The background of selecting such a research topic is that social networks have revolutionised the pattern of information sharing among individuals and businesses. This type of revolution in the social networks had led the marketers of business to redefine the business characteristics that support the effective interaction of businesses with target consumers of the country, like the UK. It had been discussed by Tsai (2017) that with the revolution in communication technology, social media has become the voice of consumers that also explains their buying behaviour.
The centre of the consumers' behaviour for online purchases can be described as developing a purchasing decision based on their certain steps. These steps include evaluation of the product from varying different sources of social media and then making purchase decisions on the recommendations published by other buyers about the product (Hudson et al, 2016).
The uprising of social media networks has also impacted the purchasing behaviours of consumers around the globe, and the consumers of the United Kingdom (UK) are not an exception from it. Still, there is a certain problem that is not discussed by many previous researchers. This problem is associated with the effective managing of the purchasing behaviour of consumers with diversified cultures living in the UK. This problem leads the study to develop research aims and objectives that support the current researchers in finding solutions to reduce the research gap.
In research, various dimensions develop new questions and concerns. It is necessary to develop a set of aims and objectives that base the foundation of research. For the current study, the following objectives will help in examining and analysing the topic in detail.
To study the influence of the social network on purchasing behaviour.
To examine social media as a source of decision-making for online purchasing.
To identify the change of behaviour for online purchasing in the UK
The introduction of social networks is majorly based on the occurrence of Myspace in 2003 and Facebook in 2004. These two social network platforms became popular in no time and were termed “social media”. According to Hudson (2016), the term ‘Web 2.0’ was initially used to explain the utilisation of the internet as a source from where developed content is not just published but also consistently enhanced and modified by different users. The approach to modifying the content involved participatory and collaborative measures that involved wikis, blogging and online articles facilitating the user with enormous information. Huang (2016) believes that social networks have advanced the knowledge and access to a user with the flow of ideas and information that fulfils many requirements.
Young (2017) explains that User-generated content (UGC) relates to the media content that is created and made available publicly by the end-user. However, Zabkar (2018) argues that media content should be created apart from professional practices without any commercial gains and marketing. Russell (2017), states that the concept of UGC is a commercial service involving discussed opinions and offers given voluntarily. From the classification of Web 2.0 and UGC concepts, social networks can be defined as a collection of applications based on internet usage that forms the foundation and idea of Web 2.0 and allows the access and exchange of User-generated content (Robinson et al., 2017).
According to Gillani (2019), Social networks can be sorted into collective ventures (Wikipedia, websites), content networks (YouTube), person-to-person communication (Facebook), virtual game spaces (World of Warcraft), and virtual social spaces (Second Life). Additionally, online business and expert reviews also involve UGC, for example, Amazon and dpreview.com.
Nash (2019), recognised social media platforms, for example, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the latest Instagram, as online spaces where users create an individual account and develop communication with other users, access data or are publicised. Tsai (2017) considers that the rapid increase in access and popularity of social media made it essential practice for utilising the internet as a central instrument of industry advancement and item deals. Besides, Ramanathan (2017) claims that social networks can change promoting techniques since companies interact effectively with users. Thus, social networking accelerates human communication and significantly impact the behaviour of human.
In the 1950s, the idea of word of mouth (WOM) was presented which has been rejuvenated by the web. As indicated by Erkan (2018), WOM is an "individual-to-individual correspondence between a recipient and a communicator whom the user considers as non-business in regards to a brand, item, or service. WOM is an essential basis for providing information to customers which develops their purchasing choices, forms perspectives, attitudes and expectations from brands, companies and service providers (Shareef et al., 2019). Word of mouth also affects all stages through which a customer decides to purchase a product or item. It ensures them about the characteristics of the product and evaluation of the service selected.
