The widespread use of digital media and the Internet for engaging in consumer behaviours has shifted the way in which companies should approach their marketing strategies. Consumers can openly express and share their opinions on websites, blogs, and social media platforms about the products they like and what they expect from goods and services, which also becomes a reference tool for other potential customers. Therefore, marketers cannot deny the existence of connections between consumer comments and consumer-brand relationships since positive feedback leads to brand recognition and subsequent sales. Studying the effect of comments that consumers leave online on consumer-brand relationships is important for researchers in the field of marketing to identify the latest customer trends and recognise the changes that companies should make in their marketing. The topic can be studied from both qualitative and quantitative standpoints, each of which can reveal different findings based on the nature of the study and the research questions that were initially established.
Studying the Topic from the Qualitative Perspective
In marketing, qualitative research is linked to the natural or observational examination of the trends or philosophies that influence consumer behaviour. Qualitative marketing research collects data from case studies, focus groups, interviews, and participant observations. It is usually applied when marketers have a new product idea and want to study the perceptions of customers, explore the strengths and weaknesses of products or services, determine the reactions to advertising campaigns, or understanding perceptions about a company, brand, product, or a category. A qualitative research question concerning the effect of consumer comments on the consumer-brand relationship is the following: What is the perception of customers of consumer comments online in terms of shaping their relationships with brands? This question is of qualitative nature as it considers the personal perceptions of individual customers when it comes to interacting with each other online and building connections with companies that target them with advertisements. The personal attitudes and experiences that customers have are expected to reveal the connection between consumer comments and brand relationships (Sutton and Austin, 2015).
It is expected that an interview with study participants will be the most suitable form of data collection to answer the qualitative research question. As a data collection methodology, an interview aims to describe the meanings and central themes in the perspectives and experiences of participants (Sutton and Austin, 2015). Such interviews would be instrumental in covering information on both factual and meaningful level. To discover how participants approach online comments and build relationships with brands, semi-structured interviews will be conducted. Such an interview format entails having a list of questions that an interviewer will ask, but the participants will have the freedom to elaborate further on their opinions and perspectives (Sutton and Austin, 2015). This offers an opportunity to discover themes and sub-themes that could not have been predicted initially. However, such themes may hold value for researchers as they show the true experiences of participants beyond the standardised questions.
To sample participants for the interview, it is expected to use purposeful or convenience sampling because the method aligns the best for the chosen qualitative design. Convenience sampling is a type of non-probability sampling that implies drawing a population of participants that are close to the researcher. For instance, it may be convenient for a researcher to use an online advertisement to invite individuals to participate in a study, or it may be convenient to ask friends and colleagues to participate. As a rule, the individuals who are the closest to the researcher are selected through convenience sampling. However, potential bias should be considered during convenience sampling because of the closeness of participants to the researcher and the impossibility to generalise the findings to the general population due to the under-representation of the sample. Because of this, it is recommended that inferences made on the basis of convenience sampling are made in regard to the sample itself.
Studying the Topic from the Quantitative Perspective
The use of quantitative research in marketing is rooted in the positivist view of the environment alongside with the perspective that marketing represents an interactive process within which both the seller and the buyer to reach a final agreement regarding the product, its price, place, and promotion. It implies the construction of scales and questionnaires that yield quantitative data used for obtaining information on the requirements of consumers in the marketplace, according to which strategies and marketing plans can be created.
A quantitative research question is the following: what is the correlation between consumer engagement with online comments and their building of relationships with brands? The question of quantitative nature implies that a change in one variable, consumer engagement with online comments, can lead to the change in another variable, the relationship of consumers with brands. To answer the identified research question, it is expected that a questionnaire will be developed, and participants will be asked to complete it based on their perceptions and experiences (Sutton and Austin, 2015).
Such a method of data collection allows to acquire the necessary information within a short timeframe and at lower costs. Besides, due to the convenience of surveys, a larger sample of participants can be included in the research, while the analysis of data can be conducted with the help of statistical methods. The survey can include a broad range of question formats, such as Likert scales or multiple-choice questions. In contrast to semi-structured interviews, the questions will already be pre-determined and typed out for the participants to see, which leaves no opportunity to elaborate on them.
In a quantitative study design, non-probability sampling, such as simple random sampling, can be used. It entails giving each member of a population subset equal opportunity to be selected, which leads to an unbiased group representation. For instance, a researcher can find a company with 100 employees and assign a number from 1 to 100 to each employee to preserve anonymity and maintain the random selection principle. Then, using a randomisation software, 50 employees will be chosen from the list and involved in research. It is essential to note that the company can be chosen both randomly and purposefully, according to the circumstances. Therefore, a combination of convenience and random sampling can be used for the study.
