Rhetoric used in marketing

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This chapter describes the research process by illustrating the study and the methods chosen by showing how the observa-tions and interviews are structured and executed. It also discusses the trustworthiness of the study and the challenges that were faced.

Research design

Throughout the development of this thesis, the purpose was to investigating the relationship between rhetoric and personal selling at IKEA Jönköping. In order to fulfil the purpose of the study the authors saw a need to discover how IKEA Jönköping’s the customers responded to the different rhetorical ap-proaches or tools used by the sales people and how the customers’ attitude towards the sales personnel can change through the use of these tools. Also the authors believe that an understanding of the sales interaction between the customer and the sales personnel is needed. The theories used in this study will serve as a foundation for the evaluation of the phenomenon at IKEA and are to a great extent based on how the speaker or salesperson uses the rhetorical tools in order to persuade the audience or cus-tomer. The methods used were carefully chosen in order to be able to understand the phenomenon of rhetoric and to be able to find answers to the purpose of this thesis and for IKEA Jönköping.
To be able to understand and analyse the sales interactions the authors believe that observations would be most relevant, this is because the observations will give an opportunity to observe the sales interac-tion as they occur in its natural environment. In order to see how the observations correspond to how the customers perceive the sales interactions, interviews were conducted after the observations. When choosing the observation and interview techniques there are numerous questions that need to be an-swered before starting the process, these will be discussed and answered below.
When choosing a research approach there are two main alternatives to chose from, induction or deduc-tion according Saunders, Lewis and Thornill (2009). When using a deductive research approach the lit-erature reviewed helps to identify the theories and ideas that will be used when evaluating the collected primary data. Jacobsen (2002) states that deduction is the strategy that takes the course from theory to empirics. The second research approach which is available is the inductive approach in which the re-searcher explores the data collected and develops theories based on the data. This approach starts without having any predefined theories or conceptual frameworks as stated by Saunders et al, (2009). Malhotra and Birks, (2006) state that induction has little or no theoretical framework, theories are seen as restricting the researcher’s perspective, issues of interest are either observed or seen in particular contexts, theories are developed by searching for occurrences and interactions of phenomenon.
This thesis is neither absolutely deductive nor inductive, but it can be said to lean more towards an in-ductive approach since the phenomenon of rhetoric in personal sales is not extensively researched and thus theories and ideas were not easily accessible to be used as a tool in the evaluation of the primary data. However it is not purely inductive either since theories were used to generate a framework for the collection of the primary data, so abduction seems like a suitable approach in this study. Relevant the-ory was used as a tool to gather an understanding of the phenomenon and to create a framework to be used in the empirical data gathering.
Abduction proceeds from empirical data like induction does, but abduction does not reject theoretical concepts and thus can be seen as a combination of induction and deduction, as stated by Alvesson and Sköldberg (1994). This approach means that the empirical data can be combined with or be preceded by studies in the researched literature, the literature of previous studies is used as inspiration for pat-terns that will lead to an understanding of the investigated phenomenon, as mentioned by Alvesson and Sköldberg (1994).
Since this study is more inductive than deductive a qualitative data collection method was used in the gathering of the primary data. According to Saunders et al (2009) the emphasis of an inductive research approach uses qualitative data. Qualitative research approaches are often used in order to gain a deeper understanding of cultural values and consumer behavior e.g. through the use of interviewing or obser-vation, as stated by Malhotra and Birks (2006). Furthermore qualitative techniques are sensitive enough to capture detail in consumer behaviours, motives and attitudes, according to Malhotra and Birks, (2006).This is the reason this study has chosen to proceed with both observations and semi-structured interviews, since the tools chosen for the investigation of the phenomenon need to possess the ability to gain an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon and these two options are also sensitive enough to capture nuances in behaviour. Bell (2006) claims that qualitative perspectives are often used in order to investigate how people perceive the world and that the end objective is often insight into a phe-nomenon. Which in this case is a good fit for the purpose of this thesis where the aim is to gain insight into the phenomenon of rhetoric in personal sales, namely how rhetoric is used in sales interactions and how the sales interactions could be improved through the use of rhetoric.
This study will use a qualitative approach since it investigates a distinct phenomenon that has not pre-viously been extensively researched. Observations at IKEA Jönköping will be used to capture how rhetoric is used in the personal selling interactions between employees and customer. Once these ob-servations have been analyzed semi-structured interviews with current IKEA customers will take place. This order is held so that the phenomenon discovered during the observations can be included in the interviews. In the interviews that were conducted it was crucial for the study to be able to understand customer attitudes towards IKEA and to capture customer behaviours. Another positive aspect that the qualitative data collection brought was the fact that the authors could probe customer answers further than would have been possible if a quantitative approach had been used.


