Business Essays - Social Cultural Consumer

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Social Cultural Consumer

Chapter 3: Methodology


The general aim of this research is to investigate what social and cultural changes affect a specific consumer groups’ attitudes towards their choice of wedding package products. By many of researchers and authors in consumer behaviour and marketing areas it has been pointed out that cultural and social factors, including basic social demographic factors can influence consumer’s choice and attitudes towards products (in this case, the conventional wedding products and new demands of customised wedding products) such as individual and social values, face, gender, age, religion, place they work and live, family, and individual’s history and preference, income, education and occupation(Engel, J.F., 1995; Hofstede, G., 1980; Kim Jai-Ok et al., 2002; Lee You-II and Hobday, M., 2003).

This research will relate consumer behaviour to specific chosen consumer groups, who will be categorized by their professional occupations, and their attitudes towards the Korean conventional hotel wedding products, especially a large-scale package wedding and a new small-scale customised wedding product. Weddings are a ‘one of the biggest business’ in the Korean hospitality industry and Koreans often over spend on their weddings for many social and cultural reasons.

According to Korean National Statistic Office 2007, the total wedding cost per couple, including honeymoon cost and a property rent for their new live in 2005 was more than 50,000 GBP and 15% out the cost was just spent for a wedding ceremony and food reception (National Statistic Office, 2007). Just in 2007, 300,000 couples were expected to get married and remarrying couples increased up to 42,000 couples in Korea.

The research paper, published by KNSO showed that this increased figure of remarrying couples covers 22.7% out of the total marriage rate on nation scale (ibid). In addition, according to “the research of Korea wedding culture and patterns” conducted by Minister of Health and Welfare and Korea Wedding Culture & Information Ltd in 2007 the second most popular place for the wedding among couples and remarrying couples was ‘hotels (ibid).

From the finding of MA Dissertation, conducted by Ha, Che-hun(2003) ‘ Positioning of Hotel Ceremony in the field of Food and Beverage’ shows 30% out of the total Food & Beverage profits, including conventions and other functions of 3 or 4 star hotels were generated from Wedding events in 2003.

However, many Korean hotels and wedding halls still offer a large-scale wedding banqueting product only ((Ha, Che-hun., 2003; Shin, Do-gil. and Nam, Joong-hyun., 2001). Since the biggest profits generated from weddings at hotel is from food and drinks the most of 3, 4 and 5 star hotels in Korea do not charge wedding couples the cost for using wedding facilities on the wedding day. thus the majority of wedding package products normally requires or want a “guarantee contract’ that a minimum number of wedding guests; if the number of guests stated initially on the signed contract to a hotel did not attend the wedding, the couple must pay the certain amount of money covers the guaranteed numbers of wedding guest.

Normally the minimum number of guests starts from 300 people ((Ha, Che-hun., 2003; Shin, Do-gil. and Nam, Joong-hyun., 2001; I-wedding Ltd, 2008). In contrast, recently, it has been reported that ‘destination wedding’ is becoming popular among some young and wealthy couples and they want to have a small-wedding with their close family and friends only in a Pacific island such as Guam or Saipan.

They seldom buy the conventional wedding package product because of a limited choice, restriction and poor quality in terms of time and food. However, luxury hotels in those islands (e.g. Hilton Guam) provide a customised wedding product for Koreans and some five star hotels and top class restaurants in Korea have newly launched a small but extravagant ‘house/restaurant wedding’ product(Coyne, S. McM, 2005).

Thus, this research will focus on why and how the Korean hotel wedding market needs to understand how social and cultural changes affect a chosen consumer group, who are most likely to afford to use hotel facilities including hotel wedding service.


Research methodology needs to explain what and why researchers choose and use specific method techniques, methodologies and epistemologies in order to maximise research validity and reliability, which are foremost elements in social science studies (Jankowicz, 1995).

In this research, English-written secondary data collection will be carried out at the Learning Resource Centre of Thames Valley University’s Ealing campus, exploring relevant journals, books, reports and newspapers. To collect the quality and variety of data electronic academic journals and relevant websites such as Emerald and TVU E-resource database will be taken into account.

The main search engine to find about the Korean wedding market such as Google, Yahoo, Naver (Korean domestic search engine will be used. To find relevant Korean secondary data collection will be carried out at Korean Assembly Library (in Yeo-oui-do, Seoul) where keeps the vast quantity of both published and unpublished publications and materials.