Comparing and Contrasting, Methodology Challenges
The different approaches to studying the research topic, qualitative and quantitative, have specific characteristics. In contrast to qualitative research, which focuses on searching for ideas and developing further theories and hypotheses, quantitative research implies testing theories and hypotheses. Thus, in terms of the specific topic, the impact of comments that consumers leave online on consumer-brand relationships, qualitative research may reveal the themes and trends in consumers’ perspectives to formulate a hypothesis. Quantitative research can be further used in order to test the hypotheses developed with the help of the qualitative approach. This means that both approaches are suitable for studying the identified topic, but the perspectives will vary.
In terms of the size of the population, the approaches differ in the number of participants that should be used. Due to the comprehensive nature of qualitative data collection and analysis, fewer participants are needed. While the sample size may be as large as desired, interviews can take prolonged periods of time to complete while data analysis, which entails predominantly thematic analysis, can take longer than anticipated because the analysis if completed manually. Therefore, within the qualitative research perspective, studying the opinions of participants on the given topic does not require a large sample (Rahman, 2017). On the contrary, the quantitative research perspective requires more respondents not only because data collection and analysis takes less time but also due to the need to ensure population representativeness. Although, it is notable that finding participants for a quantitative study is more complicated for researchers because more people are needed while the response rate may be low in cases if participants are not interested in completing a survey or a questionnaire.
In terms of the complications that a researcher may encounter when studying the topic from qualitative or quantitative perspectives. When exploring the relationship between comments that consumers leave online and consumer-brand relationships, the qualitative method that involves phenomenology with the help of an interview, it is expected that the process will be greatly time-consuming. This is associated with the need to process vast personal interpretations given by study participants. The analysis of interviews takes a lot of time because of the need to find common themes and topics in the reflections and experiences that participants mention in their interests.
Another important challenge of qualitative research is that the results are not possible to verify. Qualitative research is open-ended and the participants involved in it have greater control over the data that is being collected. In marketing research, this is a significant limitation because of the limited capacity to objectively verify results against the scenarios that have been stated by respondents. Because of this complication, it is challenging to investigate causality with the help of qualitative research, which is something that the research topic considers (Plumper, Troeger and Neumayer, 2019). While the qualitative approach requires careful planning to ensure that the obtained results are accurate, there is no way to analyse qualitative data mathematically as the data is based on opinion and judgment rather than results. This also contributes to the complexity of replicating studies in the future. Finally, the qualitative approach to the topic being studied is not statistically representative, which means that marketers studying the impact of consumer reviews on customer-brand relationships should cross-reference the obtained data with quantitative data.
When using the quantitative approach to study the research topic, marketers expect to learn more about customer opinions and behaviours as well as analyse any patterns that could be useful for promoting a product or service. However, some issues associated with the use of quantitative research should be considered. One of the fundamental limitations is that the approach is falsely focused on numbers in the search for specific, statistical correlations that can lead to scholars ignoring broader themes and connections that can be provided in qualitative research (Rahman, 2017). The sole focus on statistical data makes researchers run the risk of overlooking big-picture information.
Another important limitation is that quantitative research presents some difficulties in setting up a research model. When quantitative studies are conducted, a carefully develop hypothesis is necessary for setting up a model for data collection and analysis (Simpson, 2015). In case of any mistakes occurring, including bias exhibited researcher, or errors in research execution, the results may become invalidated. Because of this limitation, it is important for researchers to be objective and even at stages of hypothesis development, there can be no place for specific opinions and questions that need to be asked.
Summary of Findings
The study of the effects of online comments on customer-brand relationships can be carried out from different angles. Based on the presentation of quantitative and qualitative methodologies used to study the research topic at hand, some conclusions should be made regarding their comparison. While the qualitative approach will deal with the in-depth personal experiences and perspectives of participants, the quantitative method will allow to collected raw data that can be systematically analysed. From a broader perspective, quantitative research can offer baseline data on the topic of the impact of comments that consumers leave online on consumer-brand relationships, while qualitative research offers an opportunity to view the topic from a wider angle that reveals the perspectives of participants. In a mixed-methods study, the different advantages of quantitative and qualitative methods can be used to combine both baseline and broad data concerning the research questions developed earlier.
Plumper, T., Troeger, V. and Neumayer, E. (2019) ‘Case selection and causal inferences in qualitative comparative research’, PLoS ONE, 14(7), pp. 1-18.
Rahman, S. (2017) ‘The advantages and disadvantages of using qualitative and quantitative approaches and methods in language “testing and assessment” research: A literature review’, Journal of Education and Learning, 6(1), pp. 102-112.
Simpson, S. (2015) ‘Creating a data analysis plan: what to consider when choosing statistics for a study’, The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 68(4), pp. 311-317.
Sutton, J. and Austin, Z. (2015) ‘Qualitative research: data collection, analysis and management’, The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 86(3), pp. 226-231.