Sample Business Studies Research Proposal Paper on Consumer Brand Preference towards Smartphone in Malaysia

Consumer Brand Preference towards Smartphone in Malaysia

Introduction

  1. Background of the study

            With the development of information technology in the modern days, most people prefer to use mobile phones that have advanced operating systems. The mobile devices are popularly referred to as ‘smartphones’ and they are highly demanded due to the additional improved features. Unlike the old versions that have limited features, smartphone users have been able to make and receive video calls, access websites and use the multimedia messaging services (Ghorban 33). The demand for smartphones across the world differs, depending on the infrastructural development of the country but the common trend across these countries is that the demand for smartphones is rising by the days. 

            In a survey conducted in the United States by Pew Research Center, the number of people using smartphones has increased by 33% within a period of four years (Poushter 98). In Malaysia, the same trend is observed where the number of smartphone users has risen from 8.12 million in 2014 to 11 million users in 2015 (Shen 125). Owing to the merits that the smartphones have over the old versions, their demand is expected to keep an upward trend.  It is thus crucial to study the factors that lead influence the demand of smartphones for the benefit of different parties including the consumers, mobile manufacturing companies and mobile service providers. From a business perspective, one of the factors that influence a product’s demand is brand preference. This is the tendency of consumers to consciously select a product from a particular company, even in a situation where there are other compliments sold by competing firms within the same price range. For a company to create a strong brand, it must understand the factors that shape buying decisions of consumers such as size and quality and then develop products that meet the specific needs.

1.1.1: Primary objective

            The study aims at collecting and analyzing data on the factors that shape brand preference for smartphones among Malaysian consumers.

1.1.2: Secondary objective

            The secondary objective of the study is to help the mobile phone manufacturers gain a deeper understanding on how to make their smartphone brands more appealing to the consumers in Malaysia. The consumers are also set to be enlightened by the study on the best features to look out for before purchasing their smartphones, based on their needs.

1.2: Problem Statement

            The significant uses of smartphones have raised the demand and the trend is set to continue in the near future. However, despite the growing demand for the products there are huge variations in the number of sales made by different smartphone manufacturers. The main issue lay in their strategies to address consumer needs that influence the strength of their brand.  Poor performance by these companies not only affects their economic status, but also that of employees and the government in which they operate (Ali 45). The primary reason that the companies are unable to develop strong brands is the little information there is about perception of smartphone consumers in Malaysia with respect to brand preference.  A study conducted by Ahanonu (2013, p. 15) suggests the need for further research on the use of smartphones in Malaysia. Most of available studies focus on market segmentation of the smartphone market in the country, but information on brand preference is limited (Ahanonu 16). By applying the learning model of consumer behavior, it is possible for the research gap to be filled and the companies can benefit from the new insights.

1.3: Research objective

            The primary objective of the study is to determine the factors that influence consumer choice of smartphone brands.  The study also investigates the impacts of the brand selection on the economy.  

1.4: Significance of the study

            The research findings on consumer brand preference in Malaysian smartphone market will benefit the companies that are directly involved in the manufacture and sale of the products. The parties will identify the different features that attract consumers to the products and thus design the smartphones in a way that meet these demands. The study will also provide helpful information on how to make a brand more appealing to the consumers than the competing brands. The increased knowledge will improve the efficiency of the companies as well as the level of competition. This will in turn benefit the customers as they will have a wider range of brands to select from.

1.6: Scope of the study

            The study will be concerned with the factors that shape smartphone consumer brand preference in Malaysia for the past decade. This is because it is the period where the usage of smartphones in the country has rapidly increased. The focus of the research will be in the communications and multimedia industry in Malaysia, which has also recorded outstanding performance over the past ten years. To save time and resources, data will only be collected from two states in the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

Literature Review

2.1: Introduction

            This section includes the theoretical and methodological findings about consumer brand preference in Malaysian smartphone market. It also identifies the research gap that needs further study. The independent variable in the study is consumer brand preference because it causes a change in the dependent variable, which is demand for smartphones. The consumer brand preference is influenced by variables such as price, peer influence and product features, all of which have a positive relation with the demand for smartphones in Malaysia.

2.2:  Factors that influence brand loyalty for smartphones consumers

            The increased demand for smartphones in Malaysia and across the world has attracted many firms involved in the manufacture and sale of the products. Consequently, the level of competition in the industry has increased as each firm tries to impress the consumers more. Gaining a competitive advantage in the market is the only way to survive, and this is mainly achieved through a large market share (Maghnati and Ling 25). For the firms to attract a larger market share than the competing companies, they must ensure that the consumers are able to identify with the brand.  The company’s ability to create brand awareness increases its profitability because the volume of sales is higher relative to the competing firms.

            2.2.1: Brand awareness

            Brand awareness makes the consumers associate with the brands that they aim to own and it influences their buying decisions. The most effective way for companies to promote brand awareness is through effective marketing that aim at communicating the most desirable product features to the clients (Sasmita and Norazah 285).  In an era where information technology is highly developed, companies have a wide range of mediums that can be used to reach the consumers including televisions, company websites, social media platforms such as Facebook and billboards. To enhance brand awareness, the marketers must assure the consumers of high quality and value for their money and this lowers their chances of shifting their focus to the competing firms (Ahanonu et al. 15).

