Consumer Buying Behaviour and Social Media in the UK

Subject: Marketing
Pages: 30
Words: 8364
Reading time:
32 min
Study level: Undergraduate

Abstract

The creation of social media has had a huge impact on the way people share information. When it started out, many people did not believe that social media will make a significant impact on the business arena. The top business executives ignored this communication platform as many believed that it offered a communication forum for youths who had a lot of idle time to spend on the internet. However, things started changing when it became apparent that social media was becoming a conventional communication platform for people of all ages. It soon became very relevant in the business arena as a media for advertisement. This research has revealed that social media, especially Facebook, has a serious impact on the consumer buying behaviour in the United Kingdom.

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Key Words

  • Social media
  • Buying behaviour
  • Purchasing power
  • Communication platform
  • Cyber crime
  • Online marketing
  • Organisation behaviour
  • Emerging trends
  • Apparel
  • Deductive research

Introduction

It has become apparent that in the current competitive business environment, understanding the buyers’ decision-making process is critical in achieving success. Firms are in a constant race to understand the processes which take place in the mind of a buyer before one makes a decision to buy a given product. Having this knowledge helps a firm to predict the buying behaviour of consumers of a given product. According to Powell, Groves and Dimos (2011, p. 54), business entities that have mastered the art of understanding the buyers’ behavioural patterns have achieved massive success in the market. The knowledge does not only provide them with a superior capacity to meet the consumer demands, but also enables them to know how to deliver the products to specific market segments. Such firms understand the changing market trends and how a firm should restructure its operations to be in line with the changing trends. In order to understand the decision-making processes of consumers in the market, firms have been keen to ensure that they maintain a close communication with their clients on a regular basis (Kirsh 2010, p. 41). In the past, this would be done through market research where a firm would send a team of marketing experts to gather relevant information from the target audience. However, this is changing in the current society where technology has become a critical component and a tool used in market research.

Social media has redefined the communication system both at the individual and corporate levels. According to Samli (2013, p. 87), the emergence of Facebook, Tweeter, and YouTube completely changed the perception of the stakeholders in the business arena about the relevance of social media in communicating with the customers. The research by Aiello (2014, p. 81) reveals that Facebook has over one billion active users. Tweeter and YouTube also have a large number of people using them on a regular basis. When people get to the social media, they share their experiences, including issues about purchasing decisions. When they are displeased with a given product, they rush to share such experiences in their Facebook or Tweeter accounts. When their needs are met in an exceptional manner, they share their pleasure with friends in Facebook. Robinson (2014, p. 72) notes that social media has provided a unique platform for viral marketing in the modern society. A message posted on an individual’s wall will be read by all the Facebook friends. Some of these Facebook users have as many as one thousand friends or followers. It means a post from such an individual will reach over 1000 people.

It is this uniqueness of the social media and its immense potential that has made the business executives to give it a social consideration as a promotional mix element. According to Hawknis, Mothersbaugh and Mookerjee (2011, p. 35), social media is currently shaping the buying trends of many people, especially the younger generation. For instance, before an individual can make a purchase, he will go to the Facebook, share with friends his plans to buy a given product, and ask them their opinions over the issue. The advices they get from such discussions define how they will behave when making their purchases. For these reasons, firms have become very sensitive when it comes to managing their online presence, especially in the social media. However, many scholars still ask whether it is a fact that social media influences the consumers’ buying behaviour in various parts of the world. In this study, the researcher will investigate the impact of social media on the consumer behaviour in the United Kingdom.

Research aims and objectives

When conducting research, Wells and Foxall (2012, p. 89) say that it is important to clearly define the aims and objectives. Aims and objectives provide a vision of what a researcher seeks to achieve. This way, it becomes easy to define the path that should be followed in order to achieve the specified objectives. The main aim of the research is to determine the impact of social media, especially Facebook, on consumers’ buying behaviour in the United Kingdom’s high-street apparel market. The following are the specific objectives of this research.

  • To identify social media usage in the United Kingdom with regard to clothing and apparel
  • To identify the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers
  • To evaluate how consumers feel towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel

The researcher seeks to achieve the above objectives in order to make an informed conclusion about the importance of social media, especially Facebook, in influencing consumer buying behaviour in the United Kingdom.