In today’s technologically advanced world, WOM has significantly increased in popularity today because of the more prominent connectedness of individuals via web-based networking media. Dulabh (2018) explains about the online or electronic source (eWOM) is a type of WOM where social network users give feedback and evaluations to a wide range of items, brands, and services on survey platforms. According to Blank (2017), eWOM is characterised as any constructive or contrary review made by potential, real, or previous customers about an item or company, which is made accessible to a huge number of individuals and associations using the Internet. Electronic WOM can be dispersed from various perspectives, through web-based networking media platforms or comments and suggestions on business-based online websites; and the data spread is infrequently accessible through company-oriented marketing or communication. Vazquez (2018) believes that the content produced by social network users, who are additionally buyers, is commonly seen to be free of business or commercial impact. This trust develops consumers to go-to online shopping sites and other web-based platforms for their buying choices (Lutz, 2017).
In the new concepts of social media revolutionising the shopping and purchasing behaviour of users, eWOM has incredibly played its role in creating awareness and recognition among massive users who rely on sources that provide reviews and suggestions (Erkan & Evans, 2018). For example, every company, location, and restaurant on Google has respective reviews and comments when a user searches about it. It helps them decide about it and understand the quality and reliability of the product or service through opinions and recommendations given by people on the link (Shareef et al., 2019).
Fernando (2019) believes that purchasing decisions and behaviour have two categories: high or low customer influence, and important or less different brands. Complex purchasing includes high risk, and subsequently, data collection and assessment of item decisions expect noteworthy significance. It is disparate from dissonance-reducing behaviour, additionally high risk, in that there are huge brand dissimilarities, and would have the customer going through all phases of the decision procedure (Ryding, 2018).
Blank & Lutz, (2017) shares several ways to assess consumer behaviour depending on the objective of the research but a beneficial method is an approach to the decision process. This approach examines the precede and follows a buying decision which later explains the manner of the decision taken. According to Nash (2019), consumer decision-making can be defined as the attributes of the behaviour of a customer who precedes, determines and follow the process of decision-making for buying a product, service or idea.
Ramadan (2018) identifies that the classical model is applied in today’s grand models of assessing behaviour towards decision-making. Although various elements are not included in the new models, however, five stages of decision are considered appropriate for assessment. These include problem recognition, the search for data, alternative calculation, buying decisions and post-purchase behaviour (Žabkar, 2018).
Usually referred to as the EKB model or EBM model, this has been among the most recognised and commonly applied standard models for researching consumer behaviour in the decision-making process. The overall criteria of behaviour assessment mainly focus on the efforts a consumer puts in learning and understanding the purchase decision and what they evaluate from that decision.
Hudson (2016), emphasises the fact that consumers’ behaviour is not only based on the influence of social networking platforms but also on repeated marketing and advertising of a product through both social and electronic media. It is upon the assessment criteria that identify which customer has accessed how many times to social media networks and developed influence. The approach a consumer has towards social media and purchasing through it includes the variations, deals and cost of the product, which helps the customer decide to buy, or not (Fernando, 2019).
For acquiring the desired information about research, mixed methods of data collection had been used. This mixed-method of data collection is supported by the use of positivist research philosophy. Positivism research philosophy has been described by the researchers as the research philosophy that uses an existing theory of research for developing the research hypotheses that are tested during the research processes. It was also described by the researchers that positivist research uses the scientific approach for collecting and analysing the data for research.
With the use of a positivist research approach, the researchers can easily measure the strengths of the factors that are affecting research results. The scientific approach is based on establishing a dependent and independent variable of research. Such discrimination of the research variables helps the researchers in determining the impact of one variable on the other variable of the study (Ryan, 2018). In the current research study, the influence of social media networks is an independent variable; whereas, the dependent variable of research is the purchasing decision of UK consumers.
The use of positivist research philosophy will help the current research in deducing the result from the analysis part of the research. This deduction of research from a developed test is known as deducing strategy of research that is supported by the use of positivist research philosophy (Ryan, 2018). In this manner, the research will successfully reach its end.
