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Sample Dissertation Methodology Chapter:
How Does the Offering of Auxiliary Services by White Goods Sellers Influence the Purchase Intentions of UK Customers?

Chapter 3: Methodology

3.1. Introduction

This chapter outlines the process of data collection and processing as well as the methodological choices necessary for exploring the purchase intentions of white goods buyers in the UK context. The following sections follow the structure suggested by Saunders et al. (2019) in the form of the research onion model. The discussion starts with the general choices of research philosophies and approaches and narrows down towards specific data collection and analysis instruments.

Figure 1: Research Onion

figure 1 - research onion

 

3.2. Research Methodologies

3.2.1. Philosophy

Research philosophies specify the relationship between the researcher and the process of knowledge development (Quinlan et al., 2019). This dissertation adheres to epistemology as the philosophy exploring the elements constituting acceptable knowledge in the selected fields of study (Collins, 2018). The alternative axiological and ontological stances were discarded because the researcher sought to collect the data about the studied purchase decision-making processes through a series of observations similar to those utilised by natural scientists. Hence, personal values and beliefs, as well as different perceptions of reality, were excluded from the discussion. This choice was in line with the positivist stance that seeks to uncover and analyse behavioural patterns on the basis of quantitative and objective data that can be utilised as a basis for generalisations (Ling and Ling, 2016). In this dissertation, the researcher studied the behaviours of 117 UK customers to build predictions about the behaviours and attitudes of all buyers of white goods in this country.

 

3.2.2. Research Approach and Strategy

The choice of deduction as the primary research approach for this dissertation was substantiated by the high predictability of this method that produces clear results in a controllable manner (Veal, 2017). It assumes that the conceptual framework developed at the Literature Review level will be tested against the primary data collected in the UK to confirm or discard the earlier formulated hypotheses. Time and cost limitations suggested that the inductive approach based on the initial analysis of large data samples could be less preferable than the deductive one. From a strategic standpoint, the quantitative strategy was deemed as a more optimal one. The relatively low response rates of modern research studies suggested that UK consumers contacted via online channels may be reluctant to engage in face-to-face interviews or allocate more than 15-20 minutes of their time to the completion of survey forms (Brunt et al., 2017). Since the researcher did not provide any valuable incentives to participants, the length and complexity of the data collection process had to be kept to the minimum in order to collect a sufficient sample of responses within the existing time frame. At the same time, the views of individual buyers of white goods were not deemed more relevant, informative or significant than those of their peers. This further suggested that the qualitative strategy was not optimal for addressing the research objectives.

 

3.3. Research Methods

3.3.1. Sampling Strategies

The selected sample size was 117 individuals, which was smaller than the sample sizes of the studies used for identifying the key purchase behaviour antecedents in this research project that exceeded 500 respondents (Kalaiselvi and Muruganandam, 2015; Karthika et al., 2018). However, it was expected that this number of participants would ensure good generalisability of the findings and would be sufficient for applying the selected statistical instruments with reliable results. The sampling strategy utilised by the researcher could be characterised as convenience non-probability sampling (Seric and Ljubica, 2018). Any individual willing to take part in this research project and meeting the inclusion criteria presented in the table below was accepted into the study. This measure was expected to maximise the speed of achieving the desired sample size while also increasing the convenience of the respondents (Beins, 2017). The links to online questionnaire forms were distributed via several channels including Facebook posts on the personal page of the researcher, several online communities including the ukwhitegoods.co.uk forum, and specialised groups on social media such as the r/SampleSize community on Reddit. Considering the fact that white goods are used by most households in the UK, most population members residing in the selected territory were expected to possess the necessary knowledge about the studied topic.

 

Table 1: Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Table 1. Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

 

3.3.2. Data Collection Strategies

The survey method utilised by such earlier analysed studies as Das and Misra (2018) and Lahiri and Sarkar (2018) was recognised as the most logical choice within the quantitative approach and the positivist paradigm. This instrument also conforms with the earlier mentioned need to maximise the convenience of the respondents in order to achieve the targeted sample size within a reasonable time frame. The traditional alternative to this method in the form of semi-structured interviews has both advantages and disadvantages in comparison with surveys. On the one hand, questionnaire forms are limited by the selected list of questions and pre-defined response options (Bell et al., 2018). This does not allow the researcher to extract additional information from more knowledgeable respondents through additional queries. On the other hand, interviews are generally more time-consuming and inconvenient since the process of data collection has to occur at a specific moment and interviewees have to allocate 30-40 minutes of their time to a live meeting or a Skype call (Johnson et al., 2018). Considering the busy lifestyles of UK customers, this arrangement could radically reduce the readiness of many prospective respondents to engage in this study, which is why this alternative method was discarded by the researcher. The following table presents the search term keywords utilised for secondary data collection at the Literature Review level.

