The methodology starts by explaining the research philosophy and research approach used throughout the research process, followed by an outline of the selected secondary and primary research methods for the data collection. Then a general discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the main chosen method. Research structure and design will be elaborated on later.
To establish a logic for the research and methodology part of this paper, it is necessary to select a research philosophy. Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2012) explain research philosophy as: “An over-arching term related to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge”. The research philosophy a researcher adopts encompasses assumptions about the way the world is viewed throughout the research. These assumptions will underpin the research strategy and methods that the researcher chooses to use as part of that strategy (Saunders et al., 2012), as they guide the research direction.
There are four established research philosophies, positivism, realism, interpretivism and pragmatism. As noted by Rubin and Rubin (2011), all four of these research philosophies encompass different assumptions and views on human actions, through which to gather and analyse research. Positivism, for example, as quoted: “Assumes reality is fixed, directly measurable, and knowable and that there is just one truth, one external reality” (Rubin & Rubin, 2011), which makes it suitable for quantitative research, where knowledge is based on scientific, measurable facts (Golafshani, 2003). The absolutism nature of that philosophy makes it an inappropriate one for this specific paper. In contrast, the interpretivism philosophy, suggests that there is no definitive answer, instead, reality is more open to interpretation and varies from person to another (Rubin & Rubin, 2011). Therefore, the interpretivism research philosophy is selected as the most appropriate for this paper as it argues that the core of understanding is learning what people make of the world around them, how people interpret individual encounters, and how they assign meanings and values to events or objects (Rubin & Rubin, 2011).
The purpose of this is to interpret humans as social actors, that observe and play a vital role. Thus, it argues that there is a reality but that it cannot be measured directly; instead, it is perceived by people, each of whom views it through their own individual perspective based of their prior experience, knowledge, and expectations (Rubin & Rubin, 2011). This interpretative nature fits well with the explorative aim of this paper and the qualitative research method which is to be implemented later on. This is because it allows for open communication between researchers and interviewees to discuss viewpoints and develop a deeper understanding of the interviewees as individual social actors (Saunders et al., 2012).
When conducting interviews, the interviewer must expect the interviewees to have individual opinions and views, in this case on omnichannel. However, one must also take into consideration that these are likely to change depending on the situation and circumstance of a given transaction. The ability to explore different circumstances and opportunities is necessary for this paper, and this research philosophy offers the option to do so.
The two most common research approaches are deductive and inductive. The deductive approach means a researcher can develop a theoretical or conceptual framework, which can subsequently be tested using data (Saunders et al., 2012). Thus, the researcher has established theories based on preliminary research and then aims to test these theories, using the most appropriate strategy. The inductive approach tackles this issue differently, as, according to the inductive approach, in research projects, one sets out to explore the data and develop theories from them, these theories are then subsequently related to the theory (Saunders et al., 2012). In practice, this means that the researcher does not start with predetermined theories, rather, the literature search should help establish some purpose and objective, from which the researchers then proceed to find answers (Saunders et al., 2012). Hence, as quoted: “If the analysis is effective, new findings and theories will emerge that neither you nor anyone else has thought about” (Strauss & Corbin 1998). The existing gap in the omnichannel research means that establishing predetermined theories is difficult. Therefore, the inductive approach, which is more open to new perspectives, suits the explorative purpose of this study better than the deductive.
The research process for this paper is multi-tiered, in that it involves continuous literature search for background and supporting information, teamed with a qualitative research method. The inductive process, which often places method before theory, enables one to continually revert to the theory following the gathering of primary data. The ambition with this research model is that theories or patterns that may occur as a result of the primary research can be compared to the established theory, to answer the research question.
The academic foundation on which this paper is based is created using an extensive amount of existing knowledge from past studies, gathered through a literature search. This existing literature is critical as the primary purpose is to help researchers develop a solid foundation of understanding and acquire insights into relevant existing research and trends (Saunders et al., 2012). The initial phases of the literature search involve utilising online tools, such as academic articles and books from Google Scholar and Primo, as well as offline sources and literature from the physical library of Jönköping University. To ensure that all information gathered is appropriate, standards are set for what is considered to be qualified journals. These rules include the age of the journal whereby all journals directly relevant to omnichannel, are required to have been published within the last five years of this papers writing, to be deemed relevant and accurate. Journals regarding multichannel and other supporting information could be older, and as these concepts have existed for longer, thus old papers still maintain relevant and accurate information. However, a focus is maintained on using as modern sources as possible. Additionally, all journals have to be peer-reviewed or published by an accountable publisher and fully cited to increase accuracy and validity. Where possible, citations are checked to ensure that more than one researcher supports the information used. To gather relevant journals, a list of keywords words are used for the search, these are; ‘Omnichannel’; ‘Customer loyalty’; ‘Multichannel’; ‘Online channel’; ‘Offline channel’; ‘Channel Choice’; ‘Marketing strategy’.