Other relevant resources will be gathered from electronic database such as Korean National Statistic Office and the Journal of Korean Hotel and Restaurant website, providing many articles and journals published by Korean professors and researchers on regular base.

Methodology often refers to more than a simple set of methods; rather it refers to the rationale and the philosophical assumptions that underlie a particular study (Clark, M., Riley, M., Wilkie, E and Wood, R. C, 1998). Methodology does not refer to research or to the specific analysis techniques. In the past, research methodology debates in social science studies largely focused on strengths and weaknesses of between quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Quantitative approach often regarded as objective and scientific, whereas qualitative approach was seen as subjective and ‘emotional’.

However, in recent developments the majority of researchers see distinctions and differences among the terms of techniques/methods and methodology/epistemology (Jankowicz. 1995). It is important to grasp some of the different philosophical meanings related to conducting a research before undertaking any research, such as ontology and epistemology. Knowing such philosophical assumptions would help to define the field of research and refine the research questions.

It would be easier for the researchers to eliminate or decide on which ones will be best utilized in the future research by assessing the characteristics of these terms. While ontology represents different propositions about “what reality is”, epistemology establishes different ways of “what can be accepted as real” (Hart, 2000). These dimensions for approaching the objective of the research are present in all forms of knowledge whether that knowledge is scientific or common sense.

Every disciplinary philosophy contains both epistemological and ontological parts - a framework which defines what we will understand. Collis and Hussey (2003) describe the relationship between ontology, epistemology and methodology as “the use of methodology allows the accumulation of a disciplinary store knowledge, the results of the work aims at comprehending a particular topic and which are accepted as valid because they were collected within the criteria of ontology and epistemology that are part of the relevant philosophy.”

Thus, after knowing reality, and establishing some procedures to gain knowledge as realty, the researchers may then use methodologies to make sure that their knowledge or perception towards reality is valid (Hart, 2000).

In this study, one particular main research philosophy, “positivism” will have a direct impact on the research approach thus they will now be examined in the next section. However, although it will focus on the main research philosophy (positivism) for this study in the following section, to understanding what is positivism and its features, it is necessary to show the explanation of two major research philosophies, “Positivism and phenomenology in comparison.

The two Paradigms-Positivism and Phenomenology

Positivism and phenomenology are the two major philosophies that the researcher normally adopts. These two different approaches to research or research traditions have their own set of rules and standards to ensure that valid and reliable knowledge is produced. Collis and Hussey (2003) suggested that the two paradigms are like two ends of a continuum, with one end being objective and scientific and the other subjective and humanistic.

Research that seeks to explain human behavior through cause and effect is called positivism differs from research that aims to understand and interpret human actions through the individual’s own perspective which is called phenomenology. These two research philosophies should be viewed as two different paradigms as each makes different assumptions about the real world (Finn, 2000).

Positivism is a research philosophy that is founded on the belief that investigations of the social world should be conducted in the same way as those investigations that are conducted in the natural sciences (Remenyi et al., 2003). It embraces a view of the world as being guided by scientific rules that explain the behaviour of phenomena through casual relationships. Therefore positivism can be future elaborated by examining positivism’s ontological, epistemological and methodological bases (Jennings, 2001).

First, in ontological basis, positivism is founded in the physical sciences where the natural world is perceived as being organised by universal laws and truths. A positivist approach to social inquiry is sometimes described as a behaviourist approach because it sets out to explain behaviour using casual relationships. Second, in epistemological basis, the relationship between the researcher and the subjects or objects is one that is objective and value free. The researcher is assumed not to impact on or influence the results or findings in a research project.

Third, in methodological basis, a positivist researcher will use the methodology of the physical sciences, such as “controlled experiments” and repeatable procedures that will achieve the same results each time the ‘experiment’ is conducted. Positivistic approach prefers “working with an observable social reality and that the end product of such research can be law-like generalizations similar to those produced by the physical and natural scientists” (Remenyi et al., 2003).

There is an emphasis on a highly structured methodology to facilitate replication and on quantifiable observations that lend themselves to statistical analysis (Gill and Johnson, 1997 cited in Saunders et al., 2003).

According to Collis and Hussy (2003), positivistic approach seeks the facts or causes of social phenomena, with little regard to the subjective state of the individual. On the other hand, phenomenology research holds more diverse perceptions.