Justification and rationale for research

Social media has had a massive impact on the lives of people in the global community. According to Szmigin and Piacentini (2014, p. 63), it was difficult to predict that many people, including some of the older generations, would become so much addicted to the social media. Those who are political enthusiasts use social media to champion their agenda and the agenda of their political parties. Those championing for human rights consider social media as a perfect platform where they can reach out to a large number of people, especially the youth. Those looking for sports updates and discussion of sporting events go to the social media to reach out to their friends. As Minazzi (2014, p. 72) puts it, social media has become a universal platform for communication and discussion forum in the current society. According to Ayanso and Lertwachara (2014, p. 133), Facebook has a following of approximately 1.23 billion people around the world. the same scholar estimates that there are about 44 million adults in the United Kingdom that are currently using the internet to address various tasks or get information about various issues. This means that about 87% of the adults in this country are actively involved in online activities.

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A recent report by Lee (2014, 28) indicated that the clothing and apparel industry in the United Kingdom has experienced massive growth over the past few years. Many people in this country are now willing to spend more on clothing. It is estimated that in 2013, about £51.88 billion was spent in this country by people buying clothes. This is a huge increase in clothing expenses given that the value was estimated to be about £41.71 in the year 2009. The demand for clothing and apparel has been growing consistently in this country, and Sokolowski (2011, p. 152) says that it is estimated that clothing expenditure now holds about 5% of total market share. The pace at which this industry is expanding is very promising. However, most of the consumers are very sensitive of what they purchase. They have specific needs that a firm must meet for them to buy the products. This means that a firm will be forced to maintain a regular research in the market in order to understand their dynamic demands.

The rapidly changing fashions in the industry require a firm to have a fast pace market research that will help access current information about what consumers need. Conducting a physical research is not only expensive and tedious, but also time consuming. Sometimes a report reaches the decision makers when it is already irrelevant because of the dynamism of the apparel industry. Many scholars have stated that the solution to this problem lies with the social media. Social media research is relatively cheap, very effective, and takes very little time. In fact, a firm can get the information needed about a given product, a new trend, or what the customers desire in a couple of hours.

Egger (2008, p. 49) says that by introducing the topic in an interesting manner, a firm will attract many people who will discuss the issue and give their views. This will provide the firm with the information needed on how to modify the product to meet consumer needs. Comstock and Scharrer (2007, p. 79) say that social media has become very critical in informing the decision made by consumers when planning to buy a given product. Such knowledge is very important to a firm in understanding use the social media to attract customers to their products and brand. This makes the research very relevant in determining if it is true that social media has a major impact on the consumer buying behaviour.

Research questions and hypotheses

According to Bowen and Ozuem (2015, p. 84), developing effective research questions is very important when planning to conduct a research. The research questions act as a guide when collecting data. They help the researcher to identify the specific information that is necessary to achieve the research objectives. Richardson, Gosnay and Carroll (2010, p. 125) say that sometimes researchers waste a lot of time collecting irrelevant messages that do not add value to the research topic. It is impossible to come up with a correct conclusion in a research that lacks the clearly defined research questions. In this study, the researcher developed the following research questions based on the research objectives.

  1. How can you define social media usage in the United Kingdom with regard to clothing and apparel?
  2. What is the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers?
  3. How do consumers feel towards the increase of the online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel?

The researcher used these questions, and a set of other questions, in collecting data from the sampled participants and from the secondary sources. Based on the above research questions, the following hypotheses were developed.

  1. H1o. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has not been on the rise.
  2. H1a. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has been on the rise.
  3. H2o. Facebook is the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.
  4. H2a. Facebook is not the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.
  5. H3o. Consumers are positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel.
  6. H3a. Consumers are positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel

From the analysis of the primary data, the researcher seeks to reject all the three null hypotheses in order to accept their alternative hypotheses.

Literature Review

In this section, the researcher will critically evaluate what other scholars have written in regard to consumers’ buying behaviour and decision making process. The researcher will also review literatures about social media in its entirety and how it affects employees buying behaviour. The focus will finally be given to Facebook as one of the platforms that are actively being used by the online community.

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Consumer behaviour

Consumer behaviour as a field of study is widely used in various disciplines such as sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics and marketing. Wankel, Marovich and Stanaityte (2010, p. 27) define consumer behaviour as “A study of individuals, groups, or organisations and the process they use to select, secure, and dispose of products, services and experience.” As a marketer, it is very important to understand the specific activities that go on in the mind of a consumer when they are planning to make a purchase of a given product. A firm should know if the customer is driven by price, quality, peer pressure, or any other factor that makes it necessary to purchase a given product. Understanding the activities going on in the mind of a consumer makes it possible for a firm to come up with a concept of a product specifically meant to offer value to the customer based on his priorities.

