Consumer behaviour online

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In the following section, the researchers will introduce the chosen method for collection of primary data. The chapter will begin with a repetition of the research purpose followed by the chosen research strategy, research philosophy, the chosen method, data analysis and finishing with quality of the research method.

Research purpose

The purpose of this research is to investigate how personalised advertisement and the related privacy issues affect consumer’s behaviour when shopping online. As digital advertisement has developed intensively over the years and personalisation with it, privacy has become a recurrent issue for consumers when engaging in online activities. Moreover, shopping is moving more and more from being conducted in a physical environment to a virtual environment, which further propose related privacy issues. With the growth of personalisation, we need to know, not only the positive aspects, but also the negative aspects of it which is mostly related to privacy issues when engaging in online shopping.

Research strategy

As the purpose of this research is to explore the attitudes and opinions leading to behaviour of consumers, the inductive approach has been implemented in order to draw conclusions. With the use of the inductive approach, it enables the researchers to gather, analyse and find patterns from the data collected (Gray, 2014). Inductive research approach is usually based on the following sequence; observation of the phenomena under investigation, search for patterns or themes from this observation and lastly developing a generalisation based on these patterns and themes (Lodico, Spaulding & Voegtle, 2010). The inductive research approach has been used since no hypothesis has been formulated; research is rather conducted based on the interviews and observing attitudes towards personalisation and privacy issues, leading to patterns and themes amongst the respondents. Furthermore, throughout the process the researchers have referred to both data and theory which also has its ground in the inductive approach (Bryman & Bell, 2011).

Research philosophy

The philosophical standpoint best suited for this particular study would be that of the interpretivist. The idea behind interpretivism, is an advocation of the necessity research to acknowledge humans can differ in their roles as ‘social actors’. What we mean by this, is individuals interpret and associate their own meaning to certain social situations, and themselves as social actors, much in the same way as an actor may interpret a given role in a play (Saunders et al., 2009). This research stems from the interpretivism standpoint, from an epistemology stance, whilst also stemming from the subjectivism, or social subjectivism, standpoint that is ontology. Social subjectivism follows the interpretivism meaning that it is necessary to explore the subjective meanings motivating the actions of social actors in order for the researcher to be able to understand these actions (Saunders et al., 2009). The researchers believe this is the best philosophical standpoint suited to the study due to the fact that the interest lies in looking for differences in attitudes based on the differences of individuals (Saunders et al., 2009). Based on the interpretivist and social subjectivist standpoint from epistemology and ontology, it reflected on the researcher’s choice of respondents for the interviews as demographics differed amongst the interviewees. Depending on age, gender and ones’ knowledge in technology, our roles as social actors are different. All individuals possess characteristics that differentiate them from others, which is what we have kept in mind when conducting this research.
In addition to interpretivism, there is the philosophy of positivism which means seeking to uncover statistically proven results to be identified in other subjects and furthermore be considered as standard patterns. In comparison, the interpretivist sees every result as unique and seeks to uncover the conscious and unconscious explanations people have for what they do or believe (Lin, 1998).


The appropriate method chosen for the purpose of this research was the qualitative research method. Qualitative research methods emphasise words rather than employing measurements (Bryman & Bell, 2011). In order to understand the attitudes consumers have towards the growth in advertisement aimed specifically at them, the choice of qualitative method would allow the participants to contribute with elaborated responses. Qualitative research design is best suited when the aim is to understand the behaviour of people and how they visualize the world they live in (Hartman, 2004). The primary data will be gathered through interviews, which hold the advantage of being flexible due to a more open interaction with the respondent. The main idea behind using interviews is to have an interaction with the respondent in order to get more detailed information about their experiences and thus understand their reality. Creswell (2013) indicates that there are different approaches for qualitative research that is the most appropriate one for your specific study. In the case of this research, the phenomenological approach is the most suitable one, with a definition of capturing participants’ experiences and examine how they make sense of those experiences (Creswell, 2013).