            The most essential factor that such marketers should consider is business ethics in marketing, where they should only communicate product features that exist to avoid deception that would otherwise reduce consumer preference for the products.A study conducted in 2011 in Malaysia to determine the repurchase intentions of smartphone users rank brand awareness second among the variables that inform consumer awareness (Bojei and Wong 26). About 40% of the 384 real smartphone users who participated in the study cited brand awareness as the primary factor that informs their purchase decisions. The study concluded that consumers are more likely to purchase brands that are familiar to them because they are guaranteed of quality of services derived.

            2.2.2: Brand loyalty

            Brand loyalty is associated with the tendency of consumers to purchase a product from a particular company and leave the other equally effective products from competing firms. A study conducted in Malaysian universities indicates that smartphone consumers purchase products that they have already tried (Kim et al. 954). Among the factors that the study linked to brand loyalty include customer support, compatibility and network quality. About 89% of the respondents indicated that they were unwilling to purchase smartphones from other brands (Kim et al. 958). Given a chance to purchase a new smartphone, they buy a more advanced version but would not change the brand.

            2.2.3:   Brand image

            The brand image appeals to the personal expression of the consumers as they perceive certain brands to be owned by individuals with a particular personality. Brand image is also associated with celebrities as the consumers strive to own brands that the personalities use. Companies that have well-developed brand image are able to sell their new products easily as the consumers trust the products quickly (Puad et al. 143). A study conducted to investigate factors that influence purchase intentions by smartphone consumers indicated that brand image is a primary consideration that they have (Ghorban33).  The study proved that there exists a close link between brand image and purchase decisions by consumers because it shapes their attitude towards particular brands. Brand image influences the brand attitude that plays a major role in guiding consumer buying decisions. To maximize a company’s sales volume through brand image, the author suggests that companies should use popular personalities in marketing their products. Also, they must ensure that they provide high quality products and services.

2.3: Impact of price on consumer brand preference

            The amount of money that the consumers incur to own a particular product influences their buying decisions. Based on the theory of consumer behavior, price is among the primary factors that inform consumers’ buying decisions as it shapes their perception about a brand thus companies use varying pricing strategies to appeal to different market segments.  High prices are at times associated with high quality, while low prices are linked to poor quality and this influences the perception that clients have about the products. For the low-income consumers, low prices may create a positive image about the company as it guarantees affordability. It is evident that prices determine the consumer brand preference and should be considered when defining marketing strategies.

            A study on the impact of price on consumer purchase decisions indicate that high prices appeal most to consumers who are more concerned about brand image, while low prices appeal to those with perceived value of the brand (Norazah 239).  Research conducted on smartphone purchase intentions in Perlis supports the argument that price affects the perception that consumers develop about a particular brand (Ibrahim 86). The purchase intentions of consumers decrease when the prices are higher than their acceptable price range thus creating a negative perception of the brands. The study proposes that manufacturers need to conduct accurate market segmentation to influence positive perception on their brands through effective pricing strategies.

2.4:  Effect of peer influence on consumer brand preference

            In the consumer buying behavior model, one of the primary factors that determine the likelihood of consumers to make a purchase is social influence.  Family members and close friends have a great influence on an individual’s brand preference because they shape their attitude towards the products (Pandey and Nakra 20).  A study conducted to investigate the criteria used to make smartphone purchase decisions among Malaysian university students indicate that 75% of the consumers purchase their products based on social influence (Mokhlis and Yaakop 206). The findings indicate that consumers buy particular smartphone brands to fit into certain social groups and they greatly rely on their peers when making purchase decisions.

2.5: Influence of product features on consumer brand preference

            Smartphone consumers are mainly concerned with the quality and range of services that the products provide. Different consumers demand varying smartphone features depending on their interest.  Some of the most attractive product features that smartphone consumers consider include internet browsing, color screen and voice-activated dialing (Ali 42). A study conducted in Malaysia to investigate the purchase intentions of smartphones indicate that 96% of the consumers base their brand preference on smartphone features because they enhance their satisfaction (Lim 69). High resolution screens, video cameras, applications and mobile web browsing are the most essential features that influence brand preference for smartphone consumers (Ghorban 34).  The author argues that clients form their perceptions about a particular brand based on the level of satisfaction derived from using the products, which is in turn determined by the features available in a smartphone.

2.6: Conceptual Framework

            The conceptual framework helps organize ideas comprehensively for effective research.  It helps understand the dependent and independent variables in the study, making it easier to collect accurate and relevant data.  An independent valuable is one that is not affected by external factors and it remains unchanged. The dependent variable, on the other hand, is one that changes with the varying factors. In the present study, the independent variable is represented by factors that influence brand preference for smartphone consumers in Malaysia while the dependent variable is the aspect that varies with the changes in these factors.