Table 2: Search Term Keywords

Table 2. Search Term Keywords

 

The following databases were utilised for finding the relevant secondary sources.

Table 3: Databases Searched

 

3.3.3. Survey Form Contents

To further facilitate the convenience of potential participants, online survey forms were constructed using the SurveyMonkey platform (SurveyMonkey, 2019). This instrument allows the researchers to quickly create visual and textual materials and process the collected data using integrated visualisation tools. The 12 questions explored the respondent background, the preferences regarding the auxiliary services provided by white good sellers, and the outcomes of these strategies in the form of two dependent variables. The first section collected the background information about the respondents. The first question explored the experience of purchasing white goods from UK retailers within the 5 years preceding the survey date. The persons lacking this knowledge were asked to withdraw from participation in the survey. The respondents passing this exclusion criterion were asked about their age, gender, geographical location, and income levels. This background information was deemed necessary to appraise the psychographic characteristics of the sample and exclude underage members (Fielding et al., 2016).

 

The second section explored 6 independent variables, namely collect and recycle services, equipment disconnection services, installation services, interior design services, payment by instalments, and real-time order tracking. These elements were formalised on the basis of the Literature Review as potentially viable antecedents of two outcomes, namely the satisfaction with the previous purchase and the readiness to purchase products from the same retailer in the future (Kalaiselvi and Muruganandam, 2015; Lahiri and Sarkar, 2018). To minimise ambiguity, the respondents were asked to focus on a single buying experience within the previous 5 years (if they made several orders). The independent variables were appraised via the questions regarding their utilisation by respondents’ retailers of choice, such as,

 

“Did your provider of white goods offer collect and recycle services to help you dispose of large-size items?” (collect and recycle services)

“Did your provider of white goods offer installation services such as connection to water and gas pipelines, wall mounting, etc.?” (installation services)

 

The response options for single-answer multiple choice questions were presented in the form of 5-point Likert scales ranging from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ to facilitate the convenience of the respondents (Saunders et al., 2019). The two dependent variables were introduced to diversify between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. The first question of the third section explored the satisfaction with the previous purchase experience. Considering the fact that all member participants completed their purchase decisions, which was the entry criterion for participation, this question appraised the final stage of the consumer decision-making model, namely post-purchase evaluations. Taking into account the significant role of electronic word-of-mouth and online customer reviews for stimulating new sales mentioned by Karthika et al. (2018), the improvement of this parameter could have both direct and indirect effects on sales volumes. The second outcome was the readiness to purchase new products from the same retailer in the future. As noted by Das and Misra (2018), customer satisfaction could not always be viewed as a reliable predictor of future loyalty due to the high competition between sellers and zero switching costs. This suggested the introduction of this second variable to appraise how the presence or absence of these auxiliary services could complement the main offering and increase the attractiveness of retailers for their clients.

 

3.3.4. Data Analysis Strategies

The data collection process was not stopped after the achievement of the desired limit of 117 respondents. According to Mukherjee (2019), some participants may leave research projects before their completion due to personal reasons, which suggested the need to have several reserve forms to compensate for this effect. Hence, the final sample size was 124 respondents, which allowed the researcher to discard the forms that were not completed in full. The graphical analysis was utilised using the integrated visualisation tools of the SurveyMonkey platform such as pie chart diagrams and clustered columns constructor. This type of analysis allowed the researcher to improve the readability of the collected data and quickly identify any interesting patterns within it (Gray, 2016). At the same time, the formulated objectives implied the need to appraise the impact of the six selected factors on consumer satisfaction and loyalty. To address this goal, the author of this dissertation constructed two linear regression models. The 117 responses were extracted from SurveyMonkey and were inputted into the SPSS software for statistical analysis. The following variable definition chart presents a summary of the variables explored in this study as well as linear regression equations.

 

Table 4: Variable Definition Chart

3.3.5. Validity and Reliability

The validity of this study could be compromised by such threats as participant error, participant bias, researcher error, and researcher bias (Bell et al., 2018). The impact of the first two factors was minimised by increasing the sample size, utilising the survey data collection method, and reducing the perceived level of inconvenience. Specifically, all respondents were aware of the anonymity of their data and could complete the forms at any moment. These provisions reduced the perceived threat levels and allowed them to provide answers with maximal accuracy. At the same time, the reliability of this study could be affected by instrumentation errors, sample maturation, testing issues or past and recent events (Saunders et al., 2019). While some of these factors were beyond the reasonable scope of control of the researcher, their impact was minimised by distributing 10 pilot questionnaires to improve the readability of the forms and make sure that they capture the intended data in an accurate manner. Additionally, the clearly set time frame of the data collection phase was expected to reduce the maturation effects and the impact of any past or recent events on the selected sample of the respondents.