Using Freud’s Cognitive Theory may help in understanding how consumers make decisions every time they want to purchase a given product. This theory explains how people make decisions based on internal and external influencers (Dibb & Simkin 2001, p. 39). The socio-cultural forces, family issues, role and status within a family or society, economic situations, and occupation of an individual are some of the major external influencers. Issues such as age, personal factors, lifestyle, and self-concepts are internal influencers. According to Fill (2006, p. 58), as a marketer, it is always very important to determine the forces that have stronger influence on the buyer behaviour. Internal forces are sometimes influenced by basic needs. For instance, one may make a decision to buy clothes because he or she needs to replace the older ones.

The decision making process of such an individual is very different from another individual who is going to the shop to buy a new fashionable clothe because a friend bought one the previous day. It may not be easy to precisely determine the reason why a consumer is visiting given apparel store. However, Ryan and Jones (2009, p. 88) note that the most important thing is to understand all the possible influencers and how each can be manipulated to make an individual to purchase a given product. For instance, when an individual is motivated by peer pressure, their buying decision can easily be influenced the moment they step into the shop. What a firm will need to do, as Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p. 61) say, it to convince the customer that other products exist that will outperform those that are already in the market.

According to Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy and Silvestre (2011, p. 245), in the past, many large retailers were successful because of their attractive displays that motivated impulse buying. A shopper who was not planning to buy a given product will be influenced by the way a product is displayed and this will make them purchase such a given product. Impulse buying is still common and many firms are benefitting a lot due to it. However, Chaturvedi and Barbar (2014, p. 32) say that this trend is about to change with the emergence of the online market. Unlike in brick-and-moter markets where retailers can display their products easily to their customers, in online market this is not possible. This means that a firm will need other forms of motivation in order to influence the buying decisions of the customers. It is because of these new eventualities in the market that many firms are now considering the use of social media to influence their customers’ decisions when they are making purchasing decisions.

Social media

The emergence of digital technology has had a massive effect on the way people communicate in the current society. This is specifically so following the emergence of social media as a means through which people can share content. Social media has become a formidable force in the communication sector. Mangold and Felds (2009, p. 44) define social media as “A group of internet based applications that are built on the ideological and technological functions of the web that facilitates creation and exchange of user-generated content.” Social media has democratised communication in the corporate world. The power of communication has been handed over to individuals to share their opinions through various online communities (Abinash & Gupta 2012, p. 24). This has benefited consumers a lot. Before they can make a decision to buy a given product, they can engage their friends in the online communities such as Facebook and Tweeter to help them in making informed choices. They can even watch the functionality of the products they desire through YouTube.

According to Aquinas (2009, p. 50), marketers have also benefited from the emergence of the interactive online community. In the past, companies were able to post various messages in their website to reach their intended audience. However, such websites were not interactive. This meant that it only facilitated a one way communication system. The consumers could not give their inputs or respond to the issues raised by the firm. This made it difficult to collect relevant information from the customers. In most of the cases, a firm would be forced to send marketers to the field to collect views of the customers. That was the only way that a firm would engage its customers when designing appropriate products. However, the social media has solved this problem. Companies can now engage its clients in an active debate over an issue when coming up with a new concept. Customers are able to ask relevant questions and the firm’s representatives will be able to respond to them.

Online communities such as YouTube have made it possible for customers to demonstrate what they like or do not like about a given product. One can record a short video on how a given product offers a superior value. The video can then be uploaded in the YouTube for the online community. Such recordings can have very powerful impact on the decisions that customers make. This is a clear demonstration that social media has given customers power to share their ideas with the manufacturers to influence the type of products delivered to them. They also influence the decision of their fellow consumers by advising them on what to buy and what to avoid based on their past experiences of perceptions. According to Bissell an Dolan (2011, p. 128), the relevance of social media in marketing emerged in the literatures and academic journals over half a decade ago as it became apparent that firms were preferring to use social media to reach out to their market. At that time, there were some scholars who believed that social media did not hold much potential in the field of marketing. However, the events that have taken place in the last five years have left the marketing community with a clear information that social media holds the future of marketing.

