Profile, Preferences and Behavior of Online Consumers in Northeastern Greece
Increase in usage of the Internet has opened many opportunities in Northeastern Greece in perspective of E-commerce. It is a crucial tool to use in the advertisement and played a significant role in changing consumer preference and behavior. In contrast to outbound marketing which is traditional marketing that uses media such as televisions, radio and newspaper for advertising products; inbound marketing is E-marketing that uses social media, search engine optimization and blog for advertisement of products (Schagen and Belz, 2008, p. 210). The people of Northeastern Greece have in previous research demonstrated their immense use of the Internet. This was one of the compelling aspects that made the researcher choose this area as the research target. The research does not aim to establish new facts; rather, it is building upon the available data to clarify matters in online business. For this reason, the research takes a descriptive format and revolves around using the findings to close the gaps left by the previous research. The research focus will be on factors influencing the behavior of online buyers in Northeastern Greece. Moreover, the research looks into the magnitude of influence of each variable and linkage relationships of these variables. The paper also investigates how inbound marketing influences consumers to buy online in relation to attitude, profile and behavior, as well as evaluates the current scenario of Internet use and attitude towards E-commerce.
Inbound marketing has great influence on online consumer behavior since it has useful informational contents and promotional objective. Therefore, inbound marketing is an essential factor that influences consumer behavior, not only in the context of virtual world, but also in physical world market environment. It is cost-effective and efficient. Moreover, recent corporate world prefers this method to influence consumer behavior and achieve competitive edge. However, despite the burst of growth, very little has been done to evaluate the state of online marketers and consumers, this especially evident in the less explored countries of Europe.
1.3.Purpose and Significance of the Study
Very little has been done in research to establish the impact of inbound marketing on online consumer behavior. This study aims to establish the effect of inbound marketing on profile, preference and online consumer behavior socially and economically. Inbound marketing has great influence on online consumer behavior and, when coupled with increased usage of the Internet, has created a platform for increased opportunities in E-commerce.
The background information of Greece indicates that in 2011 the country had 2,252,653 broadband Internet connections accounting for 20 percent penetration. The use of 3G mobile Internet grew by 340 percent from August 2011 to August 2012, and Greece was ranked among the top 30 countries with a highly developed information and communications infrastructure in the world (Tirunillai, 2012, p. 20). This valuable opportunity cannot be explored effectively without conducting intensive research on all factors influencing online consumer behavior.
The general objective of this research is to determine the impact of inbound marketing on online marketing in perspective of profile, preferences and behavior of the online consumers in Northeastern Greece.
1) To establish the awareness of online marketing in Northeastern Greece
2) To find out the prevalence of online shopping in Northeastern Greece
3) To establish the change that could be used to tap deeper into the Greece market.
The researcher focused the research around the following questions:
- Are consumers aware of online marketing?
- Do they use online marketing services?
- How do Greek people access the services?
- Do they trust information advertised online?
- Do online advertisements greatly influence their choice of shopping?
- Would they shop more online if more services were presented?
Research Expected Impact
In line with the presented objectives, this research is expected to have significant impact on the presented area. Marketers have approached the new market with traditional ideas and this means that the change that may have been brought by the use of the Internet may not have been considered. After this research, it is hoped that the question of these changes will be answered and the answers will be incorporated in the market development.
1.5. Literature Review
Literature review plays a very crucial role in placing this research in the right perspective. It helps in identifying the limitations and gaps of the earlier research and enables the researcher to focus on unaddressed issues in the area of research and avoid wasting time on already researched work. Literature review helps a researcher to gain more knowledge about a topic being researched on, as well as to highlight the need of doing research in the perspective he or she want to take.
In Northeastern Greece, the main activities in E-commerce include E-learning, entertainment industry, banking services, tourism, software development and other products and services in the economy. E-commerce has involved all sectors of the economy. This has opened Northeastern Greek culture, history, economy, social life and politics to global market; it also provided increased opportunities and threats to the economy of Northeastern Greece.
Internet usage in the world has increased tremendously in the recent years. It has changed the way people perceive the market. It has introduced new ways, in which corporate world interacts with the consumer behavior, physical market and virtual market (Bitner and Zeithaml, 2002, p. 347). The use of the Internet has influenced social, economic and demographic aspects of people’s lives (Schagen and Belz, 2008, p. 205). On the other hand, social, economic and demographic factors have an impact on profile, preference and behavior of virtual environment and physical market environment.
