There are different levels and strategies on how the selection of the right research method is accomplished. All research questions require an appropriate research method in order to gain the most trustworthy results. Therefore, this chapter presents the consideration of the chosen methods, and the developed knowledge behind the decision which provided the authors with the most appropriate research method.
Choice of Methodology
Influencer Marketing (IM) and consumer relationships are both concepts that have been popular research topics (Ndubisi, 2007; Sudha & Sheena, 2017). However, the majority of the research regarding these topics is conducted through quantitative data and only a minority is qualitative, where several research papers have tested the effects influencers have on the relationship to the consumers through hypothesis testing (Ndubisi, 2007; Hasan et al., 2012; Sudha & Sheena, 2017; Veissi, 2017). Seeing how the majority of research regarding IM is conducted through quantitative approaches, this dissertation applied a qualitative approach through analyzing how the consumer evaluate an influencer communicating competing brands in a more profound manner. In order to gain deeper insights and explore this phenomenon deeper, this research contributed to a stream in need of more research, and gained the ability to develop a model through the conducted analysis.
Seeing how the ability was gained to develop a model from the empirical data, an inductive approach was applied. Aligned with this approach, in order to analyze consumer behavior on a deeper level, smaller sample sizes were accumulated through semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews provided the authors with the opportunity to elaborate on the questions asked, which resulted in the authors receiving all possible information without the participants being influenced by other individuals’ answers. This enhanced the ability to find deeper patterns on how consumers evaluate an influencer’s communication, along with the reasoning behind their perceptions. The frame of reference contributed to the understanding of IM in the fashion industry from the consumers perspective, thus the criterion was that the individuals participating in the interviews were required to be acquainted with these aspects.
The fashion industry was chosen as the main focus due to the fact that it is a primary enforcer of IM, in which collaborations with influencers through several different platforms such as Instagram is performed (Sudha & Sheena, 2017). This led to the choice of the social media platform Instagram, as IM is increasing its presence on this specific platform (Jaakonmäki et al., 2017). Instagram has reached 400 million users equivalent to 36% of the total social media market in 2015 (Jaakonmäki et al., 2017), which strengthens the likelihood that consumers who are acquainted with IM, are also active users on Instagram. This was further acknowledged by the participants of this research, which led to the most justifiable evaluation of an influencer’s communication from the consumer’s perspective. Further reasoning behind the methodological choices made in this study will be elaborated on in the current chapter.
The four main research philosophies are considered to be positivism, realism, interpretivism, and pragmatism – and these are important to the understanding in which way the environment is perceived and will act as a guidance in how to proceed with the method and strategy (Saunders, Lewis, Thornhill, 2008). Interpretivism is a philosophy where humans acquire social roles in the society, and it is fundamental to understand how individuals act in different ways according to their own social meanings (Saunders et al., 2008). This philosophy also implies that the interpretation of the actions of whom one socializes with will have an influence on the development of one’s behavior (Saunders et al., 2008). Saunders et al., (2008) further state that interpretivism is a subjective philosophy where the details and the reasons behind certain statements and behavior are of high importance. Considering the research aim of wanting to discover how consumers evaluate an influencer communicating competing brands, the analysis of the consumers purchasing decisions was performed through the most suitable philosophy of interpretivism. Through interpretivism, a profound understanding was developed on certain patterns among the respondents, along with gaining knowledge on how the respondents were affected by IM. The philosophy of interpretivism acted as a base in analyzing the behavior of the respondents, where certain words and expressions were taken into consideration behind the answers received. When respondents emphasized certain words, the interpretivism approach was applied in the way that it gave deeper meaning to how the respondents evaluated influencer’s communication in certain ways.
