Critique of Business Research Methods: A Case Study of Starbucks

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Introduction

Companies invest millions of dollars in business research to gather credible and reliable information about consumer behavior (Becker, Wiegand and Reinartz, 2019). They may use such information to achieve different goals, including predicting consumer responses to new strategies and shifting consumer behaviors. Practitioners and academicians use different techniques to conduct business research based on the purpose of the investigation and the suitability of available options to the research context (De Massis and Foss, 2018). Given that each strategy has its merits and demerits, it is pertinent to understand how each one would influence stakeholders.

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This is especially true in business research studies, which seek to understand consumer behavior and their response to changes in product development strategies. Companies typically sanction such studies to enhance their understanding of customers, the market, and the competitive behaviors of rivals in the industry (Berry and Simmons, 2019; de Jong and Pieters, 2019). Payne, Pearson, and Carr (2017) ‘simplify their intention by saying that business research helps firms to gather information about different aspects of their business, including consumer behavior and operational efficiency to maximize profits or increase sales. Therefore, business research seeks to gather useful information that would help firms to accomplish specific objectives.

This paper analyzes elements of the research process that academicians and practitioners could use to conduct business research for Starbucks, which intends to introduce new reusable cups for its customers. The information included in this study may contribute to the development of Starbuck’s strategies for new product development and improve customer buy-in when eventually the strategy to use reusable packaging is launched (Peighambari et al., 2016). Stemming from the need to implement effective strategies to encourage customers to accept new packaging styles, the main research question that guides this study is as follows:

How best can Starbucks exploit consumer behavior to encourage customers to use reusable containers?

Choosing an Appropriate Methodology

Researchers use two ways to collect data in business studies – qualitative and quantitative. Stemming from this dichotomy, methodological issues in business research designs can be assessed from three lenses: development of research philosophy, approach, and strategy, as shown below.

Research Philosophy

It is important to review the philosophy used in a study to understand a researcher’s belief in how data should be collected, disseminated, or analyzed. In line with this need, there are four main philosophies in research: interpretivism, positivism, pragmatism, and realism (Melnikovas, 2018). The positivism research philosophy stems from the belief that researchers can explain consumer behavior objectively by focusing on one problem (Kumar, 2018). Comparatively, the realism research philosophy suggests that consumer behavior cannot be viewed objectively because it can happen independently from the human mind (Melnikovas, 2018). Therefore, this research philosophy emphasizes the need to understand consumer behavior from a personal lens.

Comparatively, the pragmatism research philosophy encourages researchers to define their research methodologies based on the dynamics of their business context (Peters and Fontaine, 2020). Alternatively, the interpretivism research philosophy predicts consumer behavior from the perspective of the business researcher and his/her evaluation of the social world (Li et al., 2021). Based on the nature of the above-mentioned research approaches, the interpretivism research approach emerges as the best fit for the Starbucks case study because of the complexities involved in understanding the potential consequences of implementing the repackaging strategy.

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Research Approach

The techniques used by academicians and practitioners in business research to understand consumer behavior stem from the adoption of different methods of reasoning, which are characterized as research approaches in this study. Two main models are used in business studies – inductive and deductive reasoning (Patten and Newhart, 2017). The deductive technique works by using broad generalizations of consumer behaviors to create one coherent narrative of how they would respond when the repackaging strategy is implemented. Comparatively, the inductive research approach uses one aspect of consumer behavior to generalize how the consumers would react to the repackaging strategy (Halperin and Heath, 2017). For example, the behaviors of Starbucks customers could be implied from the culture of residents of the cities where the business operates. Given that the present study will focus on sampling the view of a few customers to predict how their colleagues would react to a change of strategy, the inductive approach emerges as the best fit for the investigation. It facilitates the use of a sample of views to generalize consumer behavior across a broader set of circumstances.

Research Strategy

Researchers can use several strategies to gather data about consumer behavior. They include surveys, experiments, case studies, action research, grounded theory, ethnography, and archival research (Patten and Newhart, 2017). The decision to use one strategy over another depends on the context of the research. For example, the survey technique is commonly applicable in large-scale investigations, involving multiple groups of respondents (Tan, 2017). Comparatively, experiments are often applied in controlled settings, while grounded theories stem from known contextual frameworks of review (Stokes, 2017). The case study approach was used in the current investigation because consumer behavior was explained using one company as a case study – Starbucks.

