The media landscape has transformed into a vast and complex world of communication, no longer do we rely on traditional print methods; but what does this mean for the consumer when making purchase decisions? According to Ofcom (2015), “people are spending twice as much time online compared to a decade ago, fuelled by increasing use of tablets and smartphones as technology and digital platforms continue to emerge and evolve at a rapid pace.” The interest in this topic stems from the phenomenal growth from the digital sector; back in 2007 22% of internet users had a social media profile, this tripled to 72% in 2014 (Ofcom, 2015). This research aims to explore the surge in media options in the digital age and whether or not this has made it easier for us to make informed purchase decisions. The focus of this research in centred on luxury brands, these are considered purchases and therefore involve a high involvement thought process, as detailed in appendix 1.The aims and objectives of this research are:
1. To successfully analyse the changes in media landscape over the last decade and understand the impact this has had on the consumer.
2. To recognise changes in the luxury good industry in terms of growth and understand the reasons behind these changes.
3. To assess purchase motivations of luxury goods and what media channels are used in decision making; now, compared to a decade ago.
The traditional models of consumer behaviour, for example illustrated in appendix 1. Are acknowledged to be “ultimate” and “flawless” (Erasmus, Boshoff and Rousseau, 2001). However, “the Internet has changed the current behaviour of consumers” (Constantinides and Fountain., 2008), which suggests the need for this study to use a modern version of the consumer behaviour model as opposed to the traditional models which are arguably outdated in the digital world. Therefore the Conceptual Model of Online Purchase Decision-Making as proposed by Karimi (2013) has been selected as a guideline for this study, this is demonstrated in appendix 2.This process stems from the traditional five step models, but “brings together elements from two different areas of the literature, consumer behaviour and decision science, in order to combine the advantages and reduce the drawbacks of each”. (Karimi., 2013). This model is useful for this study as it is based on modern perceptions and market conditions. It comes with the acknowledgement that “decision making is a dynamic and constructive process in which decision makers might skip or repeat different steps, they therefore follow different decision-making paths” (Karimi., 2013).
In recent years, the luxury goods industry has become the focus of numerous academic studies addressing the concept of luxury as related to consumer perceptions and purchase motivations (Phau and Prendergrast, 2001). “The buoyant and growing luxury goods sector implicates the need for a better understanding of driving factors that encourage luxury brand consumption and the significance of research in the current social and media environments” (Seung-A, and Jin, A., 2012). This gap in the research indicates the value of this study to better understand the motivations for luxury goods purchase. The buoyant market is arguably a result of the growing digital age as numerous brands switch their advertising from traditional methods to digital and social media. “In line with the growing usage of digital media among luxury advertisers it comes as no surprise that the majority of them admit to utilizing social media influence marketing in their campaigns. Additionally, 15% more have plans to start using this method in the near future” (Statista, 2017).
The rise in digital media has changed our behaviors and attitudes as customers. “Customers are now smarter and able to research products in seconds, easily comparing competitors and reviews and unearthing any myths along the way” (The Institute of Digital Marketing, 2017). There is still a great deal of controversy surrounding the subject of the impact of social media on our purchases decisions and its influence on different consumers. “30% of users have little or no trust in the content they see on Facebook, while millennials are especially influenced by user generated content campaigns with 84% reporting that user generated content on company websites has at least some influence on what they buy. (Smartinsights., 2017). In contrast to this, research indicates that traditional methods such as print advertising still have a large impact on our purchase decision making. The research below, as illustrated in appendix 3 indicates that 79% of 1527 adults surveyed took some form of action following exposure to print newspaper adverts. However, this new research aims to dispute these claims and question its reliability as with the increase in the digital age it is predicted that print media does not have the same impact as this suggests.
According to Zmuda (2011), “social media is making inaccessible brands accessible, and consumers appear to be hungry for it.” “The rapid increase in consumers’ involvement in online purchase has transformed the Internet into a powerful force that influences consumer behavior” (McGaughey and Mason, 1998). This statement will be a focal point of this investigation, although many have made this claim there is very little supporting evidence of it. Therefore this study is to assess whether or not the internet really does influence consumers behavior, how and why. The research also aims to explore the concept identified by Van den Poel and Buckinx, (2005), who state that “online consumer behaviour is different from the well-studied traditional behavior. Online purchase decision making process can be characterized as being to some extent adhoc, including both formal and informal sub-processes, as well as being unstructured and highly dynamic”.