There are two different types of approaches towards a research – deductive and inductive – and these are important to decide on how one will undergo the research (Saunders et al., 2008). The inductive approach links to the interpretive philosophy and consists of first developing data and as a result constructing a theory (Saunders et al., 2008). The approach usually consists of a small sample which can be analyzed deeper and is further based on the understanding of why a certain behavior takes place instead of researching what is happening (Saunders et al., 2008). Regarding this knowledge, and the fact that this research will be conducted on consumer evaluations of the influencer’s communication, the process of interpreting a small sample size seemed more appropriate, which led to the inductive approach. This approach created the ability to collect smaller samples, therefore, it was possible to deeper analyze and understand the behavior of consumers evaluating influencers who communicate competing brands. Through analyzing the consumer’s evaluation, the inductive approach enabled the development of a model comprising of the elements that are important to the aspect of the influencer’s communication.
According to Saunders et al., (2008), the three research designs consist of explanatory, descriptive and exploratory. The most convenient design for this dissertations aim was the exploratory design, as this study focuses on exploring and understanding the behavior of consumers evaluating an influencer communicating competing brands. When striving to understand the problem, it is fundamental to study insights into the chosen matter (Saunders et al., 2008). This can be accomplished through a variety of different principles, and the authors chose to interview user experts in the subject which consisted of regular consumers who are exposed to marketing efforts in IM on the platform Instagram. The user experts in the interviews provided the authors with different findings than what was originally anticipated, which led to a shift in focus in the research question. A shift in focus in the research question was pliable seeing as the exploratory design was applied (Saunders et al., 2008). Even though the exploratory design allows this type of shift, does not make the research less credible, since the purpose of the exploratory design is to reach a more narrowed focus than initially predicted (Adams & Schvaneveldt, 1991).
To gain a sense of understanding of the research problem, secondary data had to be gathered, and studies from different journals had to be evaluated in order to enhance the expertise regarding the research of the primary data (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). The form of secondary data that was examined was documentary data, which consists of both written and non-written material that is located on sources such as journals (Saunders et al., 2008). Secondary data benefitted the authors in the way that resources were limited, thus, the collection of secondary data from the library as well as Google Scholar enhanced the reliability of the gathered information (Saunders et al., 2008; Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). All the existing secondary data in the Google Scholar database is considered as compiled data which implies that selection and summarizing has been performed to secure the credibility of the publications (Saunders et al., 2008). Therefore, documentary data was collected through these sources in order to develop a base in the author’s scientific research and better explain the research problem when conducting the primary research (Saunders et al., 2008; Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010).
As secondary data was limited to the new rising phenomenon IM, it was fundamental to continue our research with the incorporation of primary data (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). The primary data was performed in the way of interviews, where respondents were questioned about their relationship towards IM in order to gain insight into their evaluations of influencers. The main advantage of primary data is the consistency one preserves in line with the purpose and research question, seeing as the data collected can include more specific details into consumers’ behavior and their background (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). Despite the contrary, primary data may have high expenditure requirements seeing as the authors in some cases are required to travel longer distances (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). Therefore, the authors were limited to the same geographical area as Jönköping University, along with their utilization of networks to enact the investigation on students. Seeing how this dissertation is applied to the consumer’s evaluation of influencers communicating competing brands, interviews were conducted in order to obtain valid and reliable data (Saunders et al., 2008).
Subsequently, qualitative data was applied to the performed data collection technique of interviews (Saunders et al., 2008). Qualitative data can be defined as data which is interpreted through words and does not require the results to be categorized numerically in addition to the analysis consisting of the writer’s perception (Saunders et al., 2008). These characteristics were ideal to the research question of this dissertation which focuses on the influencer’s communication through the consumer’s evaluation. Nonetheless, qualitative data has in many scientific contexts been considered as unscientific along with having low status which is illustrated in the lack of qualitative research papers (Marschan-Piekkari & Welch, 2005). Yet many benefits are generated from using qualitative data as it allows the authors to gain a deeper cross-cultural understanding and provides a more exploratory result to the research problem (Marschan-Piekkari & Welch, 2005). Qualitative data contributed to the gathering of deeper findings seeing as the analysis was able to be developed through a more personal perspective, seeing as the respondents’ behavior was being observed whilst they were expressing their judgements. The exploratory result required the authors to pursue the skills of abstract thinking, analyzing, bias avoidance, along with the ability of obtaining reliable information together with having a theoretical background (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010).