Choice of respondents

The individuals who participated in the interviews were selected through judgemental sampling (Marshall, 1996), since the interviewees had to possess certain characteristics in order to contribute with relevant answers for the purpose of the study. Judgemental sampling is a method of selecting individuals for research purposes by selecting the most productive sample to answer the research questions (Marshall, 1996). Additionally, the method of snowballing was used in those cases where the researchers did not obtain enough acquaintances in order to collect a broad range of age and gender. Snowballing sampling is a form of convenience sampling where the researcher makes initial contact with, for instance, acquaintances and later uses these individuals to get in contact with additional respondents (Bryman & Bell, 2011).
Since the judgemental sampling method was used to select a sample, the respondents were asked in advance if they engage in online shopping and on a regular basis browse the Internet. As judgemental sampling is a form of non-probability sampling, the researchers want to emphasize that it does not represent the entire population and cannot be generalised. Furthermore, as respondents are chosen based on certain criteria and information from specific individual characteristics are of interest, non-probability sampling is the best option.

Semi-structured interviews

Furthermore, there are different structures of interviews to be used depending on the outcome desired. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured interviews depending on the extent to which the researcher has outlined exact questions to be asked. For this research, the semi-structured interviews have been chosen with an outline of questions prepared, but with room for the respondent to speak freely (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2009). The prior prepared questions are based on the interests and topics of the researchers to steer the interview in the desired direction but allows leave room for spontaneous descriptions and narratives (Figgou & Pavlopoulos, 2015).
At the start of the interview, the researchers provided the interviewees with a short introduction of the purpose of the study in order to prepare the respondent. Following this, the interviewee was asked to introduce him/herself to get an understanding of the individual’s background as well as to ease into the questioning of the three sections. The interview ended with scenarios which would work as examples of personalised advertising strategies the interviewees might have encountered in order to get a practical understanding of the research topic. Seven scenarios were provided (see Section 6 of Appendix 3) with examples from different online platforms such as, social media, via mail or other websites such as online magazines ( These scenarios were introduced to the interviewees with the aid of a PowerPoint toward the end of the interview session, before finally ending with reflections and general thoughts on the scenarios provided, and the believed affect it could have on the interviewees behaviour.

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Data collection

The ambition of the semi-structured interviews was to gather data from a number of respondents that was believed to provide the researchers with sufficient information to understand how consumers respond to privacy issues in relation to personalised advertisement and how it affects their purchasing behaviour online. Since the researchers are interested in the difference between age, gender and the use and knowledge of the Internet, the criteria for selecting interviewees are not that many but still important. The main criteria for selecting participants is that the respondent must be a Swedish resident in Jönköping for a time period of more than six months. Another criterion was that the participants spend time on the web and engage in online shopping where they can be affected by personalised advertisement in order to develop an opinion about it.
By having respondents of different ages, and in turn from different generations, it meant the individuals had different knowledge about technology as not all grew up with the phenomenon in the same way. Furthermore, by growing up with technology in different ways it may contribute to diverse attitudes towards personalisation as accompanied by the invention of the Internet and technology.
The number of interviewees added up to 12 individuals, all in different ages with an age range between 17 and 49, and an equal representation of the male and female gender. The interviews lasted between 15-30 minutes, all depending on how elaborated answers the interviewee had to provide. The interviewees were all citizens of Jönköping, Sweden with some being students either on a high school level or university level, and others working in different industries. Due to the difference in ages, education and work industry, the interviewees possessed different understandings of technology which was one of the criterion the researchers strived for in their respondents. All interviews were conducted in person with one out of the three researchers, in a quiet and undisturbed environment such as group rooms at the home university of the researchers. All interviewees were asked to comply with being recorded, which all did except one. However, this particular interview was still conducted in person with the interviewer and instead of being recorded, the interviewer took extensive notes of the answers. All participants were also asked if they were comfortable with conducting the interview in English. If not, the researchers would simply do the interview in Swedish and afterwards make a summary in English. Since the researchers decided to keep the identity of the participants of the study anonymous, pseudonyms have been applied to avoid confusion when reading. Interviewees had been asked the same set of questions with possibility to elaborate and develop their own direction. The interview guide is presented in Appendix 2.