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As Dwivedi (2011, p. 90) states, there are many types of social media platforms that are in use today. Those that are popularly used by the global society are Facebook, YouTube, Tweeter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The research by Cimino (2009, p. 73) says that social media cal be classified into ten subgroups. These subgroups include social bookmarking sites, social media submission sites, review and rating sites, wikis, podcasts, blogs, media sharing sites, social networking sites, and micro-blogging. Each of the above subgroups has distinctive characteristics on how they facilitate online sharing. Collier and Magid (2012, p. 38) note that not all scholars agree with the classification given above. Some have come up with classifications of six subgroups of social media. The six include collaborative projects, the virtual social worlds, virtual game worlds, blogs, content communities, and social network sites. Despite the differences in classification, it is important that the two have a number of similarities when classifying various forms of social media based on the manner in which the information is shared. In this paper, focus will be placed on Facebook because it is the most popular social media platform today.

Facebook

Founded in 2004 by Marc Zuckerberg and a group of other friends at Harvard University, Facebook has become the most popular social media platform in the current society (FitzGerald & Dennis 2009, p. 46). These students wanted to develop an internal network that could be used by students to communicate while they are within the campus without the need to make phone calls. However, what came out was something beyond their imagination. They realised that with modification, Facebook had the potential of facilitating interactive communication, not just within their campus, but in the international community at large. They went ahead and modified it.

The result was impressive as the Americans started using it to communicate, especially the youth. It spread very fast to Europe and then to the international community. In the year 2006, Facebook went public. It had become a reliable site where people would meet their long lost friends and chat without any restrictions as long as they had access to the internet. Lüsted (2011, p. 58) says that Facebook even surpassed Google in terms of popularity in the global community. One of the reasons why Facebook gained massive popularity over a short period is that it connects friends with a lot of ease. In the recent developments, this site now allows users to interact with their favourite celebrities, brands or companies.

Large companies have realised that Facebook has a huge potential in terms of promoting their brands and specific products. It allows companies to create their own Facebook page. Customers who like these pages can then follow all posts from this firm. This allows firms to advertise their products to these followers or keep them updated about the existing products. These companies can track their followers and understand their demographics. This will be helpful when developing new products. According to Mandiberg (2012, p. 131), Facebook has also enabled firms to reach out to specific target audience based on their demographical factors. The firm can develop a message and send it to these customers, especially when it is planning to launch a new product in the market.

Noor and Hendricks (2012, p. 78) observe that firms such as PepsiCo and Coca Cola Company are now using Facebook marketing to reach out to its audience. According to Obee (2012, p. 52), many scholars now agree that Facebook, and other social media, will eclipse mass media in terms of popularity in advertising. Their wide geographical coverage and availability in many different languages have pushed the social media to the top of the ladder when it comes to advertising. Facebook has come up with software that can translate a message from one language to the other. This means that a message written in English can be translated to many other languages. This has made it a very reliable medium for multinational companies targeting global audience.

The Impact of Social Media on Consumer Buying Behaviour

According to Panko and Panko (2014, p. 90), many organisations have been conducting research to determine whether social media has an impact on employees buyer behaviour. Many scholars who have conducted empirical research on this issue agree that social media has a considerable impact on the consumers’ purchasing behaviour; other scholars have also determined that there is a correlation between a firm’s financial performance and engagement in social media. According to Partridge (2011, p. 137), brands that invest in social media have gained a lot of popularity in the market, leading to increased sales of their product. By maintaining their presence in social media that is frequented by over 1.2 billion people, these brands become memorable to these customers, a fact that makes the identify with them.

Companies are now keen on identifying the most appropriate social media that can be used to meet their needs. According to Randazza (2010, p. 118), there are companies that spent over 20 million dollars in online advertisement during the last world cup games. Rosen (2013, p. 84) conducted a research on the best brands that use social media to reach out to their clients. The report stated that firms that invest in social media experienced a faster growth than those that avoided it. The report stated that the more a company engages with its target customers in these social platforms, the more it gained popularity and loyalty from these customers. This would result into higher incomes through increased sales.

According to Ryan (2011, p. 80), anyone who has doubts on the fact that social media can impact consumer buying behaviour can refer to the incident that took place at Domino’s Pizza. On April 16, 2009, two employees of Domino’s Pizza did something that will be remembered among many firms around the world when it comes to managing social media. These two chefs filmed themselves preparing a pizza in the most unhygienic way possible. One of them was recording and describing how they always handle food in a dirty manner at the firm while the other one was demonstrating. They went ahead and prepared the pizza, ready for delivery. The video was then uploaded on YouTube. It had an almost instant impact on this firm. Within two hours, the film had become viral. Everybody who watched it became disgusted. They could not believe that a brand they had trusted for a very long time would subject them to health risks as described and demonstrated by the two employees. What is worse is that they filmed the video right inside the kitchen of this firm. There is no way the management could disown the video. It was filmed at their premises by their own employees.

