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This report will outline the significance of customer research decision making when it comes to the Australian Westfield Shopping Malls in comparison with Chadstone shopping center. Research into customer satisfaction decision making is crucial for any marketing manager that aims at driving up the sales figures that are recorded at his organization. The Australian Westfield Limited owns modern malls both in New Zealand and Australia under a common international brand known as the Westfield Corporation.
The report will first dwell on the retail chain’s marketing objectives followed by the information that is needed to complete effective research. However, it won’t be complete without having a look at some of the main pitfalls that the marketing manager should be concerned about during the entire period that the research is ongoing. The final section will highlight the significance of the marketing manager’s role during the entire marketing research and implementation phase.
Objectives of the research
The main objective of this particular research is to better inform the Australian Westfield Shopping mall’s marketing department and manager of the changing consumer trends. The exercise will also seek to identify the current consumer response to the organization’s goods and services. It will also be a good chance for the marketing manager to evaluate the company’s reputation versus that of its main competitors such as the Chadstone shopping center.
With increasing levels of competition in the retail sector owing to the advent of online shopping platforms, the research activity will assist the company in introducing new goods and services, as well as improve on its existing portfolio (Alrubaiee & Al-Nazer 2015).
Not only does it give the mall an added advantage over its main competitors but also re-energizes the enthusiasm of its existing clientele base. The availability of numerous marketing platforms means that the company should select not only those platforms that are suitable and effective in reaching its targeted clientele base (Bijmolt et al. 2010). An effective marketing campaign involves the collection of market information that can be useful to the retail chain’s decision-makers when it comes to making core objective strategies, plans as well as policies.
Information required for fulfilling the research objectives
Successive retail chains possess extensive knowledge of their competitors, as well as customers. After identifying the research objectives, the marketing manager will have to come up with several research questions that touch on the market segment, closest competitors as well as the customers. The information collected will fall into two main categories, i.e. quantitative and qualitative information.
The success of the marketing research project will be heavily dependent on the relevance and quality of the information or data collected. The quality of the data will depend, to a large extent, on the techniques or methods that have been used to collect it (Nargundkar 2008). The overall suitability of the diverse methods at the researcher’s disposal plays a crucial role in their eventual selection. Reliable and accurate information allows the business to have a clear picture of the nature of the market that it is operating in allowing it to make accurate projections.
Consumer tastes and preferences are crucial information for the marketing manager of the Australian Westfield Shopping malls. An individual consumer harbors a set of values and preferences whose determination may easily lie outside the conventional realms of economics (Parasuraman, Grewal & Krishnan 2007). These are dependent upon their level of education, culture, individual tastes, among several other factors.
The measure of such values in this model for a particular good comes regarding the real opportunity cost to the individual who buys and consumers the good or services. In case an individual purchases a particular item, it means that the opportunity cost of the particular purchase is the forgone service or good that the person could have bought instead. The information collected during the research will be used by the marketing manager to develop a model in which the retail chain can map or even graphically derive the preferences of the consumer (Wiid & Diggines 2009).
The objective of the consumer is to select the bundle of goods that provides the greatest amount of satisfaction as they define it. However, such consumes are significantly constrained by their choices. Such constraints are directly defined by the take-home income, as well as the prices of the goods that have been placed on offer.
The marketing manager is aware that a consumer’s primary objective is to allocate income between different goods to achieve the greatest level of utility. An extensive gathering of information by the marketing manager can reveal consumer preferences that were otherwise unknown to the organization. In the case of a shopping center or mall, the customers’ perception or liming of the interior can influence his final decision on whether or not to make a purchase.
The shopping center’s interior design can create a particular ambiance or personality to the shopping center through lighting, decorative features, air-conditioning as well as floor finished that serve to enrich the atmosphere and differentiate it from its closest competitor in Chadstone shopping center. The mall’s environment can be further enhanced through the creative location of the main tenants, movement facilitators, and leisure facilities.