As was stated earlier in this paper, the omnichannel phenomenon is still relatively new to the academic field, as such there are a limited amount of directly relevant academic articles. To overcome this, a general search for research journals looking at the multichannel strategy is conducted, to provide complementary information on the base findings that may also apply to the omnichannel strategy. The explorative nature of this paper means that discoveries are realised throughout the research process; as a result, the literature search is continuous, to gather relevant information to discoveries as they appear.
To fit the interpretivism research philosophy, the most suitable methodological choice for the primary data in this study is a mono qualitative approach. Qualitative is often used as a synonym for any data collected using a technique which provides or uses no-numerical data, such as an interview (Saunders et al., 2012). Different types of information can be gathered by choosing qualitative research, hence knowledge is derived from observations and detailed interviews, that is abstracted from general statistical results (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992, p. 8). The use of qualitative research also reinforces the chosen interpretive philosophy for this paper, since observations are crucial, and the use of survey is seen as complementary or secondary (Golafshani, 2003).
The use of quantitative research was considered as an option in the developmental phases of the methodology; however, it was deemed less suitable. “The process of qualitative analysis aims to bring meaning to a situation rather than the search for truth focused on by quantitative research” (Raibee, 2004). This logic makes it seem more applicable than quantitative data, which may have been more useful if there was a specific hypothesis to determine. The strength of quantitative data lies mainly in the reach, as tools such as online surveys make it easy to reach a large sample. However, a potential weakness with this method may be that the individuals being surveyed misinterpret questions or the structure of questions, leading to inaccuracies. This inability to communicate directly with the individual being surveyed could present a critical flaw if used in this particular research paper.
Specifically, the plan is to assemble a targeted segment of consumers, which reflect the target audience for fashion retailers in Sweden. The qualitative research is gathered through a series of focus groups. According to Lederman, a focus group is a research method which involves participants who are selected because they can add value, are a sample of a specific population, though not necessarily representative, and can be assembled in a room to conduct in-depth group interviews (Thomas, MacMillan, McColl & Bond, 1995).
The decision to utilise the focus group method as opposed to regular interviews is for efficiency purposes. Focus groups make it possible to engage in extensive interviews through dialogue, with a number of consumers simultaneously, thus increasing the number of interviewees that may be interviewed, over individual interviews in a specific time frame (Green JM, Draper AK & Dowler, 2003). Additionally, participants in this type of research are selected based on criteria which require that they have something to contribute on the topic, are within the age-range, follow similar social characteristics and are comfortable talking to each other and the moderator (Richardson & Rabiee, 2001). Selecting participants based on criteria highlights another strength of using a focus group approach. As this topic is explorative and the exact definition of omnichannel is unclear even to some academics, using interviews to gather primary data provides the opportunity to interpret the correct definitions and ensure that the interviewees ask questions. This likely increases the accuracy and minimises confusion among the interviewees, thus increasing the accuracy of the information gathered.
A sample is a subgroup of a population (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008), used to be a representative of the whole population. In research, one uses a sample as using an entire population is often unnecessary, but also, usually impossible (Etikan, Abubakar Musa & Sunusi Alkassim, 2016). The sample in the focus group is based on several qualifications, to align with the research purpose. Thus, a prospective interviewee fulfils these criteria to be considered a potential candidate. The first criteria are the age group that will be targeted for research. For this study, the target group is the millennials in Sweden. Thus, participants must be born between the late 1970’s, early 1980’s and the early 2000’s (Fromm & Garton, 2013). Millennials are chosen because they are typically early adopters and regular users of technology (Immordino-Yang et al., 2012; Bolton et al., 2013; Martin 2005), making them the ideal target marketing for businesses moving toward omnichannel. Additionally, millennials have a substantial collective buying power estimated at $200 billion annually. This will only increase as they mature into their peak earning and spending years (Fromm & Garton, 2013). For this specific research, the interviewees must be born between 1980 and 2000, as that enables the research to be focused around consumers who are already financially stable and consumers that are on the verge of becoming it.
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What implications does an omnichannel strategy have on customer loyalty for fashion retailers in Sweden?