What many people wondered was how it was possible for the duo to record the film for that long without a supervisor or another fellow employee disrupting their activities. It was a clear message to the American community, especially the customers of Domino’s Pizza that this firm has no mechanism of supervising how their meals are being prepared. Some even argued that if they were able to film and upload the video, then probably they must have handled the pizzas in the same manner before only that it did not come to the public domain. Within three hours after uploading the film, the number of daily visitors of Domino’s Pizza had dropped by over 80% (Tanenbaum 2011, p. 87). The following day, there was hardly anyone visiting the stores. Even those who are not frequent visitor of online platforms that day made an effort to visit YouTube. They wanted to confirm the rumour that was going round. The management’s reaction was poor. At first, the managers thought that the buzz will disappear after a few hours. However, it became apparent that this approach would not work.

The chief executive was forced to go online to explain to the market that these employees had the motive to hurt the image of the firm for reasons best known to them. This helped to calm things down, especially after the management went to the social media, especially YouTube and Facebook, to explain itself to the audience and respond to their questions. Even to this day, there are those who do not trust Domino’s Pizza anymore despite the fact that at the time of the incident, it was the best brand in the market. Others refrained from pizzas generally because of the film. This incident is a clear demonstration of the power of the social media. It is a powerful tool that can help a firm to reach out to its customers. However, when used in a wrong way, it can be a destructive weapon with the capacity of bringing down a giant firm like Domino’s Pizza within hours.

Research Gaps and Criticism

The discussion above has demonstrated clearly that social media has become a formidable tool that defines how consumers make their purchasing decisions. According to a report by Vincent (2011, p. 113), although there is a general agreement that social media increases brand awareness, some scholars still doubt if this may result into direct increase in sales. Fotis (2010) also says that social media has remained a complex element in consumer behaviour that marketers and academicians are still interested in investigating further. The existing researches are not very clear on the issue of revenue generated due to online presence. Some critics argue that social media has been given undue attention. They believe more studies are necessary to ascertain the true relationship between social media presence and a firm’s performance in the market. This study seeks to address these gaps and to enhance the existing knowledge on this topic.

Research Approach and Methods

When conducting research, it is always important to define the research approach used in collecting and analysing data, and how the conclusion was arrived at in order to validate the report. In this report, the researcher used deductive approach. This approach facilitates collection and analysis of data in a way that facilitates creation of a theory or development of recommendations that can be used by other stakeholders to inform their decision. However, the researcher appreciates the need to have legitimacy for the study (Gupta 2002, p. 51). For this reason, it was considered necessary to conduct a quantitative research as well. This meant that the researcher had to go to the field and collect relevant information and analyse them to confirm the theories deduced.

Research framework and design

The research used both primary and secondary sources of data. Secondary data has been reviewed in chapter 2 of this paper. The materials were collected from books, journals, and other reliable online sources. In order to collect primary data, it was necessary to identify a sample of the population and use data collection instruments to gather necessary information. Survey was considered to be an appropriate approach of collecting primary data. This was done using a questionnaire. The questionaire sought to capture various attitudes of the sampled population regarding their opinions on the issue under investigation. The researcher sampled business executives, social media marketers, and users of social media to participate in the study. The questionnaire had four parts. The first part sought to capture the background information of respondents. The second part dealt with the demography and gender of the respondents. This was to ascertain the prevalence of views in various categories in order to ensure that if any differences came about, then they would be captured in their demographic space.

The third part dealt with academic credentials and work experience of the respondents. The motivation for this section came from the understanding that different sections of population respond differently to issues, based on age and academic credentials (Glatthorn 2005, p. 31). The fourth part delved into the specific issues relating to the impact of social media on consumer buying behavior in the United Kingdom, starting from the understanding of the concept used in social media marketing to the possible effects it would have on the customers’ buying behavior.

