The purpose if this research is to analyze social media activities, with particular emphasis on Facebook, and investigate how these activities can influence other factors directly related to sales growth within the fashion sector. The upsurge in the popularity of social media worldwide has opened the door to various opportunities to grow other sectors or areas of life. All areas of the industry ranging from revenue management to sales and marketing, research shows that social media is playing an ever increasing role in how the fashion industry is viewed and run. Sales growth remains a key factor in determining the success in the fashion sector. As such, it is important to understand exactly how much impact or influence social media, especially Facebook, as a marketing tool has on the brand loyalty.
A descriptive quantitative research was carried out using questionnaires as well as sales data to Facebook users of the Matalan Group who had online presence. The questionnaire was designed using items adapted from similar studies in other settings. Results showed that the majority of the respondents believed that Facebook interactions exerted a significant influence on the steps involved in their decision to purchase items. Similarly, results showed that attitude of other members of the page was significantly related to the likelihood of an individual making a purchase. Time spent on Facebook daily, number of years that a individual had joined as well as the level of participation were also associated with influence of Facebook on the respondents.
Based on these results, the study recommends that fashion businesses should develop a Facebook presence that is as interactive as possible, allowing for interactions between the business and the customers as well as between the customers themselves to boost sales. Also, fashion businesses should use social media effectively to convey or shape ideas in such a manner as to create the sense of need within the consumer.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Research Introduction 4
1.1. Research Background 4
1.2. Research Significance 5
1.3. Research Aim 5
1.4. Research Objectives 6
1.5. Research Questions 6
1.6. Research Hypotheses 6
1.7. Potential Contribution of the Research 7
1.8. Structure of the Research 7
2. Chapter 2: Research Literature Review 9
2.0. Introduction 9
2.1. The new role of Social Media 9
2.2. Social Network Sites 11
2.3. Social media as a marketing tool 12
2.4. Facebook and Social Media Marketing 14
2.5. Brand Community 15
2.6. Social media marketing and sales growth 15
2.5.1. Problem Recognition 16
2.5.2. Search for information 16
2.5.3. Evaluation of alternatives 17
2.5.4. Final Decision 17
2.5.5. Post purchase decision 20
3. Chapter 3: Research Methodology 21
3.1. Introduction 21
3.2. Research Approach 21
3.3. Research Strategies 23
3.4. Research Method 23
3.5. Data collection method 25
3.5.1. Primary Data 25
3.5.2. Secondary data 25
3.5.3. Choice of data collection method for this Study 25
3.6. Data sample selection 27
3.7. Data sampling method and sample size determined 27
3.8. Data analysis 29
3.9. Research issues 30
3.9.1 Ethical Issues 30
3.9.2 Accessibility issue 30
3.10. Research Limitations 30
4. Chapter 4: Results and Discussion 32
4.1. Sociodemographic Characteristics 32
4.1.1. Discussion 33
4.2. Social media characteristics 34
4.1.2. Discussion 36
4.3. Social media and problem recognition 36
4.3.1. Discussion 37
4.4. Search for Alternatives 38
4.4.1. Discussion 39
4.5. Evaluation of Alternatives 41
4.5.1. Discussion 42
4.6. Final Decision 44
4.6.1. Discussion 46
5. Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations 48
5.1. Conclusion 48
5.2. Recommendations 48
6. References 50
Chapter 1: Research Introduction
This research is titled ‘An evaluation of Facebook’s impact on the sales growth in the fashion industry; a case study of Matalan, UK’
1.1. Research Background
‘Media’ used to be a common word for newspapers, television screens, radio stations and similar channels. However, it is now very clear that the same cannot be said now as emphasis is now on social media as the new in-thing. More and more people look to social media for information on virtually any topic. The last decade has witnessed a surge in social media followership while attention usually placed on the earlier mentioned traditional media sources have dwindled (Lanz et al., 2010). The advent of the Internet and its subsequent popularity has meant that social media allows for networking with more people than was previously imagined. The norm now is the breaking of geographic borders with the aid of social media platforms and the interactions they make possible. (Duggan et al., 2015). Of all the social media platforms, Facebook remains the most sought after and the staggering about of new sign ups it accrues everyday makes it the first destination for users of social media.
The shift in focus to social media and its importance has not been lost on business who desire to move forward and improve their performances. These businesses include multi-billion fashion industry who has also keyed into the potential usefulness of social media. The main attractions of social media to investors and managers include its cost effectiveness when compared with the traditional media sources, the global coverage afforded users of social among others. For example, Noone et al. (2011) in their discussion of the evolution of revenue management in the hotel industry, mention the important role social media is now playing. Similarly, in the fashion industry, Kim and Ko (2012) indicate that social media has proven to be a valuable tool in improving marketing, sales, production and many other aspects of the industry.
One of the most critical factors in the success of businesses in the fashion sector remains the ability to sell its products in higher and higher quantities to both new and existing customers. As such, most businesses develop marketing strategies that revolve around the study of what makes customers buy. As mentioned earlier, the fashion industry is also keenly interested in studying how the earlier mentioned advantages of social media can be used in this regard (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2011; Qualman, 2010).
In addition, the economic swings have placed increased demands on the disposable income available to consumers, thereby leading to increased consumer sensitivity, with more and more consumers relying on social media for information during purchase decisions. As such, it becomes imperative that any fashion company that intends to increase its sales understands exactly how social media interaction between itself and the consumers as well as between consumers themselves can influence the purchase decision and hence its sales performance.
1.2. Research Significance
Research on social media and how it influences behavior abound in literature. Several authors have discussed the effects of social media in modifying behavior and in creating images and perception. In fact, social media is now seen as one of the most important factors in determining behavior of consumers, which in turns leads directly or indirectly sales growth or retardation. As such, businesses usually dedicate an huge amount of their budget to developing and maintain a viable online presence (Palmatier et al., 2006).
Social media has however been noted to work for either good or bad depending on the manner it is handled. Similarly, social media on its own does not create, receive or share with itself. Rather, the users of the social media platform that interact. Based on this interactions, there may exist some modifications in behavior either in favor or against the business (Grégoire et al., 2015).
Due to this sensitivity, companies usually fund a lot of research onto the topic in order to harness the benefits as quickly as possible.
One of the key measures of how successful a key variable is tool is, is its effect on the sales volume and in turn sales growth. As such, it is important to understand exactly how much impact or influence social media sales growth in the fashion industry using the Matalan Group as an example.
1.3. Research Aim
The current research attempts to determine the influence social media networks, Facebook in particular, has on sale volume within the fashion industry. As such, the aim of research is to determine the direction and degree of influence Facebook has in determining sales growth within the fashion industry Matalan Group, London, UK as a case study.
1.4. Research Objectives
• To determine how engaged the present members of the Matalan Group, UK page are using content and other social media platform variables.
To investigate the interaction between Facebook use and the different stages in purchase decision using consumers of Matalan Group, London, UK
To assess the correlation between Facebook page characteristics and sales growth over the past 5 years.
To provide recommendations to fashion businesses on how best to use Facebook to harness increased sales.
1.5. Research Questions
How often do users of the Matalan Facebook fan page actually read the posts sent to them?
How does the Matalan Facebook fan page perceive the ability of the page to create and at Intercontinental Hotel Group?
How does the Matalan Facebook fan page perceive the effect of the page has on purchase decision steps?
Is there any correlation between the social media profile of the followers of the Matalan Facebook fan page and sales volume?
How high have Matalan sales volume been over the past 5 financial years?
1.6. Research Hypotheses
In order to aid the researcher, obtain clear and useful result that are the hallmark of a clear and focused study, the following hypothesis were derived
• H1: The interactions of members of the Matalan Facebook page has an effect on the sales volume of the company
• H2: The interactions of members of the Matalan Facebook page has an effect on the purchase intention of its members
• H3: The interactions of members of the Matalan Facebook page has an effect on the attitude of its members
1.7. Potential Contribution of the Research
Using the Matalan Group, London, UK as a case study, the research aims to understand the nature and degree of influence that Facebook has on sales growth. This information should be of importance to social media managers of fashion businesses as it can guide them in determining how best to harness their Facebook pages as a tool for improving their sales volume. It will also aid finance mangers in determining how cost-effective both their Facebook pages are.
