Buyer-seller Relationships

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Methodology and Method

In this section, the methodology and method are presented. Firstly, methodological aspects such as the research philosophy, approach, and strategy are discussed. Secondly, aspects related to method including research method, data collection, data quality and data analysis are explained.

Research Philosophy

According to Collis and Hussey (2014), the two main paradigms within research are positivism and interpretivism, where positivistic research focuses on natural science while interpretivism focuses on social science. Within positivism one believes that reality is independent of us and that research is done to develop theories to understand this reality. In contrast, interpretivism believes that social reality is not objective but greatly dependent and shaped by human perceptions (Collis & Hussey, 2014). They further describe interpretivism as striving to understand a complex social phenomenon through qualitative research on small samples. This study investigated OOBB in both Sweden and UK when purchasing display material. Since this research included a small sample, was of qualitative nature and investigated a social phenomenon, it falls under interpretivism.

Research Approach

Deductive and inductive research are the two most common research approaches used today (Collis & Hussey, 2014; Bryman & Bell, 2007). The deductive approach has a starting point in theory, while in an inductive approach theory is generated as an outcome of research (Bryman Bell, 2011). However, Bryman and Bell (2007) also state that it is common that a deductive research approach also includes inductive elements. In this research, the researchers adopted a deductive approach. According to Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill (2012), in a deductive approach, theory guides the research questions and objectives, creating a theoretical position which then helps direct the data analysis. When conducting this research, the authors first collected theory on the topic of OOBB and the factors influencing it, which was then used as a guide when analyzing the findings. Therefore, the thesis has taken on a deductive approach where the literature collected was used as a foundation for the empirical analysis.
Further, there are two different approaches one could take when conducting research; qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research primarily relies on exploratory observations and is usually conducted in a non-controlled environment which leads to a narrative reporting that is not relying on numerical interpretation. Due to non-focus on numerical data, qualitative research does not aim for hypothesis testing. Quantitative research on the other hand, involves hypothesis testing and relies on systematic observation and collection of numerical data related to specific variables (Duigan, 2016). The various research instruments that can be used when conducting a qualitative research includes questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, semi-structured and structured observations (Duigan, 2016; Collis & Hussey, 2014).
This research is a qualitative study since it takes on an interpretivist philosophy with an aim at explaining and understanding the different factors impacting OOBB when purchasing display material. Through a qualitative research with a smaller sample, it enabled the researchers to get a deeper understanding of the participants’ perception of reality and their behavior. A quantitative research would not have generated such results, rather statistical outcomes and being able to quantify them based on large samples (Collis & Hussey, 2014).

Research Strategy

A case study is a way of gaining in-depth knowledge of a single phenomenon in a natural setting and is often used by interpretivists. For example, the case can be a specific business, a process or people. When investigating more than one case, it is called multiple case study or a comparative case study (Collis & Hussey, 2014). Since this research investigated UK and Sweden as two separate cases, multiple case study was used. This enabled comparisons and analysis of the differences and similarities in OOBB when purchasing display materials between the two countries.

Data Collection

Secondary Data

In order to find relevant articles and other literature for the literature review, different databases such as primarily JIBS online library Primo and Google Scholar were used. This was done in order to deepen the understanding of the topic, get an overview over existing research and find a gap in the research. Firstly, a search on different key words such as culture, buying behavior, online organizational buying behavior, pricing and competition was done. Further, only peer-reviewed articles published 2000 or later were selected. An exception was made for articles written before 2000, categorized as classics due to their large amount of citations. During this process, three books which have been widely used and cited in the field were also included. Two of the books explains different cultural theories while the third discusses the topic of competitive advantage.
The second method of collecting secondary data was looking at several peer-reviewed journals with relevance to the topic. In this process ten different academic journals were selected for investigation. Within all the journals, there was a search for the most recent yet relevant articles within the topic. To be able to find the most suitable articles, all articles published during the last three years in the journals were scanned through. The ten selected journals were; Journal of International Marketing, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Retailing, Industrial Marketing Management, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of International Business Studies and International Marketing Review.
After collecting the literature, all the articles and other literature items were structured based on their topic. To do this, thematic analysis was used, which sorts the literature into different categories (Collis & Hussey, 2014). The categories were developed by looking at different themes and key-words in the articles. After this process, the articles were placed into different categories.

Hofstede Insights

An additional secondary source which was used in order to evaluate the cultural differences between Sweden and UK was the website HofstedeInsights.com. The website was created in 2017 when Itim International and Hofstede Center merged together (Hofstede Insights, 2017). Hofstede Insights is a network that provides research-based consulting and training to organizations striving to optimize their international teamwork, improve their global competition and balance standardization versus localization (Hofstede Insights, 2017). Based on Geert Hofstede’s framework, Hofstede Insights offers solutions to intercultural and organizational culture challenges, with services including: organizational cultural analysis, management team audits, aligning strategy and culture as well as change management (Hofstede Insights). In this study, the Country Comparison function on the website was used, where it allows one to compare different countries according to the various cultural dimensions in Hofstede’s framework. This was done to receive additional information that could be compared with the findings from the conducted interviews.