            The independent variables in the study include brand image, brand awareness, brand loyalty, peer influence, price and product features as they influence the dependent variable, which is consumers brand preference in smartphones.  The following diagram shows the conceptual framework in the study based on the secondary data collected.

2.6: Research gaps identified in the study

            Despite the growing demand for smartphones in Malaysia, there are research gaps that may affect the ability of manufacturers to meet their primary objective of making high sales volume while meeting consumer demands. A study on criterion of smartphone consumer choice indicates that there is inadequate research on consumers’ evaluation of the products attributes such as price and quality (Mokhlis and Yaakop 210). This makes it difficult for the companies to determine the product attributes that appeal most to the market. The companies are unable to determine the effect of different pricing strategies on the market. The other research gap identified in the study relates to brand equity. Although the literature on the factors that inform consumer buying behavior is wide, there is little information on factors that influence consumer brand preference in relation to brand equity (Lay-Yee 228). Information on factors that affect brand equity such as brand awareness, brand loyalty and brand image is limited, especially the trends among the young generation that makes up the highest number of smartphone consumers.

Methodology

3.1: Introduction

            The methodology section describes the process that will be involved in the collection and analysis of data collected. The data collected will strictly focus on the factors that shape smartphone consumers’ brand preference in Malaysia. The research design and the other methodology concepts included in the study will help ensure high accuracy of study findings. The study will also take into considerations ethical issues that arise when human respondents are involved.

3.2: Research paradigm

            The study will adopt a post-positivist paradigm, which is based on the belief that the existing research can be improved through development of new insights. The paradigm focuses on deductive logic, implying that research is based on the nature of arguments developed from one of more statements (Abowitz 110). It allows research premises to be developed from observation of human behavior and allows the use of sociological experiments in data collection and analysis. Using the post-positivist paradigm, researchers will be able to develop ideas that will be useful in collection of data based on human behavior, in particular the factors that inform their buying decisions.

3.3:  Research design

            The most suitable research design in the study is the exploratory mixed method approach as it combines both the qualitative and quantitative methods. The nature of the study question makes it necessary to conduct an exploratory research to fill the research gaps in the field as identified in the literature review. The research design guarantees high quality data because it combines the strengths of both the qualitative and quantitative data (Pluye and Hong 31). The collection and analysis of data using multiple methods reduces the incidents of inaccuracies, thus leading to dependable findings that can be generalized to larger populations. Through the qualitative approach, the study will determine the factors that shape about consumer brand preferences for smartphone market in Malaysia. The quantitative approach on the other hand will help understand the reasons that make the factors influential to human buying behavior.

3.4: Data collection

            Due to the nature of the research design, data will be collected through two different tools namely questionnaires and in-depth interviews for quantitative and qualitative data respectively. Questionnaires are helpful in collecting accurate data because most of the respondents are familiar with the tools. Further, they are cost-effective as they allow collection of large amount of data at a relatively low cost.  Data collected using in-depth interviews is also accurate because the researcher is able to clarify any ambiguous responses by the participant (Abowitz and Toole 113). The data collection tool may also lead to development of new insights about the research topic.

3.5: Sample population

            The focus of the study is to identify the factors that influence smartphone consumer brand preference in Malaysia. To meet the primary research objectives, data will only be collected in Malaysia. Collecting data on all smartphone users in the country may be too expensive and consume a lot of time because of the widespread of the users. To avoid this, data will be collected from two regions in the Northern part of the country namely Kedah and Perak.  It is important to ensure that data is collected in a systematic way to avoid any errors. In the current study convenience sampling will be used to collect data in tow universities in the region. The main reason that data will be collected from the learning institutions is the availability of ready participants and also the fact that university students are within the age bracket that demand smartphones. The universities are AIMST University and Quest International University Perak.

3.6: Population size

            The accuracy of data collected in qualitative data is nor dependent on the amount of data collected, unlike in the quantitative data. The interviews will thus be used to collect data from fewer respondents than the questionnaires. Interviews will be conducted on 50 students while questionnaires will be distributed to 150 students, making a total of 200 respondents.

3.7: Data analysis

            Data collected through the in-depth interviews will be analyzed using coding method. Due to the simplicity of the data analysis method, it will be unlikely to make errors. Data collected through questionnaires will be analyzed through SPSS computer program. The different methods of data analysis used in the study are due to the different nature of data collected. While qualitative data is in phrases, the quantitative data is in numerical form.

3.8: Limitations of the study

            The weaknesses associated with the data collection and analysis tools subject the study to limitations that reduce its accuracy. Using the in-depth interview method may lead to inaccurate data as the respondents may be tempted to provide responses that they feel may please the interviewer. The questionnaires may also provide inaccurate data due to the minimal interaction between the respondents and the researcher. Data analysis through coding may not be accurate, especially if the responses provided have large variations. Using the SPSS method is efficient, but the entry of inaccurate data will lead to inaccurate results.

3.9: Ethical considerations

            Involving human respondents in research requires one to be ethical. In the current study, the researcher will only collect data after getting an official permit from the institutions’ administration. The responses will only be used for the purpose of the study.  The respondents will be assured of high confidentiality and anonymity.

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