Data Collection Methods
The study in question is going to present research based on the collection of customers’ ideas regarding the factors which contribute to customer loyalty. Cultivating customer relationships in a manner that leads to customer loyalty is a strategic objective for the biggest number of companies (Duffy 2003). This is why discovering these factors is of great value to the business world. As a rule, customers have established preferences for certain brands, though, as stated by Hogg, Bruce & Hill (1998), the ways to change these preferences always exist. This study used two major data collection methods to gather the information regarding the customers’ choosing particular brands and to explore the factors which may contribute to changing the customers’ perception of certain brands.
One of the data collection methods used in structured interviews. This method is used both in qualitative and quantitative research due to its providing the researchers with reliable and objective data. The essence of the structured interviews consists in asking the interviewees standardized questions during the social interaction with them (Saunders, Thornhill & Lewis 2009). An important peculiarity of structured interviews is that the questions should be asked in the same manner and sequence throughout the interview process to eliminate possible bias (Whiston 2008). The questionnaires for this method of data collection have to be developed several weeks prior to carrying out the interviews, with the questions carefully evaluated by the researcher. This method accounts for approximately two-thirds of the data collected for the research. These interviews did not take much time because the questions used in them were either yes/no or multiple-choice questions. The greatest value of this method consists in its helping to identify which factors influencing the customer loyalty are the most important or, to be more exact, which are named important by the customers themselves.
Another method of data collection in this study is the unstructured interviews. As a rule, such interviews present open-ended inquiry, which takes quite a long time (Gillham 2005). In this case, however, the period of time was limited. The unstructured interviews were used to identify the most important interview questions outlined further in the structured ones. Since unstructured interviews are non-standardized, they are more in-depth than structured ones (Punch 2005). Using this data collection method helped to find out the various factors guiding the customers’ brand preferences. This is especially valuable taking into account the connection between relative attitude and repeated purchasing (Jensen & Hansen 2006) for the unstructured interviews revealed individual attitudes of the consumers towards choosing a particular brand.
With respect to the methods mentioned above, the information has been gathered in two stages. First of all, a draft of the guiding questions for the unstructured interviews has been prepared and further used during the unstructured interviews; this was necessary to keep to a definite course during the conversation and to stay focused on the topics relevant to the research. In addition, this helped to identify that the categorization of customer loyalty into captive, committed, contended, and convenience seekers suggested by Rowley (2005) narrows the number of factors able to influence consumer loyalty. In the second stage, based on the results of the unstructured interviews, the questionnaires for the structured interviews were developed and used to collect the data. After interviewing a sufficient amount of people, the collected data has been evaluated.
Data Analysis Methods
Choosing proper data analysis methods for research is extremely important for they are able to influence the results of the study. Inappropriate data analysis methods can misguide the researcher or make the results of the study inauthentic (Marschan-Piekkari and Welch 2004). Since this research is more qualitative than quantitative, no statistics could be taken as a basis for it. Using descriptive methods of data analysis seemed to be the most appropriate because they helped not only to identify the factors influencing consumer loyalty but to show how these factors are interrelated (Wilburn 2006). Therefore based on the data obtained from the interviews, two main data analysis methods have been used; these methods are coding and quasi-statistics. Each of them contributed greatly to grouping the factors which the consumers named as influencing their brand choice and defining which factors are the most decisive for the consumers. Besides, using these methods allowed checking the authenticity of the results and defining whether the respondents have given fair answers during the interviews (for instance, coding of the results can show when the respondent gives discrepant answers to similar questions; this means that the data obtained from this particular respondent may make the results of the study biased).