Phenomenology is defined as a research philosophy that focuses on meanings and intuition of social phenomena (Lewis et al., 2003). A more literally definition by Cohen and Manion (1987) cited in Remenyi et al.(2003) is that “phenomenology as a theoretical point of view that advocates the study of direct experience taken at face value; and one which sees behavior as determined by the phenomena of experience rather than by external, objective and physically described reality.” It emphasizes on the interactions as the source from which to gain information about the formation of social life (Finn, 2000).

As a paradigm, phenomenology considers the world is constituted of multiple realities (Jennings, 2001). First, in ontological basis, phenomenology researcher assumes an inductive approach to research, and commences their study in the empirical world in order to develop explanations of phenomena.

These generalizations are used as the basis for theory building and generation. This contrasts with the positivist paradigm, which utilizes a deductive approach, commencing with theory and then testing the theory in the empirical world. Second, in epistemological basis, phenomenology the relationship between the researcher and subject is subjective rather than objective, as is the case in the positivist paradigm.

Deductive approach

The deductive approach, which links to the philosophical positivism, involves the development of a theory that is subjected to a rigorous test. It is the dominant research approach in the natural sciences, where “laws provide the basis of explanation, permit the anticipation of phenomena, predict their occurrence and therefore allow them to be controlled” (Hussey and Hussey, 1997:52 cited in Saunders et al., 2003).

Deductive approach begins with the theory and collects empirical evidence to analyze with a view to either accepting or refuting the theory. Theorizing comes before the research enquiry. Theorizing and the identification of key concepts derived from the theory have to be defined more specifically before hypotheses can be set up to test (Finn et al, 2000).

As obtained in the literature review of the research proposal that social and cultural factors were the most important determinants of the emergence of changing consumer demands, thus, socio-cultural changes with the product or events (wedding) and are considered to be the most important factors that influences consumer’s mind in regard to chose a product and service. Therefore three hypotheses base on this statement can be proposed:

H1: social and cultural changes impacts on consumer demands toward wedding products and service.

H2: by the changes, the current and future Korean society has high possibilities to switch its conventional wedding culture to a small scale of customized wedding culture thus would generate the preference of a particular wedding ceremony pattern which is a small scale of customized wedding.

H3: Because simply ‘not everyone to be able to use luxury hotel facilities and service this new wedding service attracts a particular group of people affordable and being aware of differences between 4~5 star hotel facilities and others.

An additional important characteristic of deduction is that concepts need to be operationalized in a way that enables facts to be measured quantitatively (Saunders et al, 2003). Here the hypothesis is linking three concepts: social and cultural changes, a newly emerged consumer demands for wedding, and possibilities of emerging the preference of a small scale of customized wedding style more rather than conventional weddings; these three concepts are then operationalized and defined into variables, so that they can be analyzed. Later the quantitative data would then be analyzed and the hypothesis either accepted or rejected.

Quantitative data collection

According to Clark (2003), quantitative research is to be more oriented reality based on numbers and statistics; and it includes hypothesis testing, statistical description and the specification of relationships between variables. It tends to emphasize relatively large scale and representative sets of data and presented or perceived as being about the gathering of facts (Blaxte et al, 2002). Finn et al, (2000) also address that quantitative research is pre-ordinate design and its data should be measurable with using numbers. Beside, its setting is impersonal, controlled, deductive and manipulative.

Quantitative research helps to confirm the theory and its process is rational. Surveys and questionnaires are usually associated with the deductive approach because under a positivist approach, the data used has to be essentially specific and precise. To achieve the objective of the positive relationship between the impact of socio-cultural changes on consumer behaviour in wedding and a new fast growing emerged market (a small scale of customized wedding service) a structured questionnaire survey will be conducted.

Self-administrated questionnaires, often called structured questionnaires, are the survey methods used to collect information from people who complete the questions themselves. By choosing questionnaire as the main primary research method would help to reduces bias. There is uniform question presentation and no middle-man bias, which often found in interview-based surveys. The researcher's own opinions will not influence the respondent to answer questions in a certain manner because there are no verbal or visual clues to influence the respondent.

Moreover, using questionnaire can address a larger number of questions of concern from a large group of people in a relatively efficient way, which is more time consuming for the researcher to collect information.