The questionaire employed a mix of open and closed ended questions to capture different aspects of issues studied. Open ended questions were used because they give respondents more time to figure out their opinions, which would make them volunteer more information related to feelings, outlooks and comprehension of the subject (Bell 2001, p. 45). This would allow a researcher to understand the position of respondents as regards to feelings. Open ended questions minimise some errors that could have been created in the course of research. Respondents rarely forget answers if given an opportunity to respond freely. Furthermore, respondents cannot ignore some questions because they must go through all of them. Open ended questions generate data that can be used in data analysis by other researchers. In other words, they allow secondary data analysis. On the other hand, closed-ended questions are analysed easily. That is why they were used in this study. When using this design, each response can be coded for statistical interpretation. Nonetheless, closed-ended questions are compatible with computer analysis package (Delving 2006, p. 80). The technique is more specific meaning that its answers are consistent in all conditions. This aspect is impossible with open-ended questions because each respondent is allowed to use his or her own words. Finally, closed-ended questions take less time to administer unlike open-ended questions, which are detailed hence time consuming.

The questionnaire was sent to respondents using online methods. The researcher arrived at this decision after considering time and resources needed. The method is time efficient given the location of the respondents. The method also allows respondents to reflect on the questions and answer them accurately. However, the method is affected by the respondent’s level of literacy (Cramer 2003, p. 47). One big disadvantage of the technique is that there is no interaction between the researcher and the researched. This means that respondent’s reactions are cannot be captured.

The literature collected provided information regarding various theories related to social media marketing and customer decision making processes, which is spread across the last century. The body of literature availed a number of strategies that some of the giants firms in various industries have used in order to maximise the use of social media. It is also important to note the literature provided information on the state of research is this field (Calabrese 2006, p. 211). Various researchers have conducted studies on various factors that affect consumer behaviour. This gave the study a sound academic backing and a strong basis for drawing comparisons and conclusions.

The use of the questionaire made it possible to capture issues relating to the use of social media, especially the relevance of Facebook to the corporate world. The targeted respondents responded to the questionaires, which were delivered to them through onlline means. The availability of the respondents influenced the choice of this method because some of the executives that were sampled had very busy schedules in their offices and therefore it was necessary to take the shortest time to collected such data from them. Online delivery of the questionnaire increased the accuracy of data collected as there was interactivity (Gusti 2011, p. 78). After collection, the data went through analysis, culminating the observations and conclusions discussed in chapter four and five respectively.

Data gathering techniques

Primary data for this research was collected from the individual users of social media, social media marketing experts, and business executives of firms that have used social media to enhance their operations. This data was collected with the help of a questionnaire. The scope of data collection was limited to the three categories of individuals. This was because of the time that was available for the research. Given that most of the respondents were locals who had used social media in one way or the other, it was assumed that they clearly understood the relevance of social media in enhancing the brand in the market and sales of a firm’s products. They also understood how this affected the performance of firms that avoided any presence in social media. The level of accuracy needed in this research would be achieved within this scope (Brause 2000, p. 81). Secondary data was gathered from existing literature, especially books, journals, market reports, and other online sources that have been recorded over the past few years.

It is also important to discuss the sampling technique that was used to gather relevant data from the field. According to Anderson (2009, p. 73), there are some factors that should be put into consideration when choosing the right method of sampling in a given research project. In this research project, precision was needed. The best method that would lead to the desired results was considered to be stratified sampling. As Bell (2005, p. 113) states, this method is simple to use and it is appropriate when one intends to use data quantitatively. The researcher settled on this method because the research population could be divided into three subgroups for clarity purposes. This was done in a way that ensured that there was an equal representation in each of the strata. The researcher identified the three strata as social media users and social media marketing experts, and business executives, and gave social media experts more weight because of the significance of their answers to this research.

Limitations and Justifications

It has been stated that the primary data was collected from the field through the use of e-mails. This meant that each of the respondents was randomly picked in an online forum. This poses a challenge that may limit the quality of data gathered from them. It is not easy to determine the authenticity of someone in an online community. Impersonation in the online community is very common. A man can easily claim to be a woman and vice versa. This posed a challenge when it came to identifying social media experts and business executives. These are people who understand the relevant of social media from a business perspective, and therefore, the validity of their responses was of utmost important. In order to address this problem, the researcher identified these participants by going through the organisations they work for or verifying if indeed they worked with a given firm. A phone call to this organisation was made as a way of fool proofing the issue of identity. According to Goddard (2001, p. 80), sampling participants in an online community limits the ability to have participants with varying opinions over a given issue. This was another limitation that was faced when collecting data.

