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We did research on customer visit frequency, spending, and experiences at one of Barnes & Noble’s (B&N) stores using a mixed-modes approach to collect data. The modes were in-store interviews, a focus group, and an online survey. In each approach, a convenient sample of B&N customers was recruited to explore specific research questions, as described in the following sections.
The purpose of conducting the interviews was to explore the preliminary opinions of B&N customers. Through open-ended questions, we were able to experience their emotions and listen to their perspectives on the bookstore’s products and services. Their responses helped formulate focus group topics and survey items. Interviewing was the first step in the data collection process.
We recruited consenting individuals from among the target customers of B&N. One of the researchers served as the facilitator of the focus group discussion. The group’s composition was balanced in terms of demographic variables, which allowed honest and free expression of views. The specific topics explored included customer experience at B&N, the possibility of the firm launching a bar at the retail store, and critical success factors for the bookstore chain. First, open-ended questions were asked and members expressed their views freely during the session. Through the focus group, diverse perspectives and experiences were explored further using follow-up questions to give insights into what customers think about B&N’s customer service and products. Many of the participants shared their personal experiences at the bookstore.
Second, members were asked about the prospect of B&N introducing a bar at its retail stores. From their responses, a majority of them liked the idea of having an in-store pub where they can enjoy refreshments as they are being served. Some participants revealed that the other stores they frequent have bars within the establishment. Third, focus group members asked about the factors critical to B&N’s success. Most of them listed the introduction of an in-store café, store design, and bookstore size as the priority areas.
We used a designed web-based questionnaire to investigate the variables further. The purpose of the online survey was to obtain a larger dataset from which meaningful conclusions could be drawn. The instrument was distributed to many B&N customers via email. They were required to complete and send the online questionnaire anonymously. However, despite the large sample size, only 57 were returned. Thus, so far, we have only managed to obtain a small amount of data, which presents a challenge to this study. We would require sufficient data to make valid inferences about the relationships between the variables we are investigating.
The items we included in our survey were developed from the focus group discussion. Respondents were asked about what they think of the possibility of B&N setting up a bar within the store. They gave varied responses to this question, ranging from approval to strong disapproval. Through the online survey, we were able to understand the relationship between dependent variables (DVs) and independent variables (IV) relevant to B&N. A tentative correlation was seen between customer experiences (IV) and visit frequency and spending (DVs). Another significant finding from the online survey is that customer visits and spending is dependent on multiple drivers. The respondents’ opinions indicated that other organizational factors influence how often they shop at B&N and the amount of money they spend.
Our research used a multi-modal approach to collect qualitative and quantitative data on customer visits, spending, and experiences at B&N. Through in-store interviews, we explored the interviewees’ opinions and emotions towards the retail bookstore. The focus group expanded these perspectives and helped obtain in-depth participant views on having a bar within the store and success factors critical to B&N. From the online survey data, we determined the relationships between variables (IV and DVs) and other drivers that affect customer visits and spending at the bookstore.