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Primary Data

To collect the primary data, semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted. According to Saunders et al. (2012), in semi-structured interviews the basic outline of questions is the same, but it gives the interviewer the opportunity to ask individual and specific follow-up questions. Not only might the questions vary in these types of interviews, but also the order (Saunders et al., 2012). Open-ended questions involve a need for coding the data, making it possible to analyze it. However, even if this might be a timely process it allows the participants to talk freely without limitations (Bryman & Bell, 2011).
The interviews were conducted over phone and additional information was collected through email. By having the interviews over phone, the conditions were the same for all participants regardless of their location. Furthermore, to make the participants feel confident and enable them to express themselves freely, the interviews were held in the participants’ mother tongue. The advantages of telephone interviews are; decreased costs, being able to take notes without distracting the respondents, more privacy and anonymity as well as the opportunity to choose where the interview will be held (Novick, 2008). However, there are some disadvantages with phone-interviews. For example, the interviewers cannot make observations on body language and the two parties might not get the same connection (Bryman & Bell, 2011; Novick, 2008). To avoid coding and interpretation errors, the interviews were recorded with the permission of the interviewees. According to Bryman and Bell (2011), this is especially important whit open-ended questions, since the risk of interpretation and coding errors are higher in these situations.

Sampling Method

When conducting research, one needs to limit the population of the study, namely choosing a sample (Collis & Hussey, 2014). There are two different techniques that can be used for choosing samples, probability sampling and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling means that all members of the population has an equal chance of being selected while non-probability sampling refers to a non-random sample. Probability sampling is required if the result of the study is going to be generalized (Bryman & Bell, 2007). Therefore, in this study non-probability sampling was used since the goal was to get a deeper understanding of a phenomena rather than generalizing the results. Collis and Hussey (2014) states that some of the methods that can be used for non-probability sampling are snowball-, judgmental- and natural sampling. Natural sampling, also called convenience sampling, is appropriate when the participants of the study are selected due to accessibility (Collis & Hussey, 2014). Since the participants of the study were included based on their accessibility and therefore, convenience sampling was the most appropriate method for this research.
The research was conducted in collaboration with SignMax, and the interviews were held with organizations who are customers of them. SignMax offers their customers to purchase display material in a modern and easy way. All their operations are online, making them the industry leaders since the display material industry has a history of traditional offline sales. Due to the digitalization, the display material industry is now facing new challenges when operating online internationally (Klingberg, M, 20190215). SignMax is a modern company that keeps all their operations online, making them a suitable collaborator in order to deepen the understanding of OOBB when purchasing display material.
The eight participating organizations are all customers of SignMax, where three are British and the other five are Swedish. This allowed an explanatory study of the two countries and their OOBB. The organizations are in various sizes and in different industries. The interviewed organizations from Sweden were; Friluftsfrämjandet (1), Ozonetech (2), Eatery (3), Estrella (4), and Alléskolan (5). From the UK, the participating organizations were; Concrete Preservation Technologies Ltd (6), Ultra Electronics NCS (7) and Shape Machining Ltd (8). A short description of all organizations can be found in Appendix 1. The interviewees have different roles within their organizations, but all of them are in one way or another, involved in the buying process of display materials.

Interview Guide & Composition of the Questions

As mentioned, the interviews were semi-structured and consisted of open-ended questions. According to Bryman and Bell (2011) open-ended questions enables the interviewees to elaborate more freely on the topic and develop an in-detail answer. Saunders et al. (2012) states that the semi-structure provided the opportunity for the interviewer to ask more individual follow-up questions, specific to each situation. By using both open-ended questions and semi-structure, the aim was to achieve a conversation with the participants, rather than just asking questionnaire-like questions.
The interviews began with some background about the participants, such as their position in the organization Then the focus moved to the buying process of display material, the perception of digitalization and use of internet, more specific questions about their purchases from SignMax, and lastly the buyer-seller relationships. However, since the interviews were semi-structured the questions and order differed. An overview of the interview questions can be found in Appendix 2.

