How to Research the Digital Customer Journey

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Related Research on International Student or Customer Information
Seeking Journey

 

This study started with individual focus input from a limited number of former international students and stakeholders giving open and related feedback on information seeking factors; mirroring grounded research techniques allowing issues to emerge within time and resource constraints (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).

 

This study, through qualitative techniques of literature review, with stakeholder feedback from both students and marketers, was followed by quantitative measurement of data from a modest but relevant sample student population, using descriptive statistics i.e. data tables, informing a construct with analysis, then discussion and recommendations.

 

Good starting point for qualitative research is ‘grounded theory’, a methodology to allow issues to emerge from focus respondents; this was partially replicated, but in an abbreviated or streamlined version.

 

Qualitative Research – Grounded Research Theory & Inductive Approach

 

Qualitative data from interviews or focus respondent feedback can be used for the ‘Inductive Approach’ (to inform survey instrument) exemplified by fluid theoretical framework, identification of relationships in the data for potential hypotheses, then theory emerges from this process.  Further, there are various types of approach e.g. summarising meaning or ‘condensation’, categorisation or ‘grouping’ and structuring or ‘ordering’ leading to a narrative, this approach avoids becoming caught in a deductive process of proving theory (Saunders, 2009).

 

Further, analysis of the emergent qualitative data allows comprehension, integration, pattern recognition, then potential development or testing of theories.  Also significant are language terms that emerge from the data, which also appear in existing literature, that are used by participants and relevant industry (Ibid.).

 

Language analysis is especially important to inform good website design, SM usage, content marketing and SEO keywords and phrases, reflecting the language or communication means that students prefer, use and can find.

 

Why Mixed Methods & Grounded Research Theory?

 

The reasons for using mixed methods include ‘triangulation’ to corroborate both facilitation and complementarity through qualitative and quantitative, ‘generality’ assessing importance through quantitative, and ‘aid interpretation’ with qualitative explaining quantitative.  This approach can solve a puzzle through analysis i.e. asking students directly versus guessing or assuming the latent factors driving their behaviour when planning a purchase (Saunders, 2009).

 

Grounded theory emerges from induction through the study of a phenomenon, e.g. study of student information searching preferences to derive a ‘grounded’ marketing and communications strategy or approach.  However, qualitative via grounded theory follows a process of systematic data collection and analysis related to a phenomenon so that data collection, analysis and theory relate to each other; it’s not subjective opinion (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).

 

Using mixed methods of data collecting or multi-method approach, adds up to enhanced validity and reliability through ‘triangulation’ (Bell, 2005).  Coding can also be done in a selective manner in choosing the core category for which relationships and other categories are viewed (Ibid.). Process or linking up of elements in the research or study emerges as a sequence of events, exemplified by identifying need, information search, analysis and decision; mirrors many cyclical processes including those outside of marketing (Ibid.).

 

The research process in this case, using grounded theory, allowed flexibility provided evaluation criteria are satisfied, leading onto empirical grounding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). How or where do we start?

 

 

Reference List:

 

Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project. (4th Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

 

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.

 

Strauss, A. & Corbin, J. (1990) Basics of Qualitative Research – Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park CA: SAGE Publications.

 

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Focus Group Research for Digital e-Marketing Strategy Development

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Digital or e-Marketing Strategy Development
Research Design & Methodology

 

Optimal research is based on triangulation between scholarly and industry research representing a process with related factors, then analysis and coding of key stakeholder feedback according to same process.  Thirdly, it can be followed by quantitative data gathering or survey of customers’ attitudes on the factors that emerged, joining the circle or triangulation.

 

The literature review can highlight research and industry issues or views of marketing and communications for international education or related products and services, leading to an optimal marketing and communications construct to inform strategy and professional practice.  Additionally, to inform or validate any construct, qualitative data needs to be collected through focus type respondents from industry or target market, coded and analysed for inclusion of important factors in a survey instrument.

 

Quantitative data can be collected, described and analysed; resulting in a practical process and template for both small and large entities. It is limited neither to education nor marketing, but applicable to any workplace investigation or consulting, not unlike good investigative journalism or detective work or training needs analysis.

 

Research Approach Rationale

 

This data collection and qualitative research use the inductive approach, with grounded research methods, which informs development of a survey instrument, and represents the purchase decision process model.  The focus is ‘information search or discovery process’, produces data for analysis and then informs a generic marketing and communications model or template, for marketing and communication practitioners, through a process.

 

This is opposed to taking the deductive approach of testing a hypothesis already formed from previous research or practice, assuming data and a hypothesis or rationale is publicly available.  However, the deductive approach is precluded by the lack of the following: transparent marketing strategies, access to data, direct process based KPIs key performance indicators and ROI return on investment, meaningful analytics on student marketing and communications, and access to statistically significant sample population(s).

 

 

Effective medium or long-term strategy may be precluded by a short-term sales or ROI type of analysis of an annual marketing investment budget, evaluating only selected inputs and outputs, but neither processes nor future income streams.  Accordingly, with related scholastic research lacking in this field, a contemporary framework or construct reflecting both target market and changing technology, is needed to aid analysis and future marketing.

 

Research Design & Methodology

 

The research can start with question or proposal round ‘information seeking’, review of marketing research literature and education industry reports with expert focus respondent feedback.  From the latter, a survey instrument can be developed, piloted, data collected, then analysed according to descriptive statistics through e.g. Survey Monkey, then data tabulated, presented, analysed, reported and linked back for business applications.

 

Inductive Approach to Qualitative Research

 

One can take the approach of ‘theory first’ and test deduced hypotheses to verify theory, or conversely ‘theory after’, not starting with theory but collecting data to generate a theory or model.  This is not unlike inferring the significant factors that impact how Google and Facebook Page search algorithms affect SEO, when the algorithm is commercial in confidence.

 

The research is based on eliciting relevant process or factors to inform and develop a latent construct of optimal marketing and communications for students as purchasers, especially related to the information seeking phase or journey.  This construct, developed through inference, should suggest good industry practice that includes latent factors or (re)sources that allow students to find relevant information to analyse for a future purchase decision.

 

Advantages of this approach are that it allows one to take a research direction, it does not force respondents to adopt a restrictive theory or framework that may preclude relevant feedback (Saunders et al., 2009).  Such a construct can be used to develop a marketing and communications strategy or template, then used to develop initial, or compare existing, strategy and evaluate, according to users, clients or students; creating systematic process and utility in the sector.

 

Research Proposition

 

How do students’ or customers’ information seeking behaviours relate to marketing and communications strategy in international education or related service industries?

 

The research proposition posits that there is a relationship between more recent information seeking factors exemplified by digital, and the older WOM word of mouth, for a purchase decision process, with development of grounded, practical marketing and communication strategy.

 

This data collection and research focused mostly upon the similarities in recent digital based ‘information search or discovery process’, the factors that are related to this process and could be used to infer an optimal information seeking construct or model (Kotler & Keller, 2012).

 

Reference List:

 

Kotler, P. & Keller, K. (2012) Marketing Management. (14th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education – Prentice Hall.

 

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.