Similarly, one of the objectives of the study is to ascertain the level of sales volume within the past 5 years. This information will allow for industry-wide comparisons in order to determine the how other businesses fare in this regard.
1.8. Structure of the Research
Chapters Description of Chapter
Research Introduction The opening chapter allows the researcher to present points that are relevant to the background of the study, thus introducing the reader to various concepts that shall be further explored in the study. The researcher also explains the focal point of the study by sting the aim or broad objective of the study as well as the research questions, research hypothesis and the potential usefulness of the to the reader.
Research Literature Review In chapter two, the researcher presents what has been done by other scholars in the field of interest and how they relate to the current topic under consideration. The researcher also presents an in-depth discussion of social media, its role in the hospitality industry, how it has evolved the concept of customer loyalty. The chapter is structured so that each of the specific objectives of the study is thoroughly explained alongside other related concepts so that by the end of the chapter, the reader can understand exactly where research currently stands in the field of interest. This enabled the researcher identify and present the independent variables and dependent variables as well as the possible inter-relationship between them.
Research Methodology In chapter three, the researcher has outlines clearly the adopted research methodology for the research and the justification for the adopted methodology. The researcher has also presented research philosophies, methods, strategies, theories, as well as data collection method in this chapter. In addition, data sampling techniques, sample size as well as issues in research such as data accessibilities, ethical codes and research limitations also been presented. The researcher ensures that these are done in such a clear manner that any other researcher in this field can replicate this study using the contents of this chapter
Data Analysis & Discussion Chapter 4 focuses on presenting the results of the data collection in accordance with acceptable scientific standards. The researcher also decides which of the research hypotheses holds true. The sections are grouped according to the specific objectives in order to enhance clarity. As each section of data is presented, it is also thoroughly discussed in relation to findings of similar studies carried out in other settings. The discussion also includes the reasons why observations from this study were similar or in contrast to those obtained from other studies.
Conclusion and Recommendation The researcher goes on to draw conclusions from his observations and presents them as a detailed summary of the research. In addition, the researcher gives some insightful recommendations to parties earlier identified as being able to benefit from the study.
2. Chapter 2: Research Literature Review
In this chapter, the researcher presents what has been done by other scholars in the field of interest and how they relate to the current topic under consideration. The researcher also presents an in-depth discussion of social media, its role in the hospitality industry, how it has evolved the concept of customer loyalty. The chapter is structured so that each of the specific objectives of the study is thoroughly explained alongside other related concepts so that by the end of the chapter, the reader can understand exactly where research currently stands in the field of interest. This enabled the researcher identify and present the independent variables and dependent variables as well as the possible inter-relationship between them.
2.1. The new role of Social Media
Several definitions of the word social media have been propounded by scholars and researchers. A generally accepted and very comprehensive definition by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) states that social media refers to ‘a group of internet based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of the WEB 2.0, allowing for creation and exchange of user-generated content.’ For their part, Noone et al. (2011) define social media as ‘the use of electronic and Internet tools for the purpose of sharing and discussing information and experiences with other human beings in more efficient ways’. Another accepted definition is that by Jantsch (2010) which considers social media as the use of technology combined with social interaction to create or co-create value, Hinson (2012) which refers to social media as ‘the means for any person to: publish digital, creative content; provide and obtain real-time feedback via online discussions, commentary and evaluations; and incorporate changes or corrections to the original content’ (Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006).
Perusing the above definitions and others in use, it is clear that there are certain common elements that must be present before a medium can be classified as part of social media. These features are essentially three in number. First, the technology must be present for meaningful interactions to take place. The technology must be the Web 2.0 which allows interactions between people from various platforms to share, discuss and generate content with each other. A second common feature to all definitions of social media is the presence of active participants who utilize the Web 2.0 for creating value. The third feature is content which refers to the actual interactions between the members of the medium. Any medium with these 3 features is generally accepted as a social medium.
Along with the growth of the Web 2.0 has come the growth of social media as it is accessible to any on with an internet connection on an electronic device. Social media thus according to has 9 features that ensure its continued existence and increasing preference over traditional media. These include community, connectedness, openness, speed, accessibility, participation, conversation and purchase intention.
Community has been defined within the context of social media, to be the coming together of people with similar interests, background and/or problems (Chen et al., 2011). Often times, the communities formed online have been so strong that the members feel even more tightly knit to these virtual communities than his or her real community. Connectedness refers to the interpersonal, community and general social bonds that bring people in such virtual communities together (Wei and Lo, 2006). While openness refers to the ease and open nature of social media platforms, which in most cases are free to join and easy to create, share and access content, speed is linked to the instant nature of communication which in many cases, actually rivals the speed of real life communication. Participation is the extent to which the users are actively engaged in communicating with themselves (Burgoon et al., 2002). Social media heavily supports this by encouraging that users participates and provide replies from other users to participation by the user.
Social media has been classified into several categories based on the applications that make up social media. It is generally accepted that social media can be categorized into 7 main fields, i.e. social networking sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, for a, content communities and microblogging. However, Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) includes collaborative projects and virtual gaming worlds.
What is hardly debated anymore is the fact that social media has rapidly taken over from other traditional media sources such as television, radios and newspapers. This is evidenced by the surge in users of social media. In fact, the rate at which social media expands is so fast that data quoted now is obsolete before reaching the end of this page.
However, as far back as 2012, Facebook had more than 1 billion users, with 2015 figures reporting 1.7 billion active Facebook users. Active Facebook users are users who log into their accounts at least once every 30 days, with millions of new users added every day (Duggan et al., 2015). And that is just Facebook. Other popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and others are also reporting massive number of users. As of the second quarter of 2016, there were already more than 313 million active Twitter users, sending out an average of 500 million tweets daily (Culotta et al., 2015).
Such mind boggling figures serve to highlight the growing space social media is occupying in our society. Several scholars have discussed reasons for the rapid rise in users of social media in recent times. Several reasons have been postulated by these scholars. For example, Zolkepli and Kamarulzaman (2015) believe that connecting via social media satisfies the human need to feel socially connected while (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004, 2015; Yoo et al., 2015) discuss the desire for social interaction as a primary factor stimulating many to join social media. They found that the ability of social media unlike conventional media, to allow for user interaction gave users a feeling of being socially connected with others. Many other reasons such as shopping, entertainment and even commerce have been touted for the ever increasing number of social media users worldwide (Zhou et al., 2012).
As suggested by the very definition of social media quoted earlier, social media has the advantage of allowing instant end-to-end communication between users as well as sharing of user generated content (UGC). These features are lacking in the conventional media and play a significant role, such that Blanchard and Markus (2004) and Rheingold (1996) insist that social media must be defined vis-à-vis the personal relationships users eventually form.
McAlexander et al. (2002) and Muniz and O’guinn (2001) acknowledge that the concept of geographical boundaries disappear in the world of social media allowing like-minded people to come together to discuss on issues of common interests. Sometimes, bonds formed from such discussions are so strong that such groups deserve to be labelled as online communities on their own.
2.2. Social Network Sites
Social networking sites are those services that allow users to have their personal pages and share content with friends and others that they have connected to over the site, with the purpose of sharing information and communication. Weinberg and Pehlivan (2011) opine that social networking sites ‘are generic terms for sites that are used to connect users with similar backgrounds and interests’. Just as social media, social networking sites have some characteristics that must be present before a particular service qualifies as social media. These include the fact that users must be able to setup individual interactive profiles that describe themselves within a bounded system, virtual friends who may or may not be known to the user in real life and who are usually selected based on similarities with the profile of the user and lastly, an interactive view of the connections they make and those that others that they are connected also make (Weber, 2009).
The history of social networks online can be traced back to 1995 with the first sets created for specific functions or audiences. Classmates.com, match.com and the like were the first examples of such sites which however later became more targeted. MySpace took over as the leading social network site in 2003. However, in the same year, Facebook was founded, initially as an exclusive site for Harvard students, but later for anyone who had an email address. Facebook’s popularity soared such that by 2009, it had officially displaced MySpace from the top spot in terms of popularity of social networking sites. Since then, Facebook has not left the top spot, with hundreds of thousands of new users added daily.