Using coding as an interpretive technique gives a number of advantages in organizing the collected data. Coding verbatim responses of the customers during the interviews is necessary for proper interpretation of the results since “recording a customer’s actual response can provide a huge amount of valuable and insightful data [and] the manner in which a response is treated can reveal a lot about the client” (Szwarc, 2005, p. 168). Coding the responses is complicated because sometimes the reply of the respondent may be indefinite or may have several interpretations. This study succeeded in avoiding these difficulties because the questions which demanded inexact answers were not numerous. Thus, four main codes have been developed for some answers to the questions in the interviews. They were 1 for “yes,” 2 for “no,” 3 for “undecided,” and 4 for “other,” which meant that the interviewees had a reply to the question which was not taken into account when developing codes for the responses. Coding helped to group the replies of the respondents and further evaluate those groups; in addition, it helped to identify whether there were consumers who had specific reasons for choosing a particular brand (those were the replies coded under number 4).
Another data analysis method applied is quasi-statistics. This method consists in using “simple numerical results that can be readily derived from the data” (Maxwell 2005, p. 113). It is not only useful in interpreting the data collected by means of the interviews; it is quite convenient for summarizing the data before performing their final analysis. Basically, this method consists in counting the number of times which a particular factor has been mentioned. This usually requires using field notes when interviewing the respondents; however, this was not necessary for this study because the coding of the responses has been applied. The coded answers were then counted to determine the frequency of the respondents’ mentioning a particular factor influencing their loyalty to a brand. For instance, corporate image and service quality are the most frequently named factors of customer loyalty to a brand (Schweizer 2008); these factors will receive a definite place in the quasi-statistics, which will be compiled after evaluating the replies of other respondents. Though this kind of statistics can hardly be perceived as significant, it is still demonstrative for a definite sample of the respondents who have been interviewed for this study. Using quasi-statistics as a method for data analysis helped to rate the factors which have been identified by the respondents as influencing consumer loyalty, thus contributing to the evaluation of each factor’s importance.
Therefore, two data collection methods, structured interviews and unstructured interviews have been used to collect the data for this research. Furthermore, two methods of data analysis, coding and quasi-statistics have been applied to properly organize and then interpret the collected data. The use of definite data collection methods was predetermined by the complexity of the topic; thus, the interviews had to be carried out in two stages in order to make these answers more specific. The data analysis methods used can be explained by the necessity to properly group the results for further analysis.
Questionnaire (Unstructured Interviews, Guiding Questions)
- How often do you choosing this clothing brand?
- Which of the brands would you prefer: Zara or H&M? Why?
- How much do you know about Zara/H&M? Do you use this information when choosing the clothes of the particular brand?
- Are there other brands that appeal to you?
- What do you like about this particular brand?
- Would you use other brand if the items you like were not available from yours?
- Would you stop choosing your brand if its name/logo has been changed?
- Are you satisfied with the brand you use?
- What could make you refuse of buying the clothes of this brand?
Questionnaire (Structured Interviews)
- Do you have preferences for a particular brand of clothes? (Yes/No)
- Have you stayed loyal to this brand for more than three years? (Yes/No)
- What do you like most of all about this brand? (Choosing more than one variant is possible)
- Its corporate image
- The quality of service
- The quality of products
- The price for clothes
- Other variant
- Do you think that the name of the brand is important? (Yes/No)
- Would you continue using this brand if its name was changed? (Yes/No)
- Do you trust this brand? (Yes/No)
- Do you advise you friends/relatives to use this brand? (Yes/No)
- Do you find the atmosphere in this brand’s shops favorable? (Yes/No)
- What is more important for you when buying the clothes?
- The looks of the shop assistant
- The age (gender) of the shop assistant
- The choice of clothes which the brand can offer
- Other variant
- Do you think anything about this brand could be improved? (Yes/No)
- If two brands of clothes, Zara and H&M, are compared, which would you choose if one of them disappeared? (One variant)
- Staying with Zara/H&M for a particular period of time, would you still continue buying the clothes of this brand
- if the prices were increased? (Yes/No)
- if the quality of the clothes changed for worse? (Yes/No)
- if the brand became unpopular? (Yes/No)
- if the clothes of this brand were sold only in a particular city/country? (Yes/No)
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