The questionnaire will utilize five points, Likert type scale, from (1) strongly disagrees to (5) strongly agree; and the demographic questions based on multiple choices are giving the respondents to a variety of choices they may want to express on the survey. The researcher can modify the scale by changing the level of agreement to level of satisfaction, with a scale ranking as very satisfied, satisfied, no feeling, dissatisfied, very dissatisfied.

Population: For this study doctors, pharmacists, university (full-time) lecturers and bankers/fund managers who are single, age between the early 30s and early 40s and either living or working in urban cities in South Korea. The age selected here seems to be bit matured but according to KNSO (2007) the average marriage age has been increased. The selected consumer groups are professionals who are more likely to have a higher income and better status due to the occupation achieved by a high education and they are supposed to use hotels or consider hotel weddings (Cho, Yun Hee, 2006).

Those consumers of four groups by occupations are often known as social elites who tend to lead a new cultural trend and demand exclusive and customised service (Planets Culture Ltd., 2007). Personal social network will be used and currently receive positive answers from a few voluntary research participants whom the researcher has personally known.

The voluntary research participants have agreed that they would distribute and collect questionnaires for this research. The questionnaires will be directly distributed to a group of people (respondents) in work (hospitals, pharmacy firms, banks and universities) by four voluntary participants and research helpers. In addition, questionnaires will be translated into Korean.

Sampling techniques and sample size: the survey will use stratified sampling as it has a number of characteristic to meet the purpose of this research. Unlike other sampling techniques, Simple Random Sampling, Cluster Sampling, Systematic Sampling, stratified sampling reflect the proportion of the desired characteristic in the population. In other words, unlike simple random sampling, a research already knows the required characteristic of every member of the population.

For instance, when a researcher intends to select a particular type of job, age, gender and status to pick the particular data or outcome in his/her research method. The total sample size of eighty respondents, as participating to the survey is pre-arranged in a formal promise thus the response rate is expected more than 90%, will be set and it will secure an acceptable size of sample from which to draw conclusions in an acceptable time frame and budget. Less would not be accurate enough and more it will be time consuming and costly.

Positivism evaluation- Advantage, disadvantage, and limitation

In order to investigate the relationship among socio-cultural changes and consumer demands, the research may adopt positivistic philosophy through collecting quantitative data. High reliability is one of the advantages by following the positivistic philosophy research which is about consistency of the results obtained from a measuring instrument in a piece of research (Finn, 2000). For the research questions proposed, the results tend to be high in reliability because the data collected is quantifiable and measurable.

Since positivistic study involves large number of samples, the data collected can be analyzed as numbers; therefore, this quantifiable data are more precise and tend not to vary significantly (Creswell, 2003). In addition, through the operational process, the data collected will be based only on what can actually be observed, that is, the quantitative data collected from closed questions. Hence subjective and intangible data would be ruled out (Creswell, 2003).

General reliability is also usually higher in positivistic research, especially when compare to phenomenology research. It is associated with whether the findings are likely to have broader applicability beyond the focus of the research study (Blaxter et al., 2002). However, depends on the number of respondents, the data collected from the respondents with predetermined answers may or may not be generalized to the public; if the number of respondents are too small, the findings would not be able to represent the general public.

Within the social sciences, some have challenged this positivistic approach as being inappropriate for the investigation of psychological and social phenomena (Rememyi et al., 2003; Brewerton and Millward, 2004). The reason for this is that some of the complicated factors and maybe the most interesting factors will have been stripped out. Other disadvantages of using quantitative method to find out the questions proposed in this research are the possible bias in the answer categories, the difficulty of asking other kinds of questions, the loss of spontaneous responses, and the greater risk of missing data and lower response rates.

The low response rate is an important issue; because the lower the response rate, the more questions are likely to be raised about the representativeness of the achieved sample, which is associated to the generalisability of this research (Bryman and Bell, 2003). However, Since the questionnaires will be distributed by four voluntary participants and research helpers to the research participations in each of the 2 hospitals, 2 large pharmacies, 2 banks (fund managing departments) and some universities the sample ratio of this research is highly controllable.

Considering the nature of this study quantitative-positivist approach is selected to analyse the changing in lifestyle and family culture. Moreover, in the Korean social and cultural contexts quantitative approach is suitable for dealing with sensitive and personal questions such as income, family type and marital status. In addition, quantitative survey method and questionnaire offer a great degree of general statistics ability and reliability which are important quality to develop a new hotel wedding marketing strategy.


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