This has made it an instant destination for businesses that wish to increase their customer base. Since then, companies have been using Facebook to establish and enhance their brand image, stamp their authority in the market, research customer opinions and enhance networking.
2.3. Social media as a marketing tool
In the preceding section, the advantages of social media as communication tool were discussed. These advantages, we earlier said are several and span form the feeling of connectedness social media gives to users to the virtual global community without borders that it has created. Thus, social media has shown that it is the real deal for any who are interested in just about anything. Arising from these advantages, several, if not all walks of life have keyed into the use of social media to improve professionalism in their fields. Medicine to arts, music, engineering and so on, almost every sphere of life takes advantage of social media as a tool for communication (Correa et al., 2010; Mangold and Faulds, 2009).
One of the first set of people to notice and take advantage of social media is the marketing circle. Marketing was originally defined in 1935 to mean ‘the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services from producers to consumers’ (Sheth and Uslay, 2007). However, as time went on this definition was constantly being revised. A critical analysis of the modern definition of marketing shows that social media cannot but play an important role in new age marketing. The definition mentions ‘processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers’ and ‘managing customer relationships’ (Saravanakumar and SuganthaLakshmi, 2012). It is becoming practically impossible to effectively carry out these essential functions of marketing without enlisting the use of social media. People are spending more and more of their time on the internet and hence on social media. In addition, the removal of all forms of geographical boundaries has meant that the whole is virtually accessible to marketers who are ready to use this medium.
The importance of social media to marketing has not been lost to professionals in the field. As such, there has been an increased focus on research, funding and feedback on using social media as a marketing tool. The progress of marketing through social media has progressed to the extent that a new term ‘social media marketing’ has been coined (Erdoğmuş and Cicek, 2012).
According to Weinberg (2009), social media marketing means ‘leveraging the ‘social’ through the ‘media’ to ‘market’ businesses’ constituents’, which in simpler terms means that it is a process that allows individuals and corporate to create and promote their products and/or services through social media communities which allows them to tap into a wide field of potential customers, traditional media may not have reached.
A particularly attractive highlight of social media marketing over marketing via traditional media is the cost effectiveness usually associated with social media marketing. As said earlier, joining these communities is usually free and as resources deployed towards social media marketing are usually quite minimal as compared to that of traditional media (Leung et al., 2015). The reasons for this have been well documented earlier in this chapter. However, despite this reduced spending, none of the core tenets of marketing is lost while using social media. Defining target populations, communication with prospective customers, building loyalty and other basics of marketing can still be achieved through social media marketing (Leung et al., 2015).
Another attraction of social media marketing is the two-way form of communication it encourages. For example, marketers can reach to potential who can now, no matter their location in the world, respond and interact with the marketer. Social media marketing has now become the means through which marketers can advertise their products and also listen and reply to content form the members of their communities. This 2-way communication enhances the relationship between the company and the customers which every marketer knows is the foundation for success in the industry (Buhalis and Mamalakis, 2015).
A third attraction comes from the open nature of the social media. Due to this openness, as Mayfield (2008) puts it, users of social media platforms can access neutral content that they actually do not need but can also pass this content to others on their own networks which can lead to the content reaching somebody who wishes to use it, all at no additional cost to the marketer.
These attractions have made social media a destination hub for companies wishing to market their products and achieve increased sales (Hoogma, 2015). An adaptation that arose from this use of social media marketing is the concept of brand or product communities.
2.4. Facebook and Social Media Marketing
Due to its popularity, Facebook is usually the first point of social media call for businesses seeking to attract new customers. A core ideology of marketing is the phenomenon of getting the products as close as possible to the consumer and this has been made far easier with the potential 1.5 billion customers that can be reached on Facebook. This has triggered an influx of retailers who are using the following methods to connect with customers on Facebook.
• Promotions: The aim of creating these promotions is to make the customer or visitor feel special or different by giving the customer access to ‘special or classified offers’ not available to others. To achieve this, companies have been rewarding their customers with exclusive sneak-peeks into events and products that are yet to be launched, and creating Facebook-only discounts. Another method is to engage in participatory promotions that serve as an incentive for existing customers to invite their friends which increases the chances of additional purchases for the company.
• Crowd Sourcing: This involves inviting large groups of people to ‘collaborate’ as it were in developing or shaping and idea or strategy for the company. Some involve accumulating a particular number of likes before a particular deal or promo is activated. In other methods, companies may invite customers online to suggest an idea relating to their products or give feedback on certain ideas the company has. Hotels have used this method to determine how customers imagine their dream accommodation while the automobile industry also uses it to develop concept ideas for new models.
• Social shopping: This involves allowing customers to browse through some products on their Facebook page while completing any transaction on their own site. However, this is being improved upon as more companies are allowing customers to browse their whole range of products on Facebook as well as initiate transactions. Some have developed a ‘friends’ program such that any purchases made by a customer is suggested to the person’s Facebook friends along with discounts.
2.5. Brand Community
Another related concept to customer loyalty are brand communities. Brand communities have been defined as ‘specialized, non-geographically bound communit[ies], based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand.” (Muniz and O’guinn, 2001, p. 412). The members of this community are bonded by their consumption and production of a good or service. The brand community bears semblance to normal traditional communities in that it is made up of entities or members who have a relationship with each other and share resources of either a material or emotional nature (Zaglia, 2013).
Brand communities were developed in a response to problems such as complexities and inefficiencies recorded in man-to-man management of customers. Brand communities are seen as avenues where support and information can be shares, the brand can be further sold to customers and assistance provided to customers as well (McAlexander et al., 2002). Brand communities function to provide a sense of belonging to customers as they fill important psychological and social needs by allowing customers to express themselves freely and determine how they want to be viewed. In addition, brand communities offer an effective communications channel, as the company can gather a lot of information from their customers (Pitta and Fowler, 2005)
More and more, these communities have now become online communities, where customers can interact share ideas and opinions about a brand, product or company. This means social media has brought its borderless concept into brand communities, as customers worldwide can belong to brand communities where they can share opinions about common interests.
2.6. Social media marketing and sales growth
The aim of every business is to increase its profits through increased sales of its products and/or services as well as through minimizing costs or expenditure relating to production and cost of sales. As we have discussed earlier, social media marketing as a tool serves to perform the latter, effectively, as it is a very cost effective tool for reaching the global market. However, since sales output remains the main reason why businesses are established, it is vital for social media marketing to be authenticated as a force for increasing sales or achieving sales growth.
To understand if and how this can be done, it is necessary to study extensively consumer behavior which the emphasis on those factors that swing consumers in favor of purchasing a product and then create ways of integrating these factors into social media marketing. However, as literature has shown, social media provide a unique set of peculiarities on its own which must also be considered when studying how it can positively affect the decision to purchase by a consumer (Coulter et al., 2012; Kim and Ko, 2012; Zeng and Gerritsen, 2014).
Studies have described various marketing channels that influence consumers at different points before purchase, while several other studies have mapped out distinct pathways that eventually lead to purchase by consumers. With regard to consumer behavior, the model propounded by Engel et al. (1973) is usually regarded as a reference point due to its combination of simplicity and comprehensiveness in pinpointing critical junctions that lead to purchase of a product by a consumer. The model breaks down these pints into 5 stages namely problem recognition, search of information, evaluation of alternatives, final decisions and post purchase decisions (Tidwell, 2015). However later research has shown that even if the processes leading up to final decisions are successfully passed, it does not usually translate into actual purchase decision by the consumer. Two distinct factors have been found to mediate between final decisions and actual purchase decision. These are the attitude of others and unanticipated situational factors (Lee and others, 2013). Hence the initial EKB model has been modified to recognize these factors and the new approach accepted in marketing is as found in Figure 1.
2.5.1. Problem Recognition
Problem recognition occurs when a consumer realizes that there is a difference between ‘what he thinks should be’ and ‘what actually is’ and the magnitude of this difference is high enough to arouse or activate the decision to purchase process (Solomon et al., 2013). Hoogma (2015) explained that the realization of the existence of this difference or the magnitude of the difference can be triggered by either an internal or external stimulus or stimuli. Internal stimuli usually involve the person’s inborn feelings of need while external stimuli involve factors in the individual’s environment that generates thoughts and ideas about the possibility of making a purchase (Kotler and Keller, 2013).