Selecting Methods of Data Collection and Analysis

The method selected by a researcher to collect information about consumer data is dependent on the objective of the investigation. In business research, the techniques adopted by practitioners to collect market data depend on the objective of the organization that funds such investigations (Patrick, 2019). This is why, for purposes of the present study, the process for selecting the techniques used for data collection will be informed by the main objective of the study, which is to obtain data that would explain consumer behavior when Starbucks changes its packaging strategy. Consequently, the suitability of the data collection method is guided by its capability to gain an in-depth understanding of the complexities of consumer behavior that would affect the firm’s stakeholders when the plan is eventually implemented.

Researchers have a variety of methods to choose from when deciding on the most appropriate technique for collecting data. Hennink, Hutter, and Bailey (2020) say that data collection methods are divided into two main groups – qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative information is designed to gather subjective data, while the quantitative method applies to studies that have measurable variables (Hennink, Hutter, and Bailey, 2020). Given that the current investigation is aimed at gathering data relating to consumer behavior, the selected technique has to have the capability to capture the complexities of issues affecting consumer behavior (Alemany, 2016; Kim, Lee and Jung, 2020). To meet this goal, the interview method is chosen as the most suitable data collection method to understand consumer behavior in the context of the Starbucks case study. It aligns with the qualitative focus of the investigation, which is to understand consumer behavior and incentives to encourage the use of reusable containers.

The interview method will help the researcher to have an in-depth understanding of the complexities and potential consequences of adopting the proposed strategy. The suitability of the interview method is supported by research investigations, which highlight the complexity of understanding consumer behavior. They say it is informed by various subjective factors, some of which cannot be measured quantitatively, such as culture, environment, age, and other demographic factors, including individual attitudes and trends affecting society (Bronner and de Hoog, 2019). A data collection technique rooted in the quantitative framework cannot capture the complexity of influences impacting consumer behavior described above. Therefore, the interview method, as a qualitative model of inquiry, emerges as the most suitable technique for collecting data.

Ethical Considerations

The use of human subjects in research investigations has several ethical implications that are aimed at protecting the integrity of the research process and respondents from harm. This view is supported by Yang et al. (2019) who say that researchers need to be aware of the impact of their findings on respondents and any other party to the research process. In the context of the Starbucks case study, the ethical implications of obtaining consumer data are aimed at protecting the interests of participants who are willing to be interviewed. In this regard, the main ethical considerations for the investigation are as follows:

Consent

Consent to participate in a study freely is one of the foundational principles of ethical research. This is why it is important for researchers to only include the views of respondents who willingly choose to take part in the research investigation with full knowledge of what it entails (Melnikovas, 2018). In compliance with these guidelines, respondents who will take part in the Starbucks investigation should do so voluntarily. Stated differently, they should not be coerced to take part in the study. The aim of doing so is to maintain objectivity in the research process by obtaining views from customers who wish to give their honest views on the subject matter.

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Anonymity and Confidentiality

The need to protect the identity of respondents who give their views in research is important in business research. In other words, it is recommended that their insights on the research issue should be presented anonymously to protect their identity from any consequences that may arise out of participating in the study (Hennink, Hutter and Bailey, 2020). Therefore, no identifiable factor relating to the informant’s names should be included in the research. This practice is consistent with the views of Yang et al. (2019), which encourages researchers to take necessary steps to ensure the protection of private data. Researchers should also be confidential in the manner they present these views. For example, they may use codes, abbreviations, or similar non-identifiable variables when analyzing data.

Treatment of Data

The information obtained by the respondents should be stored safely to prevent unauthorized access and a breach of the above-mentioned ethical guidelines. To achieve this goal, in the context of the Starbucks case study, consumer data should be stored in a computer and secured using a password. This measure is intended to minimize the possibility of unauthorized persons accessing data and altering it or taking personal information for unknown purposes.