Data Quality

Due to the qualitative nature of this research, it was important to consider the disadvantages and criticism of using such a method. According to Cope (2014) and Creswell (2009) there has been a historical view on qualitative research as a type of “soft research” and lacking scientific rigor in comparison with a quantitative research method. Cope (2014) continues by stating that the most widespread criticism of qualitative research is its subjectivisms, researcher bias and lacking generalizability since it usually results in large amount of information on a very detailed phenomenon. Therefore, the biggest challenge in this qualitative study was to ensure the highest possible quality when conducting the research.
In order to strive for the highest possible quality and trustworthiness of the research, it was suitable to evaluate the data based on the most common criteria conducted by Lincoln and Guba (1985). The criteria presented by Lincoln and Guba (1985) include credibility, dependability, confirmability and transferability. Credibility relates to the truth of the data and the interpretation as well as presentation of them by us as researchers (Cope, 2014) Bryman and Bell (2007) state that one way of ensuring credibility is to submit the research findings to the participants in the study, for confirmation of the interpretation of their world. In order to enhance the credibility of this study, the findings were shared with SignMax since the research has been conducted in collaboration with them and through access to their customers. The criterion of transferability refers to the extent to which the findings of a research can be applied to other studies and settings (Cope, 2014; Connelly, 2016). This criterion can be connected to the criterion of generalizability which is commonly used in quantitative research (Connelly, 2016). In order to ensure the transferability of this study, a description of all the participating organizations was included. By doing so, it provided context in which the interviews have been conducted and from what perspective. Additionally, even though the display material industry is a rather niched industry, the findings of this research will be applicable to the profile material industry since the two industries are relatively similar.
The third criterion, dependability of research is similar to reliability in quantitative research but has a focus on recreating a similar study with similar participants in similar conditions (Cope, 2014; Connelly, 2016). In order to do so, we have kept a detailed log on all meetings and time plan as well as email conversations back and forth with SignMax and their customers. All this was done to ensure that the work process can be followed throughout the research project. The fourth criterion of Guba and Lincoln is confirmability, which is the ability to demonstrate that the data presented is the participant’s responses and not biases and interpretations of the researcher (Cope, 2014; Bryman & Bell, 2007; Connelly, 2016). In this research, rich quotes have been provided when appropriate, clearly describing the process of drawing conclusions based on the data collected and providing examples when necessary.

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Bias

According to Collis and Hussey (2014) measuring and predicting bias can sometimes be difficult. However, it is important to acknowledge that bias can have large impact on the data collected. Further, the interviewees can feel pressured to answer what they believe the interviewer wants to hear, or tempted to improve the reality and create a better image of themselves (Collis & Hussey, 2014). Making the interviewees feel safe and comfortable was one way of reducing the bias of this study. One way of ensuring this, was through conducting telephone interviews. According to Novick (2008), conducting telephone interviews for qualitative studies allows participants to feel more comfortable sharing sensitive information, since it is done in an environment of their choosing, providing them with enhanced anonymity and privacy. Such an advantage would not be as easily given in an in-person interview (Novick, 2008). Another advantage of telephone interviews, mentioned by Novick (2008), is the decreased costs and increased access of geographically distant participants as well as the researchers’ ability to take notes without distracting the interviewee. Additionally, throughout the conducted interviews in this study, the respondents were provided with information on the context to be discussed beforehand, which also enhanced their sense of security.

Ethical Considerations

In order to act ethically throughout the whole research process, it is important to acknowledge and consider ethical issues that might arise (Bryman & Bell, 2015). One way of acting ethically is to ask for permission to record the interviews (Collis & Hussey, 2014). In this study, the interviewers asked for permission to record the interviews. Further, to honor the integrity of the participant, they are anonymous in the paper. In order to prevent incorrect assumptions, it was also important for the interviewers to not interrupt the participants. Instead, the aim was to let the interviewees talk freely and make their point.

Data Analysis

In order to analyze the collected data, thematic analysis was used. According to Braun and Clarke (2006) thematic analysis can be considered a foundational method for qualitative analysis. They define it as a method for identifying, analyzing and describing patterns or so-called themes, within data. A theme represents important aspects of the data connected to the research question that has been depicted as reoccurring throughout the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006). In this research, the data was categorized into themes of culture, buyer-seller relationships, buying process and digitalization. The themes were identified for each country and then presented in the findings accordingly. By applying the themes to each case, a cross-case analysis could be conducted. According to Collis and Hussey (2014), a cross-case analysis allows for behavioral patterns, similarities and dissimilarities between cases to be identified. Thereby, it was possible to find instances where the cases of Sweden and UK did not verify the literature as well as a variance in OOBB between the cases. Based on this, the empirical analysis was done in a combination of cross-case analysis and thematic analysis.
Further, Saunders et.al (2016) states that thematic analysis offers a flexible and systematic approach to analyze large amounts of qualitative data. Braun and Clarke (2006) adds to this aspect of flexibility by stating that thematic analysis is not bound to any pre-existing theoretical framework and can therefore be used within different theories. Additionally, it provides a theoretical freedom where researchers using thematic analysis are allowed to make active choices on the analysis conducted (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Such an approach, allowed the empirical analysis of this research to be created and changed as new perspectives of the findings were identified throughout the process.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem
1.3 Purpose
2. Literature Review 
2.1 Organizational Buying Behavior
2.2 Culture
2.3 Digitalization
2.4 Buyer-seller Relationships
3. Methodology and Method
3.1 Research Philosophy
3.2 Research Approach
3.3 Research Strategy
3.4 Data Collection
3.5 Data Quality
3.6 Data Analysis
4. Findings 
4.1 Overview of the Purchasing Process
4.2 Culture
4.3 Digitalization
4.4 Buyer-seller Relationship
5. Analysis 
5.1 Organizational Buying Behavior
5.2 Culture
5.3 Digitalization
5.4 Buyer-seller Relationship
5.5 Theoretical Contributions
6. Conclusion 
7. Discussion 
7.1 Contributions
7.2 Limitations
7.3 Future Research
References
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