The shopfront design or display also plays a crucial role in sprucing up the shopping mall’s circulation and environment. Customers are less likely to feel compelled to hang around in a mall that has poor air circulation, tenant layout, confusing signage, and dead-end corridors. Such an element greatly affects the impression of both the existing customers and any prospective customers. An attractive shopping center interface may make the customer have a great experience and increase the likelihood of them returning to the same mall (Schmidt & Hollensen 2006). Westfield and Chadstone shopping centers compete for a similar demographic and customer class. This, therefore, means that the slightest improvements in the ambiance or the environment can be pivotal in swaying the preferences of the customer.
The research process can also collect information on effective communication strategies that can be employed to sway potential customers from the Chadstone shopping center. A successful shopping center is expected to engage in integrated communication campaigns that include advertisements placed on the local media and TV stations to counter any negative perceptions (Delre et al. 2010). Promotion stands for the marketing communication of a product to generate a positive response from the targeted customer. It will aim to improve the company’s image in general by establishing a unique brand in the customer’s minds (Bradley 2013).
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Promotional activities of the mall will also be an effective platform to differentiate it through increased patronage, image communication, as well as stimulate merchandise purchases. The element of customer service plays a central role in customer retention (Delre et al. 2010). A simple improvement such as making the stairways disability-friendly may endear the mall to the surrounding community and set it apart from Chadstone shopping center.
Considerations during a research process
The pivotal role of marketing research is to provide a retail chain with accurate market information. Sound decisions are reliant on verifiable information and are not only based on one’s gut feeling. Marketing managers are expected to make several strategic decisions (Zikmund & Babin 2007). Organizations take part in marketing research to identify and solve any available marketing problems (Delre et al. 2007). In the case, the Westfield Shopping center may be facing stiff competition from its closest rival, the Chadstone shopping center. The latter’s marketing manager would best decipher such a trend through surveying customers that frequent both malls to know their opinion on the differences that make them choose Chadstone over Westfield shopping center.
Marketing and consumer research have both witnessed resurgence with the broad adoption of the World Wide Web and the popularity of Facebook and other social media platforms. It has become easier for organizations to directly link up with customers and gather their information that is fed into a central database and get matched with millions of other pieces of information that have been collected in unrelated activities.
However, how a marketing manager carries out his research may have grave ethical repercussions that impact the lives of individuals in a manner that they are yet to understand fully. More so, companies may have to deal with an unforeseen backlash in case their market research activities are deemed to be unethical (Parasuraman, Grewal & Krishnan 2007).
The marketing manager should avoid using deceptive practices when conducting his research activities. The effortlessness with which the organization gets its hands-on customer information may create premises for unethical practices. The phenomenon may manifest itself in a variety of ways. For instance, the owners of the site may deliberately conceal the fact that the personal information of the users is collected as they log in and browse the site; similarly, a change in the database numbers may be used to retrieve the customers’ data without informing them about it. Either way, the organization opens a leeway for deceitfully acquiring customers’ data, which makes the identified actions not only ethically questionable but also illegal.
Privacy invasion is another issue that needs to be touched upon when addressing the controversial aspects of market research (Wiid & Diggines 2009). Due to the extensive opportunities that the latest technological advances provide, modern companies have vast options of collecting, keeping, processing, and transferring the customers’ private data, therefore, treading the territory of clients’ security.
As a rule, companies using the identified strategy tend to disclose their activities from their clientele, which means that the target audience is unaware of the firm’s actions. The organization may make use of this kind of information to contact the customer or his close associates with targeted advertising. Even though the effects of targeting as an advertising tool might be viewed as alluring in theory, the actual outcomes of an aggressive targeting-based strategy are likely to repulse the audience from purchasing the product or using the service suggested to them.
Confidentiality breach is yet another ethical issue that one has to watch out for when conducting marketing research. Organizations commonly share information about their clients with affiliates or partners (Wiid & Diggines 2009). Customers are often allowed to opt-out of the information sharing in case they do not want to be part of the business’ information-sharing agreement with its partners. It is unethical to disclose a person’s information without proper authorization.