Social media begins to play a crucial role from this point onward as traditional media sources are losing their grip in this regard. Social media has now evolved to allow individuals access to several products and possibilities, any of which can act as a prompt to start off the decision process (Lee and others, 2013).
2.5.2. Search for information
The identification of the need to purchase a product or utilize a service does not immediately translate into an instant decision to go and buy the product or utilize the service. Rather, Shiv and Fedorikhin (1999) and Solomon (2014) demonstrated that what the need triggers is an interest which the consumer then channels into recognizing the available options, studying information about these options and then judging each of these options to decide which will best suit his or her circumstances. Just as in the case of problem recognition, the source of information in this case can either be internal or external. Internal sources include past experiences of an individual with a product or its maker and former information an individual has obtained about a product (Martins et al., 2015).
Once again, social media plays a critical role in this phase. Information is now more accessible than ever over the social media platform with personal opinions flying over the place and all these opinions are available to anyone who is interested in getting them. Thus, social media serves as a rich source of information to potential consumers (Oliver, 2014; Wilcox and Stephen, 2013).
2.5.3. Evaluation of alternatives
Once the individual has decided what the best solution to bridging the difference earlier identified in problem recognition is, the next step is to collect alternative choice options that can provide this solution. Depending on the nature of motives or goals of the individual, some criteria for evaluation are created to ensure that the outcome will meet and if possible exceed the expected solution that the individual desires (Silverman, 2011). To do this, individuals require certain experience, whether direct or indirect, with a predisposition toward the indirect experience as previous direct experience may not be entirely possible with all the possible provider of the solution (Brown and Reingen, 1987).
Social media again finds use in this area as indirect experience can easily be obtained on social media platforms from people who have experience using the various alternatives available to the individual. In addition, reviews from other past and present users of the alternatives can confirm whether the information provided about the solution is actually correct (Wang and Chang, 2013).
2.5.4. Final Decision
After considering the information from the various, primary among is social media, the next step is to actually decide to buy, which is also termed as purchase intention. Purchase intention has been defined by Armstrong et al. (2000) to mean the probability that a consumer will be willing to carry out the buying action. Fandos and Flavián (2006) believe that purchase intention demonstrates predictable consumer behavior, which can in turn be used in determining or forecasting sales or brands that will be patronized next. Positive purchase intention is considered to be both a good indicator of actual purchase and commitment and loyalty to the product and/or brand while the opposite is true of negative purchase intention (Moorman et al., 1993).
However, as explained earlier, certain factors still come to play at this stage which make purchase intention not really turn into actual purchase. The first is the attitudes of others, which Kotler and Keeler (2013) have defined as the extent to which another person’s attitude towards the product or reluctance to meet the terms following purchase intention. This may result in a readjustment of the initial purchase intention of the individual. This is another area where social media plays a key role in determining sales of a product. Varadarajan and Dillon (1981) opine that consumers’ opinion and decision to actually purchase are usually swayed in either direction by published reviews of previous users of the product and/or service.
The second factor that can moderate actual purchase form purchase intention is unanticipated situational factors. These are factors that are beyond the consumer’s foreknowledge and as such, may inhibit the actual purchase. These factors usually create a difference or need that is greater and more urgent than that presented by the initial product (Shiau and Luo, 2012). Research of relevant literature, however, did not come up with any associations between social media and these factors.
Search For Information
Evaluation of Options
Media Attitudes of Others
Actual Purchase Sales Growth
Post Purchase Decision
Figure 1: Conceptual Framework for the research
2.5.5. Post purchase decision
After the actual purchase of the product or service, Gupta et al. (2004) state that the consumer forms a personal opinion of the product based on how capable the product proved in satisfied or bridging the gap that was initially felt by the consumer. Based on this experience, the consumer can now decide on future purchase or not. In addition, social media has now allowed such one to become an infomediary who can publish social media content based on his or her opinion of the product (Sternthal and Craig, 1982).
3. Chapter 3: Research Methodology
The researcher has outlines clearly the adopted research methodology for the research and the justification for the adopted methodology. The researcher has also presented research philosophies, methods, strategies, theories, as well as data collection method in this chapter. In addition, data sampling techniques, sample size as well as issues in research such as data accessibilities, ethical codes and research limitations also been presented. The researcher ensures that these are done in such a clear manner that any other researcher in this field can replicate this study using the contents of this chapter.
3.2. Research Approach
According to Trochim (2006), there two approaches the researcher can use for a study, firstly, the deductive which are the approach that perform through top-down strategy by developing initial steps to designed and identify the strategies after and to test the theory and hypothesis. On the other hand, Cohen et al. (2013) stated that the second approach is inductive which enable a researcher gathering data in the beginning and later developing the theory by the data analysis.
Figure 2: Steps In Both Research Approaches
The researcher will apply the deductive approach as the approach is significant in this research to conduct successfully as the positivism philosophy was adopted earlier. In addition, the researcher will need emphasizing on the casualty rather exploring new phenomena; therefore, the deductive approach can be a possible solution to that need. However, out of the broad approaches to deductive research, this study shall use the descriptive approach to deductive research.
The descriptive approach shall be undertaken for this research. The descriptive type of research can be described as the process of collecting evidence and facts about an existing and occurring condition (Rosenthal and Rosnow, 1991). The researcher adopted this choice due to its suitability in helping the study reach and garner a clearer outlook to the research topic. This research approach has also been noted to clearly explain and present the subject or topic at hand as well as other components related to it, shedding further light on solutions that could be reached as the study continues to progress in the same line.
The descriptive approach has the main aim of obtaining cogent information in a manner that would be best applied to illustrate a situation, as against the vague and abstract terms of judging or interpreting associated with other research approaches. In addition, this research approach has the advantage of being able to decide positions on hypothesis using the current situation to draw inferences that can be related to similar situations.
With regard to resource constraint, the descriptive research approach serves to conserve costs the most, and is often seen as the best option for researchers with a tight budget for their activities. It also ensures that time allotted for a research study can be strictly adhered to especially if the period allowed is not a long one. Yet another appeal of this research approach to the study is the flexibility that the descriptive approach affords the researcher, which in turn can ensure that the research, as it continues or goes on, allows new information to be presented and subsequently a continuous update of important issues and further investigation (De Vaus, 2013).
The descriptive method of research can also be described as process which focuses mainly on a current situation by way of its characteristics, its condition and its detailed components. This method further illustrates the true picture of a situation; in the exact way it was during the course of the study. It takes a step further to examine the elements which influence this particular phenomenon (Collis and Hussey, 2013). The descriptive research method has been described as a targeted method that eventually plots an accurate profile of the sample population as well as the unique settings woven around their present state. This, in turn, will allow the researcher to get a clearer view of the outcome that could be obtained and is likely to occur beforehand.
As a result of the above stated advantages, as well as the ability of the approach to provide first hand data from the respondents directly so as to arrive at a rational and sound conclusion to enhance the possibility of functional and effective recommendations from the study, the researcher prefers to adopt this method. Another related benefit of the descriptive research approach is that it is simple and malleable for the researcher to apply in terms of deriving valid answers to questions which are given to respondents (Cooper et al., 2003; Vogt, 2007)
3.3. Research Strategies
The researcher is responsible for selecting the best research strategy for the study that he or she has conceptualized in order to obtain scientifically valid results. However, there arte so many research strategies that are available to scholars which necessitate a careful and thorough examination in order to end up with the best and most appropriate one. The major determinants of the correct choice of research strategy remains the research design, scientific validity and the approach (Newman and Benz, 1998).
Based on this, the researcher, who has earlier justified his use of the descriptive method has decided to use twin methods of survey method through the use of a structured questionnaire to collect the necessary data for the study as well as use of secondary data from the organization’s financial records. The use of surveys by questionnaires has grown to be one of the most popular descriptive method due to its cost efficacy, ability to collect on the spot, current, primary data, which according to Poggenpoel et al. (2001) still remains the best source of data.
Further benefits of the use of survey by questionnaire are the fact that the method lacks complications and data can quickly be collected. Considering the time boundaries for collecting data for this research, the use of surveys /by questionnaires remains a very viable option.