According to Dunleavy (2003, p. 54), when collecting data, it is important to have a face-to-face interaction with the respondent in order to capture the non-verbal cues. These non-verbal cues helps in revealing information that the participant may want to hide either for fear of intimidation, the need to protect the interests of their organisation, or for personal reasons. Being physically present makes it easy to identify cues that may help shed more light on the information provided by the participant verbally (Barzun 2004, p. 181). It also helps the researcher to know when a participant has decided to lie. Sometimes these lies are clearly written in their faces. However, the approach taken by researcher to collect data through online means limited the ability to gather these non-verbal cues. The research had to wholly rely on the information provided by the participants. According to Earl (2009, p. 74), sometimes it may not be easy to determine if the intended participant responded to the question or if the work was done by someone else. Because of their busy schedules, a business executive or social media expert may delegate the function to someone else. When this happens, then the data that will be provided may not be as accurate as it would have been if it was addressed by the intended person. Given that the researcher had no powers or capacity to eliminate such irregularities, the research had to rely on the faith that every questionnaire will be filled by the right respondents.

The researcher had a justification as to why this approach of collecting data was used (Anderson 2004, p. 70). The time available to conduct this research was very limited. Visiting the intended participants in their offices would have required more time, a resource that was limited to the researcher. It is also important to note that making physical visits would have required additional financial resources. Although this was not a major problem, the researcher considered it more economical to avoid such travels. According to Badenhorst (2007, p. 83), in many organisations, for one to meet the executives, they have to book an appointment with them. The executive will inform the participants of the day when they have free time to participate in the study. Sometimes they may inform the researcher to wait for several weeks, if not months for them to participate in the study. This may incontinence the process of gathering and analysing data. It is because of these factors that the researcher considered it necessary to conduct an online survey in collected primary data.

Data Analysis

This chapter involved analysing the raw primary data collected from the field. According to Bak (2004, p. 56), analysing of the primary data requires a clear approach and an appropriate tool that can help in achieving the desired outcome. It is at this section that the researcher will use the primary data to confirm or reject the research hypotheses developed in the proposal. The following were the research hypotheses that will be confirmed or rejected based on the outcome of the primary data analysis.

  1. H1o. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has not been on the rise.
  2. H1a. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has been on the rise.
  3. H2o. Facebook is not the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.
  4. H2a. Facebook is the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.
  5. H3o. Consumers are not positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel.
  6. H3a. Consumers are positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel

Analysis of the data

As stated before, the researcher used mathematical tools to analyse the primary data quantitatively in order to support the deductive reasoning in this report. Based on the questions collected from the field, below the findings based on how they related to the research hypotheses. The deductive analysis will take the form shown in the figure below.

 Deductive research
Figure 1: Deductive research

This means that from the theories that already exist- available in the existing literatures- the researcher developed hypotheses. The hypotheses will be analysed based on the observations from the field (primary data). The hypotheses will then be confirmed or rejected. Confirming the hypotheses will be a validation of the supporting theory. However, when the hypothesis is rejected, then the supporting theory will be subject to further study.

Findings

  • H1o. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has not been on the rise.

This was the first hypothesis in this research. There was need to determine the perception of the respondents towards the issue of usage social media in the local apparel industry. The figure below shows how they responded to this question.

Hypothesis 1
Figure 2: Hypothesis 1

From the result given in the table above, it is clearly that majority of the respondents felt that the use of social media in the apparel industry has been on the rise. Although a few general users felt that there has been no significant change over the past few years, most of the respondents in all three categories overwhelmingly noted that there has been a positive change. As stated previously, the social media marketing experts were in the best position to give an expert opinion on this issue. It was observed that all of them felt that there has been a significant increase in the usage of social media in the apparel industry within this country. This meant that the alternative hypothesis below was accepted.

  • H1a. The use of social media in the United Kingdom among the players in clothing and apparel has been on the rise.

With this information, the researcher can confirm that it is a fact, just as it was stated in the existing literatures, that social media is becoming very relevant to the players in the apparel industry. The experts stated that most of the firms are now going online, including those that have large retail outlets in strategic locations. The online market provides many people in the United Kingdom with an alternative to going to the supermarket and other retail outlets. The experts explained that in many families, both parents are in the corporate world. They spend most of the time in their offices trying to climb the corporate ladder. This means that they lack time to go shopping. This category of shoppers has helped in the development of the online marketplace. Firms that sell their products online must find a way of advertising their products in the online platforms. Social media, especially Facebook, Tweeter, and YouTube offers them the opportunity to do this. Below is the second hypothesis.