Overall, different measures taken to safeguard the ethical implications of this study are aimed at protecting the interests of the respondents at different stages of the research process, including collection, dissemination, and analysis of data. After completing the research process and fulfilling the purpose of the investigation, the researcher may destroy the data collected to prevent unauthorized use for any other purpose besides what was originally intended. These measures of data protection are consistent with the views of Stokes (2017), which emphasize the importance of researchers taking necessary measures to protect the integrity of information collected from respondents. Overall, the ethical areas highlighted above are relevant to the proposed business research and are instrumental in the process of obtaining credible information.

Conclusion

This research has explained the intricacies involved in identifying or selecting appropriate research methods for business research. Starbucks has been used as a case study to explain the considerations involved in selecting business research methods based on the nature of the intended objectives. For example, in the present case study, the objective of undertaking the business research was to obtain consumer data to inform the development of business strategies aimed at encouraging buyers to embrace more sustainable repackaging strategies.

Given the complexity of factors influencing consumer behavior highlighted in this analysis, the qualitative interview technique emerges as the most appropriate research method to use in collecting data. The justification for its use is rooted in the need to understand the complexity of factors influencing consumer behavior. This need is prioritized in the proposed use of the inductive approach, which was described as the best fit for the investigation. It facilitates the use of a sample of views to generalize predictions on consumer behavior across a broad spectrum of circumstances that may be expected when the repacking strategy is launched at Starbucks. Therefore, it is feasible to implement the proposed research design because of its alignment with the nature of the variables investigated.

Reference List

Alemany, M. (2016) ‘Consumer neoteny: an evolutionary perspective on childlike behavior in consumer society’, Evolutionary Psychology, 5(2), pp. 1-10.

Becker, M., Wiegand, N. and Reinartz, W. J. (2019) ‘Does it pay to be real? Understanding authenticity in TV advertising’, Journal of Marketing, 83(1), pp. 24–50.

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Berry, A. and Simmons, S. (2019) ‘Online news media reports on empirical business research: an exploratory thematic analysis in the knowledge mobilization of business information’, Business Information Review, 36(1), pp. 8–14.

Bronner, F. and de Hoog, R. (2019) ‘Comparing conspicuous consumption across different experiential products: culture and leisure’, International Journal of Market Research, 61(4), pp. 430–446.

de Jong, M. G. and Pieters, R. (2019) ‘Assessing sensitive consumer behavior using the item count response technique’, Journal of Marketing Research, 56(3), pp. 345–360.

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Halperin, S. and Heath, O. (2017) Political research: methods and practical skills. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hennink, M., Hutter, I. and Bailey, A. (2020) Qualitative research methods. London: SAGE.

Kim, M. J., Lee, C. K. and Jung, T. (2020) ‘Exploring consumer behavior in virtual reality tourism using an extended stimulus-organism-response model’, Journal of Travel Research, 59(1), pp. 69–89.

Kumar, R. (2018) Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners. London: SAGE.

Li, J. et al. (2021) ‘Conformity consumer behavior and external threats: an empirical analysis in China during the COVID-19 pandemic’, SAGE Open, 5(2), pp. 1-11.

Melnikovas, A. (2018) ‘Towards an explicit research methodology: adapting research onion model for futures studies’, Journal of Futures Studies, 23(2), pp. 29-44.

Patrick, N. (2019) Handbook of research on connecting research methods for information science research. New York, NY: IGI Global.

Patten, M. L. and Newhart, M. (2017) Understanding research methods: an overview of the essentials. 10th edn. London: Taylor and Francis.

Payne, G. T., Pearson, A. W. and Carr, J. C. (2017) ‘Process and variance modeling: linking research questions to methods in family business research’, Family Business Review, 30(1), pp. 11–18.

Peighambari, K. et al. (2016) ‘Consumer behavior research: a synthesis of the recent literature’, SAGE Open, 7(2), pp. 1-10.

Peters, G. and Fontaine, G. (eds.) (2020) Handbook of research methods and applications in comparative policy analysis. London: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Stokes, P. (2017) Research methods. London: Macmillan Education UK.

Tan, W. C. (2017) Research methods: a practical guide for students and researchers. New York, NY: World Scientific Publishing Company.

Yang, Z. et al. (2019) ‘Does ethics perception foster consumer repurchase intention? Role of trust, perceived uncertainty, and shopping habit’, SAGE Open, 8(2), pp. 1-10.

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