The reason for choosing qualitative data for this study was linked to the past experience of IM, which arose the desire to gain a deeper understanding of how consumers are affected by influencers more extensively. Moreover, qualitative data is aligned with the inductive approach as well as the exploratory research (Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010).
Therefore, this data selection was the most suitable for this research, which led to the development of a model and the explanations behind it.
The chosen form of research consisted of interviews, mainly due to the opportunity of developing deeper results in the attempt of providing more honesty and reliability to the research (Marschan-Piekkari & Welch, 2005). Ghauri & Grønhaug (2010) reinforce the fact that interviews are the most optimal choice for data collection, where substantial communication between the researcher and the respondent is required. Three general types of interviews exist and these are as follows: structured, semi-structured, and unstructured/in-depth (Saunders et al., 2008). The authors combined Ghauri & Grønhaug’s (2010) recommendation, in the way of planning topics, sample-sizes and people to be interviewed in advance in order to reveal further personal consumer information to enhance the results. The semi-structured interview can include a differentiating order of questions, along with altering some questions to fit the certain context of the respondent (Saunders et al., 2008). Additional questions may also be included in order to explore the research question when required, which can be seen as a disadvantage of this typology considering that the exact interview cannot be replicated by another researcher (Saunders et al., 2008; Ghauri & Grønhaug, 2010). The interviews that were conducted for this research was divided into four main parts including questions regarding the general information about the respondent, the respondent’s relationship towards influencers, the respondent’s opinions regarding promoted posts and its influence towards their purchasing decisions along with how trust towards the influencer is affected.
The questions of the interview were further aligned with the analysis section, where an interview question like “Do influencers affect you in some way, such as you feel the need to have the same products as the influencer?” was resembled in the theme of personality and relatedness in the analysis. Likewise, the question of “Do you feel as if you can trust the influencers judgement about the brands they promote?” was resembled in the analysis of trust, which corresponds to how the influencers communication of competing brands can be evaluated either as trustworthy or untrustworthy from the consumers perspective.
Seeing as this dissertation focuses on the consumer’s perspective, semi-structured interviews were enacted in order to achieve a more open and flourishing conversation where the respondents had the ability to express their judgements in a deeper manner. Semi-structured interviews are categorized as non-standardized, which is aligned with qualitative data and exploratory research, and these were conducted on a one-to-one basis (Saunders et al., 2008). The semi-structured interviews consisted of approximately twenty questions that were all consistent with the research question of looking at how consumers evaluate influencers communicating competing brands. As the approach of interpretivism was applied, respondents were encouraged to build on their responses, thus semi-structured interviews directed the authors to a clearer understanding of the consumer’s behavior. An overview of the interview guide is presented in Appendix 1.
TABLE OF CONTENT
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
2.FRAME OF REFERENCE
2.1 SOCIAL MEDIA
2.2 WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING
2.3 INFLUENCER MARKETING
2.4 PARASOCIAL INTERACTION THEORY
2.5 THE TWO-STEP FLOW THEORY
2.7 COMMITMENT & TRUST THEORY
3.1 CHOICE OF METHODOLOGY
3.2 RESEARCH PHILOSOPHY
3.3 RESEARCH APPROACH
3.4 RESEARCH DESIGN
3.5 DATA SOURCES
3.6 INTERVIEW DESIGN
3.8 DATA ANALYSIS
3.9 RESEARCH QUALITY
4.EMPIRICAL DATA AND ANALYSIS
4.1 PERSONALITY AND RELATEDNESS
4.2 DIMENSIONS OF TRUST
4.3 INFLUENCER-CONSUMER RELATIONSHIP
6.1 CRITICAL REVIEW
6.2 THEORETICAL CONTRIBUTION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
How competing brands are being communicated through Influencer Marketing