As the research is using mixed methods for data collection, the current research will be using primary and secondary data collection techniques that will help the researchers effectively reach their goals. The primary data collection technique will help the researchers in collecting the desired data for attaining the aim of this research through the help of survey questionnaires that will be based on the Likert scale approach. The use of the Likert scale approach will help the researchers in quantifying the answers to the statements asked in the established questionnaire. This developed questionnaire will be distributed among the 100 consumers who perform online shopping in the past three months. The developed questionnaire will be distributed among the households in the UK who use social media for making purchase decisions. A tool used for distributing and collecting questionnaires will be based on sending links to the developed questionnaire through Facebook messenger.
Secondary data for this research will be based on previously developed research articles based on the searching keywords of “buying behaviour of UK consumers”, “Impact of social media on consumers of UK”, and, “Online buying behaviour of UK consumers”. The databases searched for the secondary articles will be Researchgate, Elsevier, Science Direct, and Jstor. These data databases of articles are reached online through their portal that supports the literature.
As the mixed method of data collection will provide both qualitative and quantitative data in the form of research articles and questionnaire results, respectively; the current research will be using two different methods of data analysis. Frist analytical test will be used on the qualitative data collected through research articles. The name of an analytical tool for the qualitative data of articles is content analysis. The content analysis helps the researchers in analysing the available content from the secondary research articles and develop an understanding of the main findings of the articles that support the research questions.
The second analytical test to be used on the quantitative primary acquired from the questionnaire will be statistical inferential tests that will be performed with the famous statistical software SPSS. Descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, and regression analysis are the three main inferential statistical tests that are performed on collected quantitative data. The descriptive statistics explain basic inferential values of the collected data in terms of mean, standard deviation, and Kurtosis value. The correlation analysis will help the current research in describing the level of association among the research variables with the Pearson or Spearman coefficient of correlation.
For defining the strength of the association among the research variables, regression analysis will be used. The regression analysis will explain the weak, moderate or strong level of association among the research variables based on the values of ‘R’ described in the model summary table.
As the current research involve the use of both primary and secondary data collection and analytical techniques; there are a vast amount of ethical considerations that must be acknowledged. It is explained by different researchers that whenever research is been conducted on a given topic then it has to follow a certain ethics code that is published by the court of law for conducting ethical research. While conducting primary research, the main ethical concern is in terms of informed consent from the respondents. After taking informed consent, the researchers understand that the respondent is answering the questionnaire willingly and intelligently. In this manner, it is assured that the respondent is not coerced in any manner for providing his or her responses to the questions.
The second ethical concern that holds value in primary research is based on keeping confidentiality and respect for the information provided by the respondent by not sharing such information with other third parties. This also means that the researchers support the privacy of the respondents in every possible manner.
In collecting the secondary data for the research, the only ethical issue is about data and plagiarism. That is, when the researchers are using the data from secondary sources then they must make sure that it is from a credible source, and that the words are not directly copied and pasted from the research information. Further, the secondary data must not be pirated.
From the developed research proposal, it can be concluded that social media usage has revolutionised the communication practices that are performed among the market businesses and their consumers. The use of social media had brought changes in the purchasing pattern of consumers around the globe and around the UK. Still the marketers of the business experience problem in identifying the purchasing behaviour of the consumers. The type of promotions that support the purchase decision of the UK consumers on social media is based on the word-of-mouth marketing activities that are proposed by other peers who had performed online shopping.
Even though the word-of-mouth marketing practices of online social media users help in developing the online purchasing behaviour of the consumers. Yet this type of behaviour tends to change among the culturally diversified consumers of the UK. Even though the researchers had described the change in the purchasing behaviour of the online consumers as the change in the online support package that they are using for being connected online. Further, change in the consumers' preferences is also subjected to the deals and other offers that are provided on online social media.
Therefore, the current research uses mixed methods for collecting and analysing the collected data. The collected data will contain statistical analysis for effectively interpreting the collected results. In this manner, the research will reach its end.
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Dissertation Activity (parts)
Developing and approving the research topic and proposal.
Writing the first chapter.
Collecting articles for developing a literature review.
Writing the second chapter of the literature review.
Developing a questionnaire and approving it.
Writing the methodology chapter.
Analysis of the results and develop the fourth chapter
Writing the last chapter of concluding the research.
Compiling the chapters and submitting the final work.
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