Advertising changes how customers perceive certain ideas and concepts, shaping public philosophy and ethics so that the target products could sell successfully (Wiid & Diggines 2009). Consequently, the market research must be carried out in a manner as honest and transparent as possible so that its outcomes could reflect the actual situation (including the customers’ needs, the specifics of the local culture, the current social issues and dilemmas, etc.).
Furthermore, the challenge is aggravated by the results of biased studies based on prejudiced concepts and ideas. The outcomes of the identified researches are dire; although companies benefit financially to a considerable degree from applying the study results to their marketing strategies, the social constructs that are used in the process destroy the very fabric of social relationships by reinforcing negative stereotypes instead of subverting them (Wiid & Diggines 2009).
A good example may be seen when marketing research that has a one-dimensional view of ethnic or racial minorities may do a significant amount of harm if he is permitted to shape a particular marketing campaign based on his unfairly skewed data collection (Bradley 2013). For instance, the ubiquitous nature of the information gathering strategy used by the Westfield shopping mall creates leeway for carrying out deceptive practices, which require a counterstrategy for protecting the customers’ right to privacy.
The marketing manager should also be careful not to design surveys that a significant number of the customers decide not to bother to respond. A failure to respond to a survey increases the number of gaps in the collected information. Such non-respondents may search for reasons why individuals do not want to take part in the survey. They may arrive at conclusions such as the survey being too lengthy or that the incentive to take part in it was not appealing enough (Zikmund & Babin 2007).
Surveys may also include several sources of bias. The shopping center’s marketing manager may believe, for example, that they have come up with an online survey to appeal to respondents that are drawn from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds (Wiid & Diggines 2009).
However, the utilized images or even queries might be biased or favor a particular ethnic community or may offend several ethnic groups. The contents of the survey, as well as the format, should be acceptable to all the possible audience from which the shopping mall is seeking information (Zikmund & Babin 2007). Any forms of bias can be eliminated from the surveys being done by remaining neutral in the questioning.
Neutrality can be enforced by the marketing manager submitting the pre-written questions for a peer review. An opinion from a third party who has no interest in the outcome of the survey helps to remove subtle bias that may otherwise be unseen by the one conducting the survey. The survey should also avoid questions that come with a set of possible answers and instead opt for more questions that allow the respondent to give their opinion with no constraints.
A significant amount of research normally involves observation of customers in action while in the process noting their unique preferences. In the case of a mall, a significant number of the customers walking down the aisle are on the premises to window shop and compare prices before making up his mind on what to purchase and from which store (Zikmund & Babin 2007). In case such customers feel pressured or intruded upon by the staff members observing them, they will opt to shop at Chadstone shopping center in the process denying Westfield Shopping Centre much-needed revenue.
The marketing manager should impart the principles of ethical marketing to the organization’s staff to endear it to the customers (Zikmund & Babin 2007). However, although it contains the term marketing, ethical marketing is less of a marketing method but more of business philosophy. As a result of implementing the philosophy described above, opportunities for enhancing the importance of fairness and essential ethical principles can be created in the environment of an organization to prevent the further instances of abusing customers’ privacy and misusing the data collection tools at the company’s disposal (Zikmund & Babin 2007).
The marketing manager’s role in the entire research process cannot be understated. This is because he has intimate knowledge of the mall’s business policies as well as projected goals over the coming years. His involvement in such an exercise allows him to marry the reality on the ground with the policies being pursued by the top management. If the two do not tally, the manager may recommend some changes to the board to allow the organization to take full advantage of the changing conditions on the ground.
Without his involvement, an honest assessment of the direction and efficacy of the company’s policies would be difficult to come by. This would render the exercise futile and a waste of resources without any clear benefit for the company’s strategic position in the community or market at large. The marketing manager or department serves as the board’s ears and eyes on the ground.
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