However, secondary data has also been shown to be the cheapest source of data as it is already collected and requires only adequate authorization before they can be accessed. In addition, secondary data has the appeal of covering a far wider scope due to their usually larger sample size than primary data, due to finance constraints, can afford to sample.
3.4. Research Method
The descriptive method has 2 major components, the quantitative methodology and the qualitative methodology. This study shall use the quantitative method to achieve its objectives. The motive for which the approach of the quantitative research method is chosen amongst other methods is that it aids in preventing a situation whereby there might be a bias in the process of gathering and presenting research data (Babbie, 1998). The process of gathering quantitative data aid in the formulation of scientific postulations in which the result in reality is unitary and objective. This can only be made possible by ensuring that the researcher’s personal opinions bear no influence on the results eventually obtained. By utilizing the data analysis, the data collected through objective forms of measurement is interpreted to give meaningful and understandable results. The quantitative data collection method of research displays its functionality mostly when a study is expected to measure the cause and effect relationships which are duly highlighted between pre-selected and discrete variables. On that note, the main aim of the quantitative research method is to avoid subjectivity (bias) during the process of collecting and exploring the data which illustrates the experience being used as a case study (Punch, 2013).
Whenever research questions and related issues are developed, the quantitative research method can be adopted to firmly establish the process of arriving at a solution by utilizing a specific approach. Using the mass survey with its subsequent observations as well as other means of research manipulation is all used together in the course of the study to achieve a controlled outcome. By so doing, it will aid in boosting the authenticity of the method which was used for collecting the data. Thus, it would be right to deduce that the subjectivity of judgement, which was not necessary in the course of this research study, can be avoided by employing quantitative methods. Therefore, going by this discovery, the discussions, experimentation and conclusion which are developed during the research will be more objective. Notwithstanding, these variables can be both dependent and independent as the situation may be (Babbie, 2010). As a result of this, what is needed for the research has already been clearly outlined and specifically determined simply by employing the quantitative data technique. In addition to that, the quantitative research method enables the longitudinal measures of subsequent performance of the research participants which is essential in studies on retention and turnover. Worthy of note is the fact that the researcher, who opts to adopt the quantitative data collection method, aims to describe, decode, interpret and analyze the meaning of a certain situation accurately so it can be preserved within their customary social contexts.
Summarily, the researcher decided to opt FOR the quantitative method based on the following reasons
• It allows for rigorous quantitative analysis in a formal and scientifically approved manner
• It allows the researcher to use characteristics of a sample out of the general population to determine the characteristics of the entire population
• It allows the researcher to uncover certain areas that will be useful for subsequent study
• It removes the problems of subjectivity of data which increases the probability of bias in a study.
3.5. Data collection method
There are two main types of data collection methods namely primary data collection and secondary data collection. These methods are discussed below followed by the choice of the researcher and the justification for the choice.
3.5.1. Primary Data
This is data collected by the researcher either through observation or direct communication with the respondents in interviews or any other means. Examples of primary data collection methods include interviews, observation, questionnaires schedules etc. The advantages of using primary data collection methods have been noted to include improved accuracy of data and suitability for the intended purpose. However, its draw backs include increased use of finances and time as compared to secondary data collection.
3.5.2. Secondary data
Secondary data collection involves the retrieval of data that is already available as it has been collected and analyzed by someone else. This form of data may be available in either published or unpublished form. Advantages of this form of data collection include speed, cost effectiveness etc. It is however important that researchers using this method pay attention to the reliability suitability and adequacy of the data before deciding to use it
3.5.3. Choice of data collection method for this Study
Owing to the inherent advantages of the primary data collection method, the researcher decided to use it as the main data collection method. Of the various types of primary data collection methods, the use of questionnaires was selected by the researcher due to its cost friendliness, timeliness as well as considerable level of precision. Questionnaires were also selected due to its ability to reach respondents who are not easily geographically accessible to the researcher, which is a major factor in this study. Similarly, it removes all form of interviewer bias from the data collected.
However, owing to the nature of some required data for this study, the researcher also had to use some secondary data as well. The data was however checked for reliability adequacy and suitability.
Primary data for this research was obtained by administering questionnaires to randomly selected participants recruited for the research. The questions found in the questionnaire were constructed and/or adapted from similar studies conducted in other settings. In the selecting the questions, the researcher used the aim, specific objectives, identified dependent and independent variables as the main yardsticks. This was done so that the analysis of the data can actually answer the research questions listed at the outset of the research.
The questionnaire was made adapted from Lee and others (2013) and consists of 3 main sections with the following breakdown
• Section A: Sociodemographic information regarding variables such as sex, age, marital status, income etc.
• Section B: Social Media characteristics such as year of Facebook registration, year of ‘liking’ Matalan Facebook page, number of minutes spent weekly browsing Facebook and frequency of reading Matalan Facebook posts etc.
• Section C: Purchase decision questions including how social media influenced each stage of the decision-making process usually moderated on 3-point scale.
As described above, the data for the research were obtained using surveys by questionnaires, which is a quantitative method. However, although the questionnaire was the main data collection method used, secondary data for use in comparison with obtained results were collected from the published financial statements of the company under study as well other records that were required in order to adequately test the earlier stated hypothesis. These data were approved by auditors indicating its reliability and adequacy.
3.6. Data sample selection
The research instrument, a questionnaire, whose characteristics have been explained in earlier will be administered to participants of the study. However, for the results of the research to answer, it is necessary that the appropriate sample is selected. With this in mind, the sample of this study will be customers of Matalan Stores in the London headquarters.
Matalan is a British fashion and homeware retailer based in Knowsley, United Kingdom by John Hargreaves in1985. Currently, Matalan has 217 stores across the United Kingdom with Jason Hargreaves. The majority of their stores are based in out of town areas as a result of a concept of the founder that was successful in America. Matalan was subject to a rumored 1.3-billion-pound buyout which was rejected by the management who felt that the sum fell below the minimum 1.5-billion-pound estimation of theirs.
Matalan has seven Men’s brands, 10 Ladies’ brands including the Papaya Weekend and Soon brand, and 3 kids’ brands. In addition, Matalan owns Sporting Pro launched in September 2013.Sporting Pro has 12 stores across the United Kingdom
Their online presence consists of their website (www.matalan.co.uk), their Facebook page, Twitter page, YouTube channel, Instagram and Google Plus page. The website which allows customers to shop online and pick up from a local store for free while the other social media accounts provide social and fashion tips for subscribers. Their Facebook page, @shopmatalan as at the time of writing has 238, page likes with 1,468 people talking about it. It also has a live Customer Help section where customers can receive Instant Messaging help from the company’s customer support.
This was considered the most appropriate as they form an essential population that can adequately give insights into the topic for this research. The researcher determined that a minimum sample size of 100 respondents would be ideal to obtain the requires number for proper analysis and for obtaining reliable results.
3.7. Data sampling method and sample size determined
Using the appropriate sampling method is essential to obtaining a representative sample which will lead to scientifically valid results. In addition, using appropriate reduces the chances of systematic bias and sampling errors in the study. As such, the researcher considered the available sampling techniques before deciding on the one that best the circumstances of this study.
Sampling procedures are broadly divided into two, i.e. probability sampling and non-probability sampling procedures (Levy and Lemeshow, 2013). Non-probability procedures are procedures that do not provide any basis for estimating probability that each member of the population has of being included in the sample (Brick, 2015). It is also called deliberate, judgement and purposive sampling procedure. All of these names indicate how this procedure is carried out, with the emphases on the researcher deliberately selecting who and who to include in the study (Kothari, 2004). One advantage of this method is that the researcher can actually select respondents that would satisfy the inclusion criteria and quickly wrap up his data collection. However, the main disadvantage of this procedure is the entry of bias in selecting participants such that the researcher allows a personal sentiment to enter into the selection, increasing the chances of bias creeping into the study (Acharya et al., 2013). As such, Kothari (2004) says that ‘this sampling design in rarely adopted in large inquires of importance’. A popular example of this kind of method is quota sampling. Since this research is of significant importance to the research field and requires a representative sample, the researcher opted AGAINST using this method of sampling.
