likert-style rating scale and list questions. Whereas section 3 contains category questions and list questions (Cooper & Schindler, 2003).

In demographic section of the questionnaire, there were some category questions which asked for race, education level and the total combine income level of the respondents. This is most useful in profiling an individual consumer and/or targeting selected consumer groups for marketing planning purposes. Although it may seem racism or discrimination for asking Race, but Malaysia is a country with multi-racial population. Its population consist of 50 percent Malay, 30 percent Chinese and 10 percent Indian. Each race with own written and spoken language, and news media. This would be crucial when deciding on the language and media for advertising campaign. One of the objectives of this study is to understand if economy forces plays significance role in parents' buying decisions. Hence, the question for total combine household income.

Second section is in line with another objective of this study, to establish the perceptions of parents on high-priced baby products and also the effects of economical forces. It consist of four-question, the respondent is asked how strongly he or she strongly agree or disagree with the statement on a five-point scale, with regards to product quality and pricing. Another four category questions on the same subject were asked (Cooper & Schindler, 2003). The recent report of natural disaster which affected the share market and snowballed into fear of another global recession has reported slowdown of GDP growth. The questions in the section aimed to investigate whether these factors influence Malaysian parents' buying behaviour, namely on high-priced baby products. In addition, to understand their perceptions on high-quality baby products and their willingness to accept its high-price. BC is positioned as a high-end speciality store for imported and branded baby products. It is important for the management to understanding the future of this particular market segment for its business planning purposes.

Third section is aimed to examine the buying behaviour of parents, the impact of advertisement in creating awareness and the effectiveness of in-store sales promotions. There were seven category questions and one list question which asked the type of promotion which respondents like the most. BC has invested heavily in advertisement campaign throughout the past two years, however its results is still doubtful. The questions were intended to explore the parents' shopping preferences and their awareness of BC's products and offering. BC has rigorously followed the “Malaysian Sales Carnival” campaign, as well as its own promotional campaign. And this is taken its tow on the company's profit margin. This survey aims to investigate if the parents are only attracted to purchase only during sales period or there are other underlying reasons.

The researcher uses company past financial report as one of the sources for secondary data. Government reports on global and Malaysia's GDP growth rate were assessed, as well as statistical census from several government departments.

Quantitative and qualitative data analysis

The researcher assumes a 95 percent confidence level for the different marginal error from the data collected. Systematic sampling will be used to select sample at a regular intervals from the sampling frame. This is done by calculating the sampling fraction, based on the below formula (Figure 3.2). The sampling fraction is ¼, therefore, the researcher will select one sample in every four cases.

Data will be input and descriptive statistical analysis will be executed by using Statistical Programme for Social Science (SPSS). The analysis will be presented to BC's management in bar charts, pie charts and tables.

Research limitations

Data collection may be limited by the time available to collect the necessary data from the respondents, as it is extremely time consuming to gather the necessary data when population size is too wide (Sekaran, 2000). To distribute and collect questionnaires from customers of other competitors may produce conflicting issues with the competitor and its customers. The research was also limited by insufficient field workers available to collect large sample size from three different locations. There may be possibility of untruthfulness of the subject in completing the actual data in questionnaire, especially for questions such as total household income. Due to psychological issue, respondents may provide as answer which is higher than what is actual figure.

There were limited company archival data available due to the short period of establishment (approximately two years), as well as past survey reports on Malaysia retail industry, namely infant supply industry. Although there were many studies done on consumer behaviour and retail industry, there were limited studies which specifically aim at parents' behaviour and baby retail stores (infant supply industry).

Research reliability and validity

Reliability refers to the regularity of both the questionnaires and the respondents. The questionnaires must be interpreted by all respondents in the same way; in order to produce a consistent finding at different times. Reliability is particularly important for quantitative research; considering that a quantitative researcher would be most interested in the stability of the criterions (Bryman & Bell, 2003, p.33).

Validity deals with the truthfulness of the conclusion derived from a research, and whether the findings of the research is what they seem to be. Internal validity of the questionnaires refers to the capability of the questionnaire to assess what the researcher plan to determine. Content validity refers to the degree to which the questionnaires present sufficient coverage of this investigation. Predictive validity is concerned with the ability of the questions to make precise calculations (Sekaran, 2000).

Ethical issues

Cooper & Schindler (2003) described ethics as principles and beliefs of actions that guide the moral choices in relation to our behaviour. Ethical issues may arise as the researcher plans for this research. Ethical issue deals with the suitable behaviour of the researcher in relation with the right of the subject of this research. Therefore, research ethics is about how the researcher devise and interpret the research title, construct the research and obtain access, compile data, process and store the data, evaluate the data and report the research findings in an honest and responsible manner (Saunders et al., 2009). The objective of research ethics is to ensure that no one is hurt or endure unfavourable repercussions from the research activities.

Saunders et al. (2009) highlighted a number of main ethical issues which may arise at the phases and during the course of research, and they are related to the: -

  • Privacy of potential and actual respondents.
  • Consent and potential dishonest respondents.
  • The level of free-will of the respondents and the right to pull out partially or completely from the process.
  • Protection of confidentiality of the data given by the respondents or traceable respondents and their state of anonymousness.
  • Psychological reactions of the respondents towards the way the researcher's attempt to collect data; for example humiliation, anxiety, uneasiness, hurt and upset.

Cooper and Schindler (2003, p.125) suggested that the researcher should be responsible for the right to privacy of the possible and actual participants. The identity of participants must be treated with strict confidentiality. The research will strictly adhere to this. This is crucial in order to preserve the validity of the research, as well as to protect the respondents. There are a number of ways a researcher may protect the participants' confidentiality: -

  • Limiting access to participants' personal information.
  • Acquire authorised nondisclosure documents.
  • Participants' identity should only be disclosed with a written consent.
  • Limiting access to the data device which stores the participants' identity.

One of the ethical issues which may arise is seeking access from respondents. Respondents who are friends and families of the researcher may feel obligated and pressured into agreeing due to their relationship with the researcher (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). Existing customers of BC may be coerced into responding, with the promise of special benefits. Therefore, presenting biased replies. 

Consent from participants of a research is a sensitive issue, and should be obtained and the survey must be conducted under voluntary manner. For general business research, it is sufficient to obtain verbal consent from the participants (Zikmound, 2000). Participants should be well informed of the questionnaires and information must be given freely in return.

Researcher should preserve its objectivity towards the data collected, data analysis and data reporting process. Researcher should not try to influence the answers from participants or manipulate the data collected (Easterby-Smith et al, 2008).