 

3.4. Research Ethics

All research studies have to prevent any negative consequences for their participants that may emerge due to the fact of their participation or the information disclosed by them (Mukherjee, 2019). This requirement was realised by the strict adherence to applicable ethical standards used in business and social research. The respondents were informed about their right to leave the project at any moment for any reason, the aims of this dissertation, and the topics addressed by the questions, which may be deemed as sufficient information for providing an informed consent according to Fielding et al. (2016). Additionally, they could submit a formal complaint to the university ethical commission directly via the contacts provided by the researcher if they deemed this step necessary. The consent forms signed by all respondents and all collected survey forms were stored on a password-protected device and were not disclosed to any third parties. The following participant information sheet was used to obtain informed consent from all respondents.

 

Participant Information Sheet

Dear Respondent,

I am a marketing student at the University of ... carrying out a Research Project as part of my Level 3 study requirements, under the supervision of...

 

This research is subject to the ethical guidelines prescribing the principles of obtaining informed consent and the need to notify the respondents about their right to withdraw as well as the provisions made to preserve their anonymity. Let me briefly introduce you to the aim of this study, the type of data that will be collected, and the ways it will be stored and processed.

 

Aim of the Study

This study explores the relevance of auxiliary services for white goods buyers in terms of their satisfaction with their purchases and their future loyalty towards the retailers of their choice.

 

Study Procedure

The questionnaire you will be asked to complete contains 12 questions focused on your background information (age, gender, geographical location, and income level), the auxiliary services offered during your previous acquisition of white goods, your overall satisfaction with this past transaction, and your readiness to purchase new products from the same retailer in the future. The completion of the survey form will take 15-20 minutes approximately.

 

The participation in this study is voluntary. If you agree to participate in this research project, all data provided by you will be treated confidentially. Your name and any identifying information (provided in this consent form) will be stored separately from your survey form materials. You are free to withdraw from this project at any moment for any reason whatsoever. If you have any questions, please, email to: [email address here]

 

3.5. Chapter Summary

This study adheres to epistemology and positivism as primary research philosophies (Bell et al., 2018). These methodological choices were supported by the exclusive use of structured quantitative data collected from the sample of 117 UK respondents. The results of the study have been processed with graphical and statistical analyses to address the earlier formulated research objectives.  

 

References

Beins, B. (2017) Research Method: A Tool for life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bell, E., Bryman, A. and Harley, B. (2018) Business Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brunt, P., Horner, S. and Semley, N. (2017) Research Methods in Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management, London: SAGE.

Collins, H. (2018) Creative Research: The Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Das, S. and Misra, D. (2018) “An Empirical Study on Factors Influencing the Buying Behavior of Consumers Towards Washing Machine in Balasore Town, Odisha”, International Journal of Advance Engineering and Research Development, 5 (8), pp. 60-68.

Fielding, N., Lee, R. and Blank, G. (2016) The SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods, London: SAGE.

Gray, D. (2016) Doing Research in the Business World, London: SAGE.

Johnson, T., Pennell, B., Stoop, I. and Dorer, B. (2018) Advances in Comparative Survey Methods: Multinational, Multiregional, and Multicultural Contexts, Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Kalaiselvi, D. and Muruganandam, D. (2015) “An Analysis on Purchase Behaviour towards Selected White Goods”, Asia Pacific Journal of Research, 32 (1), pp. 80-90.

Karthika, R., Anand, V., Senthilkumar, S. and Monisha, L. (2018) “Factors Influencing Consumer Buying Behaviour towards Selected White Goods in Tiruchirappalli District”, International Journal of Research Culture Society, 2 (2), pp. 218-223.

Lahiri, I. and Sarkar, G. (2018) “Consumers’ Online Buying Behaviour: A Study with Reference to Home Appliances in Kolkata”, International Journal of Business and Management Invention, 7 (1), pp. 1-8.

Ling, L. and Ling, P. (2016) Methods and Paradigms in Education Research, Hershey: IGI Global.

Mukherjee, S. (2019) A Guide to Research Methodology: An Overview of Research Problems, Tasks and Methods, London: CRC Press.

Quinlan, C., Babin, B., Carr, J. and Griffin, M. (2019) Business Research Methods, Boston: Cengage Learning.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., Thornhill, A. and Bristow, A. (2019) Research Methods for Business Students, 5th ed., Harlow: Pearson Education.

Seric, N. and Ljubica, J. (2018) Market Research Methods in the Sports Industry, New York: Emerald Publishing Limited.

SurveyMonkey (2019) “SurveyMonkey”, [online] Available at: https://www.surveymonkey.com [Accessed on 23 September 2019].

Veal, A. (2017) Research Methods for Leisure and Tourism, London: Pearson UK.