The probability sampling method is also called random sampling or chance sampling and is characterized by every entity in the population having an equal chance of being included in the sample. Whoever is chosen to participate in the study using this method has done so out of sheer chance (Levy and Lemeshow, 2013). The advantages of this method are numerous. Among them is that the errors of estimation or the significance of results obtained from a random sample can be measured, a major advantage over the deliberate method. In addition, probability sampling ensures that the law of Statistical Regularity which states that if on an average the sample chosen is a random one, the sample will have the same composition and characteristics as the universe. Thus, Kothari (2004) concludes that probability sampling is ‘considered as the best technique of selecting a representative sample.’ As such, the researcher opts FOR this method as a result of the desire to obtain a representative sample that can represent the totality of Facebook followers of Matalan Company. In addition, the results obtained from a representative sample would allow the researcher generalize the results to wider populations.
Several methods of probability sampling exist with simple random sampling by balloting, cluster sampling, area sampling and systematic sampling are examples. Stratified sampling involves dividing the population into sub-populations and is usually used when there are marked differences in the characteristics of the population, i.e. there are not homogenous (Acharya et al., 2013). However, this cannot be determined to be so for the population under consideration in this study. Cluster and area sampling procedures involve defined geographical boundaries, which does not apply to the population in this study (Weiss and Weiss, 2012). Systematic sampling involves selecting every nth member of the population after randomly selected the first member. The researcher selected systematic sampling as a result of its suitability to the peculiar circumstances of this study. Kothari (2004) lists the advantages of this method of sampling as including cost saving, even selection across populations and convenience when large populations are involved. Considering the time and finance constraints of the researcher, this method best suits the study considering its ability to collect representative data while staying within the resources of the researcher.
For this study, the researcher will use 150 respondents who have used Malatan in the last one year and who are friends with the company page on Facebook or liked the company’s Facebook page. The selection of respondents was through a systematic random sampling. The required number of respondents was divided by the total number of Facebook followers of Matalan and a number selected randomly by balloting among the first set. Other respondents were gotten by selecting at regular intervals using the value from the division.
Total Number of Followers as at the time of study = 4201
Required number of respondents = 150
Sampling Interval = 4201 = 28.00
Thus, a random number between the first and 28th follower was selected to select the first respondents and 28 was added to the number successively to get the remaining respondents.
3.8. Data analysis
Frequency distribution and descriptive statistics of socio-demographic variables and other characteristics were obtained to provide the sample profile. Furthermore, a descriptive analysis was performed concerning the variables to obtain the means and standard deviation (SD). An independent sample t-test was run to determine if there were differences in means. Chi square tests were used in the bivariate analysis for binary or categorical variables. Odds ratio and 95% confidence interval will be calculated. An alpha level of p < 0.05 is considered to be statistically significant. Data will be entered and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 20.
3.9. Research issues
3.9.1 Ethical Issues
The goal of this research is to understand if and to what degree Facebook relationships can impact on the sales growth in the fashion industry so that these businesses as well as their consumers can benefit. This will ultimately help the businesses to objectively plan the marketing areas to allocate more resources that will improve the revenue of the fashion industry. No kind of physical or mental injuries are anticipated from this study.
Participation in the study is entirely voluntary. Participants are also free to withdraw from the study at any time. Participants are free to answer only questions they want to. Refusal to participate in the research will not lead to any adverse consequences.
3.9.2 Accessibility issue
Questionnaire will be anonymous with no identifiers linking the questionnaire to individual respondents. The data will be stored in a computer protected by password to restrict access to it. Data obtained will be used for research purpose ONLY.
3.10. Research Limitations
The goal of this study was to understand how social media, with particular interest in Facebook, can impact on the sales growth of companies in the fashion through the effect of electronic word of mouth, content and online relationships. As such, a sample of random respondents was used in order to obtain generalizable results. However, the study did not consider other possible mediating factors such as the general economic constraints that could have affected sales in general especially in the fashion industry, culture, habit and other characteristics that could also have moderating effects on sales growth.
This study involved a survey by questionnaire, which allows the researcher to capture data as it is at that moment. However, more detailed results are likely to result from time-analysis, which considers data at several points over a time period to ascertain exactly how these effects vary with Facebook interactions.
4. Chapter 4: Results and Discussion
This chapter focuses on presenting the results of the data collection in accordance with acceptable scientific standards. The researcher also decides which of the research hypotheses holds true. The sections are grouped according to the specific objectives in order to enhance clarity. As each section of data is presented, it is also thoroughly discussed in relation to findings of similar studies carried out in other settings. The discussion also includes the reasons why observations from this study were similar or in contrast to those obtained from other studies.
The research instrument was a questionnaire which was composed of questions that were adapted from academic literature and based the theories considered in preceding chapters. Also, the questions were chosen in such a manner as to answer the research questions laid down in Chapter 1. The questionnaire was made up of 25 questions with 6 sections each considering a step in the decision making process, namely, problem recognition, search for information, evaluation of alternatives, final decision and post purchase decisions. The attitude of others was encapsulated within the section considering final decision. Respondents were also asked questions to ascertain how much social media influenced each step of the process. The first section deals with sociodemographic data and Facebook exposure.
4.1. Sociodemographic Characteristics
A total of 150 questionnaires were sent out but only 100 were returned, indicating a response rate of 66.7%. Analysis of the results collected from the respondents shows that the majority, about two thirds of the respondents, were female (n= 66, 66%) while the remaining 34 respondents (or 34%) are of the male sex. With regard to the marital status of the respondents, the results of the data showed that just a little above half, or 51% of the respondents were single and this means that there were 49 respondents or 49% of the total respondent as being married. The average age of the valid respondents to the questionnaires in this research was 35.2 years with a standard deviation of 4.5 years. From the number of respondents, it was calculated that the mean annual salary of the respondents was £24,024.04 while the range of the distribution was between a minimum of £6,000 and a maximum of £145000. When considering the highest level of education that the respondents had completed, more than three-quarters (77%) of the respondents answered to having completed some form of university. Of these 77 respondents, more than half of them (n=57) responded to having a bachelors’ degree, while 12 said they had a master’s degree and 8 of them said that they had a doctorate. As for the remaining 23 respondents, they make up 23% of the total population who responded to the questionnaire and they completed a diploma or some form of high school education. However, there was no respondent that replied to having no form of formal education.
Table 1: Analysis of the qualitative socio-demographic factors or variables
Male 34 34
Female 66 66
Single 51 51
Married 49 49
Diploma and lower 23 23
Bachelor’s Degree 57 57
Advanced Degree 20 20
£0-£35000 72 72
More than £35000 28 28
Table 2: Analysis of the quantitative socio-demographic factors or variables
Mean S.D Range
Average salary 24,024.04 3,409.35 Min= 6000, Max= 145000
Age as at last birthday in years 35.2 4.5 Min= 21, Max= 64
s.d means Standard Deviation
The analysis of the sociodemographic characteristics shows a normal distribution with the highest proportion of respondent found in the middle third of the distribution. This is an indication that the middle class are the highest proportion of those who patronize Matalan. This is to be expected as this population represents people of middle age who are likely to be family members with kids and thus can utilize all the sections of the Matalan store. In addition, the average of 35.2 years belongs to the middle aged class, who in most cases are married and still have a sense of ‘style’ and are most attracted to stores. The highest proportion of respondents had a bachelor’s degree, while others, although with varying levels have some form of formal education. This means that the average customer of the outfit is educated. This is concordant with findings that the middle class with regard to wealth and age are the highest consumers of everyday products such as those for sale at the case study.
4.2. Social media characteristics
When considering social media characteristics, the number of respondents for this study who read Facebook posts daily were 83, which indicates an 83% proportion for the group within the study. The remaining 17 respondents who filled the questionnaire and who also represented 17% of the population reported reading Facebook posts in intervals ranging from once in 2 days to once in a week. The mean number of posts that the respondents in this study reported to have read on an everyday basis was 5.18 posts while the standard deviation for this variable was determined to be 1.89 posts. The proportion of respondents who had been liked the Matalan Facebook page for between a day and a year was 34% representing 34 respondents in the study. The highest proportion of the respondents had joined the Matalan Facebook page had joined between 2 years and 4 years. There were 66 respondents who fell into this category, representing 66% of the total population. The length of their stay on the respective social media pages on a daily basis is another variable that was considered. The mean or average number of 0.75 hours or about 45.1 minutes every day while the standard deviation for the time spent on the Facebook page was 0.04 hours or 2.40 minutes. Further analysis of the data showed that 4 respondents or 4% of the total population had spent an average of more than two hours.