H1. Traditional media channels such as print advertising have seen a decline in response from the 16-50 generation
H2. Traditional media channels such as print advertising still plays a role in the decision making process, predominately in the 50+ demographic
H3. All generations will use social media when making a considered purchase for a luxury item
H4. Digital media is the preferred source of communication when it comes to helping with decision making
H5. The digital age over the last decade has made decision making and purchasing more simplistic
A qualitative research design will be utilized for this study. The study will involve the use of literature reviews, case study analysis, interviews and surveys. This research will take an epistemological position, “through an examination of the interpretation of what world by its participants” (Bryman and Bell., 2015). “Qualitative research is a research strategy that usually emphasizes words rather than quantification” (Bryman and Bell., 2015). In order to assess what motivates consumers to buy luxury products and the media channels they use words, text and language are the more appropriate measure to analysis a cognitive function.
The primary research will be conducted through self-administered semi-structured online surveys which will be distributed through workplace email and social media. Whist the survey will be distributed to a broad sample there is no guarantee of response. To assist with audience engagement and participation the respondents will be given more than adequate time for response. The survey will also be sent with an acknowledgement of thanks to the participants which will also descript the value of their contributions with the aim to generate more responses and further distribution of the survey. Snowball sampling has been proposed for use in this research. Social media assists with this form of sampling and will effectively allow for the survey to be distributed to a broad range of people. In addition to this convenience sampling will be used due to its ease of access and will assist in ensuring enough respondents to make the research valid. The aim is to sample 150 participants between the ages of 18 and 80 from a broad range of demographics but predominantly living within the Lincolnshire area. This sample is not “nationally representative” (Elsesser and Lever., 2011) as the survey will not include samples from across the UK nor is it focusing on an equal number of participants across different demographics.
Questions in the survey will be of Likert and dichotomous type, with a small number open questions seeking a more in-depth and personal response. The use of Likert and dichotomous questions helps with the bias of the data but could also engage the potential audience more as they will note that the survey is straight forward and not time consuming to complete.
In addition to this, five friendship pairs will also be used to open debates and gain a greater in depth understanding of views around the subject. Furthermore, friendship pairs can often provide information, which would otherwise go unnoticed, including the respondents body language and tone of voice, the use of text analytic software will be useful here to understand the connotations in the conversation. Participation in both the surveys and friendship pairs will be voluntary and there will be no monetary compensation.
The following areas will be addressed within the friendship pairs and survey:
1. Which media channels is the participant familiar with
2. Which media channels do they engage with on a regular basis
3. Which media channels would they refer to when making a luxury brand purchase decision
4. How frequently does the participants make luxury brand choices and their motivations for this
5. Are the participants aware of changes in media channels and their changes in consumption (if any)
The early 2000’s was selected as the starting point for this research as it is the pinnacle turning point in the development of digital media furthermore this period represents the beginning of case study analysis and a notable increase in secondary research around the subject. Previous exemplary studies, suggest that the most suitable method of purchase decision analysis is through the use of observations and interactions with participants. This is a less forced and more natural environment where open discussions create more reliable data and results which will show patterns for analysis. All research has limitations and some are inherent in the use of qualitative research methods. The largest limitation is the sample used in the surveys and friendship pairs, due to time constraints and cost involved the these will be conducted locally and therefore does not give a national overview of trends. In addition to this both the survey and the friendship pairs are open to the limitation of social desirability bias, “The most common source of social desirability bias is the respondent’s lack of comfort to reveal his or her true attitudes” (Tourangeau et al., 2000). This can mean that the data collected is not entirely accurate and therefore the use of the large number of participants and both methodologies is essential to generate practical data for analysis.
The collected data will be analysed with the use of CAQDAS and coding. The aim of this is to condense the findings to discover patterns in the data. The use of CAQDAS will help with time management and will allow for trends to be discovered quickly, for example it will very simply indicate the number of participants who have purchased online within the last month, or the number of people who indicated ‘yes’ to having seen an advert in a newspaper recently. From this the data will be displayed visually through the use of pie and bar charts when completing the final research piece.