There are numerous techniques that can be used in order to investigate a phenomenon, including ob-servation techniques. When discussing different methods to be used in this thesis, IKEA Jönköping gave the opportunity to find and present the most appropriate method for investigating the phenome-non at hand. By being able to freely, with approval from IKEA Jönköping, choose the method for the thesis, the authors received a unique opportunity with a huge access to the company. This unique in-sight into the natural environment of IKEA gave the opportunity to see the personal sellers and cus-tomers in interactions that provided excellent primary data for the further analysis of the phenomenon.
This thesis concentrates on how the personal selling works in the living room and bedroom section on the top floor. These two sections have been chosen since there are a high number of sales interactions between the customers and the personal sellers and also because the sales interaction are of a good length for the study’s purpose. Malm (2011, personal communication)
The major advantage with doing observations was that it will more accurately reflect the real behaviour and not a “preferred” behaviour also, resulting in a lower risk of biased answers coming from the ob-served sales personnel and customers. (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). These biases might have been a prob-lem if the phenomenon had been measured by other techniques, e.g. interviews, since the sales person-nel at IKEA Jönköping most probably want to show the management that they are doing a “good job” and therefore report a preferred behaviour. By the use of the observation, these biases will be elimi-nated.
Another advantage of the observations is that there are patterns and behaviours that can be measured by observations, and no other technique, since the respondents observed are unaware of these patterns (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). Since a salesperson has numerous sales interactions each day it might be dif-ficult to look at them from an objective point of view and answer questions about the sales interaction accurately. Therefore observations are needed in order to look beyond how the sales person under-stands the sales interaction and observe if from a more objective point of view.
There are disadvantages with observation methods as well, the biggest according to Malhotra and Birks (2006) is the fact that the observed behaviour is hard to determine because of the underlying motives. Another disadvantage is the extent to which the observers themselves can evaluate their own biases and how their biases can affect the result. There are also disadvantages concerning that observations can be time consuming, expensive and sometimes unethical (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). The authors are striving to eliminate these disadvantages by being well aware of their own biases and search for ethical codes of conduct before constructing the observation. Even though the method of observation is time consum-ing, the results will most probably capture the phenomenon accurately and therefore the authors are willing to spend more time on the data collection in order to receive a better outcome.
The biggest advantage of being able to conduct observations at IKEA Jönköping is that the observa-tions will more accurately mirror the real phenomenon (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). To be able to conduct this type of observation is a major opportunity since many companies are reluctant to allow outsiders to observe their sales personnel, because of ethical concerns but also to protect the privacy of the com-pany.


Due to the chosen method used, observations, the authors strive to investigate how rhetoric effects personal selling at IKEA Jönköping. Therefore the population chosen are the customers and personal sellers at IKEA Jönköping. In order to obtain information about this population a sub sample will be studied. The targeted population that is of relevance for this research is customers of IKEA Jönköping whom interact with the sales personal at the living room and bedroom departments. A non-probability sampling technique will be used and it relies on the personal judgement of the researchers and not chance in the selection of the sample, the researcher consciously chooses what elements to include in the sample according to Malhotra and Birks (2006).
Convenience sampling tries to attain a sample of convenient variables. The selection of these variables is left up to the researcher. Usually the included respondents are chosen because they are “in the right place at the right time” as stated by Malhotra and Birks (2006). Furthermore Malhotra and Birks (2006) state that convenience sampling is the least time consuming and the least expensive, another positive aspect of this sampling strategy is that the sampled units are easily accessible. The choice to use con-venience sampling is based on the criteria that it should be the least time consuming as possible and since both the observations and interviews took place in a fixed location with the population constitut-ing IKEA customers it made the most sense to choose a sample of convenience.
As already mentioned the observations took place in a fixed location, namely the living room and bed-room departments and the semi-structured interviews took place after the cashiers at the IKEA de-partment store in Jönköping. The variables chosen to be included in the selection of convenience sam-ple variables are customers whom seek out the personal selling staff at IKEA Jönköping, customers looking for directions or other simple information were excluded from the observations. And for the interviews only customers who had received help from the personal sellers were included in the sample. The bedroom and living room departments were chosen and approved in co-operation with the local IKEA marketing manager and sales manager. The kitchen and bathroom departments were excluded from the observations due to the fact that the sales interactions are more of a process and IKEA only granted permission for the observations to be conducted in the living room and bedroom departments.