Data analysis

Bryman and Bell (2011) suggest that when conducting any kind of research, it is important not only to create a clear and understandable survey or interview, but also to analyse the data. The purpose of analysing data is to find patterns and make sense of the information gathered while connecting it to relevant concepts and theories (Bryman & Bell, 2011). The authors further discuss two strategies of analysis that are the leading approaches used for analysing qualitative data, analytic induction and grounded theory. Beginning with analytic induction, it is a strategy which requires the researchers to formulate hypotheses and beliefs of what the outcome of the study will result in, and further base their research on examination of cases.
However, since this research does not consist of a hypothesis and is rather interested in the two-way relationship between data collection and analysis, the grounded theory is more suitable as a strategy. Grounded theory consists of various tools researchers use for analysing data which all represent the researchers process of analysing the interviews conducted (Bryman & Bell, 2011). Qualitative research is not only interested in what is said, but also the way it is said. Therefore, the interviews were transcribed and analysed by comparing answers and finding similarities by listening to and making notes on the way the interviewees expressed themselves. By using the grounded theory in order to analyse the primary information gathered, categories and themes were found through coding of the interviews. As a result of the grounded theory to analyse the primary data gathered, the following themes based on similarities in opinions and attitudes expressed by the interviewees were found: Interest and preference, exchange of benefits, convenience, fear of coming out, overload of information, acceptance, well-established websites, easy access to information and consumer behavioural patterns. These patterns and themes will be further discussed in chapter 4, empirical data and analysis.

Quality of research method

According to Bryman and Bell (2011), it is argued that reliability and validity can be problematic to apply to qualitative studies as these are derived for quantitative research. Some authors, such as Kirk and Miller (as cited in Bryman & Bell, 2011), suggest that reliability and validity can be incorporated into qualitative studies with a slight alteration of the concepts to be more suitable. Lincoln and Guba (as cited in Bryman & Bell, 2011), does however propose alternative terms in order to assess qualitative research, which is trustworthiness with four parallel aspects with the quantitative research criteria. These four aspects are credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability.
Credibility relates to how believable the findings are (Bryman & Bell, 2011). In our research we conducted 12 interviews to get a good understanding of the respondents, as well as a wide range of opinions as possible. As the interviews were recorded and transcribed, it also increases the credibility as well as applying to dependability which is concerned with whether the findings are likely to apply at other times or not (Bryman & Bell, 2011). In relation to transferability, answering the question if the findings apply to other contexts (Bryman & Bell, 2011), we would like to bring to attention that our findings are not representative for the entire population of Sweden. Instead, the findings presented are a snapshot at the point in time of the research conducted. Confirmability concerns whether or not the researchers have allowed their own values to intrude to a high degree (Bryman & Bell, 2011). By being aware of the possibility that our own values concerning the subject might come to light, we have recorded and transcribed our interviews to be able to look back and ensure that our primary data is based on opinions independently expressed by our respondents.

Table of contents
1. Introduction
1.1 Problem discussion
1.2 Purpose
1.3 Research question
1.4 Delimitations
2. Frame of reference 
2.1 Online advertisement
2.2 Personalised advertisement
2.3 Privacy
2.4 Consumer behaviour online
3. Methodology 
3.1 Research purpose
3.2 Research strategy
3.3 Research philosophy
3.4 Method
3.5 Choice of respondents
3.6 Semi-structured interviews
3.7 Data collection
3.8 Data analysis
3.9 Quality of research method
4. Empirical data and analysis
4.1 Research background
4.2 Interest and preferences
4.3 Convenience
4.4 Creepiness
4.5 Fear of coming out
4.6 Overload of information
4.7 Acceptance
4.8 Well-established websites
4.9 Consumer behavioural pattern
5. Discussion
6. Conclusion
6.1 Managerial implications
6.2 Limitations and future research
Reference list
Privacy online: Exploring consumers’ evaluation of privacy issues in relation to personalised advertisement when buying online

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