When rating their relationship with other members of the social media community and the company itself, the majority of 32 respondents, representing 32% of the population replied that it was neutral and business like while 12% (or 12 respondents) replied that they did not have any form of personal relationship with the hotel or with other members of their social media. The remaining 56 respondents replied to having close personal relationships with other members. To make the variable clearly spelt out clearly, this study defined a close relationship with other members of the social media community as discussing personal and family matters with them, while a neutral relationship was classified as one that discussed strictly business matters as it respects the shopping or transactions involving Matalan.
Table 3: Analysis of the qualitative Facebook page variables
Frequency of reading Facebook posts
Daily 83 83
Bi-weekly and less frequently 17 17
Length of Facebook Use
Less than one year 34 34
More than one year 66 66
Nature of Online Interactions
Cordial 56 56
Neutral 32 32
None 12 12
Analysis showed that the members of Matalan’s Facebook page had liked the page for an average of about 2.32 years while the longest duration since joining the Facebook media page was 4 years while the shortest was 6 months. It is to be noted at this point that the study did not count respondents who had liked the Facebook page for less than 6 months as these people were not deemed to have had enough time to decide or develop any close relationships with other members of the page, form opinions and share content.
With regard to participation, 38% of the respondents said that they had never posted any feed, accepted any friend request from another Facebook user who was also a member of the Matalan. A little less than one-fifth of the respondents (n=18, 18%) had accepted a friend request from another Facebook user they had met on the Matalan Facebook page. The vast majority of the respondents, representing about 62% of the sample had participated on the page by either creating a post or replying to a post or comment by another member.
The results documented above demonstrate the postulations earlier put forward by some other researchers who had undertaken similar research in other settings and industries that mass media is on a regular basis losing the attention of the public to social media (Junco, 2012). While the average time spent on the Facebook page was 45 minutes, studies by Biagi (2012) and Romer et al. (2013) show that mass media component of the marketing usually averages about 29 minutes across all sources.
4.3. Social media and problem recognition
In order to understand how social media influences the creation of need or leads to the respondents identifying a problem, about one quarter or 28% of the respondents said that the Matalan Facebook page had not served as a trigger that led to them buying materials from the company while 19% of the respondents said they were not sure if the content of the Matalan Facebook page had triggered or prompted them to make a purchase from the company. The remaining 53% or 53 respondents replied that the content of the Matalan Facebook page had triggered or prompted them to make a purchase from the company.
In addition, when tested for association, a statistically significant relationship was found between the amount of time spent on the Matalan Facebook page and the likelihood of a respondent recognizing a problem or need due to their presence or participation on the page. In addition, the majority of respondents, 65% of respondents who had spent more than one year on the page or 50 respondents, responded to having recognized a problem or initiated a purchase due to content that they had found on the Matalan Facebook page, while 69.6% of the 23 respondents who had liked in less than a year responded to never have initiated a purchase from the company due to the content found on the company’s Facebook page. the number of respondent who fall in this category is 16 respondents, while 4 of the respondents who had spent less one year or 17.4% of the group were not sure if the content of the Matalan Facebook page had served as a trigger that led to them buying materials from the company. The remaining 3 respondents or 13.0% of them said that said that the Matalan Facebook page had served as a trigger that led to them buying materials from the company.
Figure 3: Influence of Facebook on problem recognition
With regard to participation, the data showed that those who had were 3.82 times more likely to initiate purchase due to content on the Facebook page than those who have never posted any comment or replied any comment on the page. this effect was found to be statistically at 5% (p=0.02). The effect was even higher between those who had accepted a friend request from a Facebook user they met on the Matalan page and those who had not as the former were 5.39 times more likely to initiate purchase decision due to the Matalan Facebook page than the latter. This effect was fond to be statistically significant (p=0.003).
When this variable was tested against socio-demographic data to ascertain which of them was significantly associated with problem recognition due to the content on the site. While 57.6% or 38 out of the 66 female respondents admitted to having to have initiated purchase decisions due to content of the Matalan Facebook page while only 44.2% of males or 15 males replied to having initiated purchase decisions due to the content of the Matalan Facebook page.
The study found that the number of years that respondents had spent on the page was significantly related to the likelihood of their initiating purchase decision or recognizing that they have a need. Ren et al. (2012) have identified that the longer a user spends of a social media platform, the stronger the bonds such ones with other members and the increased the likelihood of their influence on such individuals. The finding of this study that the older members of the Matalan were more likely to have initiated purchase decision or recognized need from the content. The reasons for this may not be completely related to their interactions or bonds with others as Monica Hu et al. (2009) opines that influence may be linked to other variables not entered in this study. In addition, the longer a member spends on the page, the more posts he or she is likely to read, indicating that user generated content may not be solely responsible for social media’s role in initiating problem recognition. However, it must be noted that whether problem recognition was initiated by user generated content or company generated content, the relationship between years of liking the page and the likelihood of initiating purchase decision was statistically significant indicating strong association between the two.
Liu et al. (2013) found out that the bonds formed on the social media platforms could be strong that they could surpass those formed in real life, indicating that the members of the community formed by the social media pages of businesses in the fashion industry have the capacity to influence one another as they relate to each other. The finding of this study that the members more actively involved on Matalan Facebook were more likely to initiate purchase decision supports this claim.
4.4. Search for Alternatives
The second stage in the decision to purchase is the search for alternatives through information hunting to discover several possible alternatives which are available in order to broaden the options available to the individual. In order to ascertain how social media affects consumers in this regard, the respondents were asked if they perform online searches for the products they wished to purchase as well as the frequency of the search. The majority of the respondents (88%) replied that they had performed online searches before while 12 respondents representing 12% of the sample said that they had never performed an online search before deciding who to purchase an item from. Out of the 88 respondents who said they had performed online searches before making a purchase, 56 of them or 63.6% of them said that they performed online searches every time or often while seeking information on the product they wished to purchase. About 16 respondents or 18.2% of the respondents who had performed online searches while seeking information on products they desired to purchase said they performed these searches sometimes while and equal number of respondents and proportion also replied to performing online searches rarely while seeking information on products.
In addition, the study found that the participation of respondents was not significantly associated with the desire to search online for more information. While 54% of the respondents who had never posted a comment, replied to a post or comment or received a friend request from a user of the page replied that they performed online searches before they purchase, which is similar to the 52% of the respondents who had posted a comment or replied to a post or comment but had not received a friend request from a user of the page and 51% of those who posted a comment, replied to a post or comment or received a friend request from a user of the page.
A statistically significant relationship was found when association for number of minutes spent online per day was considered against how frequently they search for information online. While those who search for information online had spent an average of 59.35 minutes online daily, those who sometimes searched online for information spent an average of 43.56 minutes while those who rarely spent an average of only 28.17. Those who never searched online claimed to spend an average of only 21.83 minutes online. The trend was similar when considering how long the respondents had been Facebook, with those who searched online spending an average of 5.63 years on Facebook, as against an average of 4.95 years for those who sometimes searched online, an average of 2.87 years for those who rarely searched online and an average of 1.17 years for those who do not search online.
Table 4: Distribution of Frequency of online search for information
N=100 Never searched Sometimes Searched Searched Actively
n % n % n %
12 12.0 32 32.0 56 56.0
The finding that majority of the respondents had performed online searches while searching for alternatives goes further to demonstrate how dependence on social media for information by consumers is growing ever higher and higher. Lee and others (2013) found in their study that 72% of the respondents carried out active online search while seeking information on a product. The difference in proportions although not very much may be as a result of difference in time and settings. While the Europeans are known to have accepted the Internet and its applications fully with no form of restrictions placed on it, Asian countries which are usually communist or socialist in nature still exercise some form of control or restriction over how the internet is exercised. Similarly, the 3-year interval between Lee and others (2013) and this study could be responsible for the increased knowledge displayed by others who may have been influenced during that period.