Observation technique

When looking at observational techniques there are four classifications made by Malhotra and Birks (2006). These are personal observation, electronic observation, audit and trace analysis and they are compared by different criterion in table 10.3.
The chosen method in this thesis is personal observations. The personal observation method was mainly chosen because it has a medium degree of disguise and is highly ranked when there is a need to observe the phenomenon in its natural setting. People tend to behave differently when being aware that they are being observed and not being in their natural environment, the observers will be disguised in official IKEA trainee clothes and observe the behaviour as it occurs in the natural environment at IKEA Jönköping. This will lead to a result and an outcome that will more accurately reflect the true phenomenon (Malhotra & Birks, 2006).
There is medium degree of disguise in the personal observation because a person must be close enough to the phenomenon to be able to observe it, but can in addition hide or be disguised in other ways. Ac-cording to Czarniawska (2007) there is a need to blend in when a researcher does not want to attract at-tention to the shadowing activity and this can be achieved by wearing working clothes. The observers were issued trainee clothes from IKEA, these clothes were not as “visible” as the ordinary sales clothes worn by the IKEA staff, but even though these clothes were worn, the observers faced the problem of being mistaken for a sales person.
There are also disadvantages with the personal observation, such as the analysis bias and observation bias is high and also the low degree of structure (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). In order to attempt to de-crease the high biases of the observer and analysis, the authors made a questionnaire of multiple choice questions that were answered by the observers after every sales interaction. This questionnaire will con-tribute to a higher structure of all the observations and the analysis of the sales interaction will be con-sistent by use of the same structured questions. This also minimized the interruption in the sales inter-action and decreased the curiosity that can be created in the customers if the observers were to take notes during the meeting. The questionnaire used will be further explained below.
Other observation methods that were discussed were trace analysis which has a higher degree of dis-guise. This method was not chosen because the low points in the criteria of observing in the natural setting, which the authors perceived to be highly relevant to observe this phenomenon. The authors also discussed the electronic observation because of the high disguise that can be achieved by hiding a camera and observing the behaviour in its natural setting. There are ethical codes that state that in or-der to audit a person they should be aware of the audit, and also the high cost of the method. The high cost and the ethical dilemma made the authors chose not to proceed with an audit. The authors saw the importance of observing the phenomenon in the natural environment and for the customers that will be observed not to be aware that they were. (Malhotra & Birks, 2006)

Observation documentation

As stated above the observers used a structured “checklist” or questionnaire that was filled out after every sales interaction in order to minimize interruptions during the sales meetings and to not disturb the customer or sales personnel during the meeting. The checklist is structured like a questionnaire be-cause it should be easy to fill out. Even though the questionnaires were made in order to not disturb the salesperson during the sales meeting, after the sales meeting many of the sales personnel lost focus their new customers, because they were trying to see what the questionnaires included when they were being filled out by the observers. This resulted in many of the sales personnel asking the observers what questions were included in the questionnaire and when their questions were not answered by the observers, many of the staff became even more curious and sometimes a negative atmosphere was created.
When using questionnaires there are two types of question structures that can be used, namely unstruc-tured and structured questions, unstructured are open ended questions with an advantage that enables the respondents to express their opinions and attitudes towards the question, the disadvantage with the unstructured questions is that it is expensive and time consuming to code the answers (Malhotra & Birks, 2006). The structured questions have a fixed set of response alternatives, in this study these will be dichotomous answers.
When measuring the different parts of the personal selling interaction dichotomous questions will mainly be used, according to Malhotra and Birks (2006) these are questions that only have two response alternatives e.g. yes or no, agree and disagree, these two alternatives are often supplemented by a neu-tral alternative. Dichotomous questions are the easiest kind of question to code and analyze, as stated by Malhotra and Birks (2006). Since the researchers are the observers and the one’s filling out the ob-servation checklist it makes most sense to have yes and no alternatives for the fixed sets of questions, these are supplemented by a neutral alternative. Since the observation and evaluation of a personal sales interaction is subjective it will clearly reduce observer bias by having fixed yes and no answers. Judging someone else’s emotions or attitudes is very difficult, only the person experiencing the emotions can accurately state the precise feeling on a scale, therefore dichotomous questions and responses will be used in the observation checklist.

Table of Contents
1 Introduction
1.1 Background to problem
1.2 Purpose
1.3 Research Questions
1.4 Delimitations
1.5 Definitions
2 Theoretical Framework 
2.1 Rhetoric
2.2 Ethos, Pathos & Logos
2.3 Rhetoric used in marketing
2.4 Rhetoric and trust
2.5 Persuasion
2.6 Communication
2.7 Personal selling
2.8 IKEA
2.9 Model of rhetoric in personal selling
3 Methodology 
3.1 Research design
3.2 Observation
3.3 Sample
3.4 Ethical concerns in observations
3.5 Semi – structured interviews
3.6 Evaluation criterion
4 Empirical Findings 
4.1 Observations
4.2 Interviews
5 Analysis 
5.1 Trust Building
5.2 Creating Emotions
5.3 Argumentation
5.4 Attitude
5.5 The IKEA rhetorical process
5.6 The IKEA sales process
5.7 Adjusted model of rhetoric in personal selling
5.8 Practical implications for IKEA
6 Conclusions
7 Discussion 
7.1 Further Research
7.2 Final Words
The effect of rhetoric in personal selling An observational study of how IKEA uses rhetoric in their sales interactions.

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