  • H2o. Facebook is the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.

According to Zheleva, Terzi and Getoor (2012, p. 98), large multinational corporations can afford to advertise in all the available social media platforms that currently exist. However, small and medium enterprises cannot afford to advertise in all the existing platforms. This makes it necessary to identify the most appropriate platform that can give them maximum value if they decide to use it. In the literatures reviewed in this research, many scholars stated that Facebook has the greatest impact. It was necessary to support this claim by collecting and analysing the primary data from the field.

Using quantitative methods, the primary data was analysed and the figure below shows the outcome.

Hypothesis 2
Figure 3: Hypothesis 2

The results obtained from the respondents confirmed that Facebook actually has the greatest impact on the buyers’ buying behaviour of all the media platforms. 80% of the general users, 100% of the experts, and 90% of the executives were in support of this idea. This was nearly a universal acceptance of the fact that Facebook has become a formidable force in the marketing arena. This meant that the alternative hypothesis below was confirmed.

  • H2a. Facebook is not the social media platform that has the greatest impact on the buying behaviour of the customers.

The experts explained that when it comes to clothing and apparel industry, Facebook comes ahead of all other social media platforms. Many people have not realised the significance of profile photos in promoting specific brands. They explained that Facebook provides a platform where individuals can showcase their new fashions in clothing and apparels. Their peers will see the new model and look for the same or a better product in the market. They will also take a photo and post it on their Facebook walls. The competition to beat the rest becomes endless, and the beneficiaries in such competitions are the manufacturers and retailers of these products. It explains why the tastes and preferences in the clothing and apparel industry keep on changing at a very rapid rate. People are keen to be the first to introduce a new style in the market. The experts also noted that the corporate bodies are also more active on Facebook than they are in other social media platforms. This claim confirms the findings from the literatures that corporations are spending more on Facebook marketing than in any other form of social media. Below is the third hypothesis in the study.

  • H3o. Consumers are positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel.

After conforming that online marketing was becoming common in the current society in the United Kingdom, it became necessary to find out the views of the consumers and whether they felt that it offered them better services compared to what they get in brick-and moter stores. Their perceptions towards the online marketplace would help in determining how the social media influenced their purchasing behaviour. The outcome of the data analysis is shown in the figure below.

 Hypothesis 3
Figure 4: Hypothesis 3

The outcome received out of this question was not the one expected. 80% of the business executives rejected the claim and so did 60% of general users. The experts mostly stated that we are in a transition, and therefore, the likes and dislikes are almost on the same balance. The users complained about the issue of privacy breach and financial security in the online market. They stated that they are reluctant to use this market for major shopping activities because of the security problems. The executives reiterated the sentiments of the users saying that their customers are scared of cybercriminals who are keen on stealing from their unsuspecting victims. This means that the alternative hypothesis below is rejected.

  • H3a. Consumers are positive towards the increase of online retailers and effectiveness of this presence in relation to clothing and apparel

From the explanation received from the three groups, issues about safety, security, and the fear of the unknown are some of the factors that limited the acceptance of the online marketing among the consumers. The stakeholders will need to find ways of enhancing security and privacy of the customers for this concept to be accepted.

Conclusion

In this paper, the researcher was interested in investigating the impact of social media on consumer buying behaviour in the United Kingdom. The clothing and apparel industry was chosen because of its rapid online growth. The reports from the literatures reviewed and analysis of the primary data shows that social media has a major impact on the buying behaviour among the consumers in the apparel industry. Social media, especially Facebook, creates an online community where people share their experiences. Any negative experienced that one shares with his friends will minimise chances that consumers will buy such a product. The case about Domino’s Pizza confirms this argument. On the other hand, the social media can also act as a platform where viral marketing can flourish.

Facebook has been very helpful in this area, especially in the clothing and apparel industry. When people post their pictures on their Facebook walls wearing a new cloth that has just been introduced into the market, the picture will motivate their online friends to look for the same or even a better product. It has been established that Facebook has been setting the trend in this industry. Firms that want to increase their online presence must know that social media is a tool that can bring either success or failure, based on how it is handled. Some firms have benefited due to the investments they make in the social media. Others were almost destroyed because of their inability to handle the unpredictable outcomes in the social media.

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