The difference in the frequency of using online searches as a means of obtaining more information could be an indication that reasons may vary for why users search online for information. It also points to the likelihood that variability in the need to search online for information exists across different product types or brands, thus necessitating that users prefer searching for information on some products while they may believe that others do not require such effort. Availability of time, paucity of certain data and perceived credibility of available sources may also be responsible for the varied frequencies reported in searching online for information (Burgoon et al., 2002).
4.5. Evaluation of Alternatives
The next step in determining the purchase intention of a o=product by a consumer is the evaluation of alternatives. Sternthal and Craig (1982) explain that when an individual searches for information until he or she acquires sufficient information, the individual is presented with several alternatives which must be considered and graded based on their suitability to the individual’s circumstances and according to their motives and goals. In order to assess how social media affects this or the role social media plays in determining the evaluation of the alternatives presented. To ascertain this, the respondents were asked to determine the extent to which they were ready to try out new products due to information that they had found online.
The majority of the respondents (76%) replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to information that they had found about it online while 24 respondents representing 24% of the sample replied that they had never accepted to try out a new product due to information that they had found about it online. Out of the 76 respondents who said they had performed online searches before making a purchase, 35 of them or 46.1% of them said that replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to user generated content that they had found about the new product online. About 41 respondents or 54.9% of the respondents replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to producer generated content that they had found about the new product online.
Figure 4: Social media Influence on Evaluation of Alternatives
In addition, the study found that the participation of respondents was significantly associated with the desire to try out a new product that they had found online. While 14% of the respondents who had never posted a comment, replied to a post or comment or received a friend request from a user of the page replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online, 51.3% of the respondents who had posted a comment or replied to a post or comment but had not received a friend request from a user replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online. Finally, 82.4% of those who posted a comment, replied to a post or comment and received a friend request from a user of the page replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to producer generated content that they had found about the new product online.
A statistically significant relationship was also found when association for number of minutes spent online per day was considered against if the respondent had accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online. While those who replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online had spent an average of 49.15 minutes online daily, those who replied that they had never accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online spent an average of 37.57 minutes. The trend was similar when considering how long the respondents had been Facebook, with those who replied that they had accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online spending an average of 4.83 years on Facebook, as against an average of 2.15 years for those who replied that they had never accepted to try out a new product due to content that they had found about the new product online.
The results of this study support the previously stated hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between the social media use and the evaluation of alternatives in the decision making process. This was demonstrated by the increasing likelihood among more frequent users of Facebook to be influenced to try out new products due to the information that they had obtained about it online than less frequent users. The reasons for this can be explained as being due to the increased number of products that users are exposed to online as compared to traditional media sources. Also, social media marketing has opened the borders, so to speak, allowing users in different countries to purchase items from other countries. Similarly, the fact that almost of the respondents who had tried a new product due to the user generated content indicates that users play an influential role in the evaluation process before final decision is made.
This finding may also be linked to the fact that the users believe that they can access more credible content on social media platforms which may be their reasons for trying out new products that have been spoken of in good terms by other users and the producer. This further proves that consumers are looking more and more to social media as an influencer to their purchase decisions.
4.6. Final Decision
According to the model postulated for this study, the consumer after evaluating his or her options comes up with a preferred product due to his circumstances. In order to ascertain the extent or degree to which social media influences the final decision or purchase intention of the consumer, respondents were asked to rate how likely they were to change their initial preference due to information that they had obtained online while the effects of attitudes of others on the decision was determined by asking if the consumer sought information after a preference for a particular brand actually consumed earlier and how likely the opinions of others would change his preference for that brand.
About equal parts of the respondents (48% and 52% respectively) replied that they actually had initial preferences before seeking information online, whether user generated or producer generated. The minority of the respondents (18%) replied that they had had never changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online, whether user generated or producer generated. The remaining 82 respondents or 82% of the sample population replied that they had had changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online. Out of the 82 respondents who said they had changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online, 57 of them or 69.5% of them said that they had had changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online due to user generated content or reviews about the latter product. About 25 respondents or 30.5% of the respondents who had changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online did so due to producer generated information.
Figure 5: Change of Preference Due to Social Media Influence
The study found that the participation of respondents was significantly associated with the likelihood of changing their initial preferences due to content that they had found online. While 84% of the respondents who had never posted a comment, replied to a post or comment or received a friend request from a user replied that they had had never changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online, 52% of the respondents who had posted a comment or replied to a post or comment but had not received a friend request from a user of the page and 22% of those who posted a comment, replied to a post or comment and received a friend request from a user of the page said that they had had never changed their initial preferences due to content that they had found online.
When asked how likely they were to change brands in the future based on online content, 14% of the respondents said that they are not likely to while 21% said that they are not sure and 65% said that they are most likely to change present brands used based on online content. Of the 86 respondents who indicated that there was a chance that they changed their brands due to online content, 57 of them representing 66.3% said that they would do so based on user generated content only while 10 representing 11.6% said that they would do so based on producer generated content only while the remaining 23.9% or 21 respondents said that they would do so based on a combination of user generated content and producer generated content.
Sales volume and Facebook characteristics
This section was not included in the questionnaire but obtained from other sources as the study sough to assess how sales volume and Facebook page characteristics had compared over the past 4 years. Findings show that although the number of total likes the Matalan Facebook page has increased over the past 4 years, the number of new likes to the page has been. This seems to be coinciding with the declining sales volume experienced during these years. Similar trends were found when number of comments by new members and replies to user comments were compared against the sales volume.
Figure 6: Trend of sales volume in ‘000 million and percentage increase in Facebook page members
The data shows that the final decision of the consumer is affected by the attitudes of others, past direct experience and initial preference. However, of these, the influence of attitudes of other users online was found to be the greatest as the majority said that they would change their preferences due to user generated content. This finding is consistent with findings from other studies [for example, [Hutter et al. (2013) and Wang et al. (2012) ] who have demonstrated that the interactions between members of online communities play a key role in the decisions that users make. Similarly, the study observed that those who searched more information online more frequently were more likely to change their preference that those who seldom or never sought information online. This shows that the five step model still continues to be relevant to the discussion in the sales industry.
5. Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations
The aim of this study was to understand the influence of Facebook on sales growth in the fashion industry using the Matalan Group as a case study. In order to achieve this aim, a series of objectives were drawn around the mediating factors that literature has shown to be directly linked to sales growth, which research has shown can be achieved through increased purchases by consumers.
The first objective of the study was to determine how engaged followers of the Matalan Facebook page ar. The results from this study show the effect that the majority of the respondents are engaged with the page spending a considerable amount of time browsing through it on a daily basis. This may be an indication that the followers find interesting user generated content, Matalan generated content or both.
The second objective of the study was to investigate the interaction between Facebook use and the different stages in purchase decision using consumers of Matalan. Here, the study found that social media actually influence each stage of the purchase decision and as thus sales growth by mediating the steps leading a consumer to purchase. The study also discovered that social media serves as an influence in shaping the opinion of customers on ‘what should be’ and ‘how it should be done’. The study also showed that the different steps involved in the decision making process were most likely shaped by the perception of other Facebook interactions. Thus the Facebook community can be used as a means of improving sales volume by paying attention to how it affects each stage of the purchase decision stairs.
A third objective of the study was to assess the correlation between Facebook page characteristics and sales growth over the past 5 years. The study revealed that there is a likely link between the two variables further suggesting association between Facebook use and sales growth.
The final objective of this study is to provide recommendations based on the findings of the study and these are presented below.
Based on the results of the study, the following recommendations have been proposed for implementation by hotel managers for the different group of factors that were taken into consideration.
• Fashion companies should develop a verified Facebook presence that allows for as much interactions as possible, thus bringing consumers closer to themselves and closer to the company. This will increase the trust of the customer in the brand and lead to favorable recommendations to potential clients, which in turn will boost sales volume.
• Fashion companies should use social media effectively to convey or shape ideas in such a manner as to create the sense of need within the consumer as this is the first step in the purchase decision model.
• Content that is appealing and refreshing should always be placed on the Facebook pages of fashion companies to enable them keep their visitors longer on the site. This is because the results of this study showed that the longer consumers spend on the page, the more likely they are to move on to the next stage of the decision model.
• Matalan Group should devise ways of keeping new visitors coming to their sites to ensure that they receive positive reviews which may in turn lead to actual purchase and sales growth.
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