Globally, the Internet has led to radical change in marketing. Rules of marketing have changed as the Internet turns the world into a global village. This has resulted into the increased opportunities in E-commerce, as Internet usage increases in both developing and developed countries (Shaw and Strader, 2006, p. 82). Corporate worlds have ventured into the use of inbound marketing due to the increased usage of the Internet. Intensive research has been carried out to establish the attitude towards E-commerce, and social and demographic characteristics influence online consumer behavior.
Many researchers focused on analyzing the factors affecting E-commerce in the past. However, there is less research on establishing the influence of inbound marketing on these factors. The researchers need to focus on inbound marketing, paying particular attention to how it influences consumers into purchasing online (Tirunillai, 2012, p. 21). Inbound marketing provides useful and promotional content to consumers. It provides accurate, educational contents to consumers, such as products features, products warranties and channels of feedback of complaints by consumers. Moreover, issuing of the certificate to websites offering these services will play an essential role in influencing consumer behavior (Thomas, Jill and Naseem, 2011, p. 10). The research intends to address these issues that have seemingly been overlooked in previous research.
A lot of research has been done to demonstrate the difference between inbound marketing program and outbound marketing program. According to Tirunillai (2012, p. 21), the outbound is regarded as interruptive, and the method addresses all consumers in the population and is considered traditional, expensive and less effective. Inbound marketing pulls the prospective consumers toward a business and its products through applications of blogs, search engine optimization and social media. Through inbound marketing, companies are able to decide on customers, to target and serve a diverse pool of consumers (Thomas, Jill and Naseem, 2011, p. 1).
Inbound marketing and the Internet usage is changing the way consumer purchase goods and services and has resulted into change of rules of marketing. Global corporate world has focused on the use of inbound marketing and E-commerce as they aim at reducing cost of marketing in order to achieve a competitive edge (Hoffman and Novak, 2006, p. 50). Inbound marketing cannot be effective without understanding the profile, preferences and behavior of online consumers of the targeted region. Hoffman, et al (2008, p. 83) mentioned that the profile, preferences and behavior of online customers also vary in dimension of geographic region, income, culture and nature of the economy.
Hoeegg et al. (2006, p. 34) mentioned that the increased Internet usage has led to new consumer activities, leading to E-commerce opportunities. E-commerce opportunities have come with various challenges that have not yet been solved in regard to E-marketing due to the lack of sufficient research on consumer behavior in this new virtual environment. According to Schiffman, (2001, p. 142) emerging opportunities have not been exploited to the fullest, since the consumer behavior and preferences are based on tentative assumption from traditional outbound marketing. These assumptions from the physical marketing are essential to indicate the way forward, but should not be solely depended on to interpret consumer behavior in a virtual context. The perspectives of the consumer on delivery of information through inbound have changed the way they make a choice when buying online goods. Instead of waiting for information on a product or service consumers need, they seek for details of the products or the services on the Internet (Johnson and Bellman, 2004, p. 301). They use blogs, search engine optimization, and social media to get these details.
Through inbound marketing consumers get to interact with the corporate world and also read the feedbacks of other consumers about the products and services they need online. Girth and Donthu (2008, p.37), mentioned that corporations make use of the Internet and information they get from the feedback from customers to put more value on their goods and services, as well as the contents they produce. Moreover, high costs in traditional outbound marketing program and increased use of the Internet have brought tremendous change in marketing (Hoffman et al., 2008, p. 83). Inbound marketing needs planning and strategic approach to ensure maximum goals achievements (Jiang and Benbasat, 2004 p. 121). The literature review has helped this project to demonstrate how content decisions are carried out and how they motivate consumer to focus on certain products and services offered online.
Kiran, Sharma and Mittal (2008, p. 55) describe how the world is moving from physical market to virtual market of E-commerce. Thriving virtual market has been contributed by increased Internet usage in a global perspective; hence, connectivity of the consumer to all products and services offered in an economy (Schiffman et al., 2001, p. 142). In showing of the change of trend in the use of Internet, Kiran, Sharma and Mittal (2008, p. 55) mentioned that the Internet has been widely used as means of communication, source of information and ways of entertainment. Few years down the line from the time the Internet was launched, many corporations have discovered possibilities and opportunities of using the Internet in business perspectives.
Increased advancement in information and technology has led to development of tools that facilitate online shopping; whereby products and services are done through online purchasing (Kiran, Sharma and Mittal, 2008, p. 57). On the other hand, the need to nurture this has led to the development of the inbound marketing, which has changed trend of online buying in aspect of attitudes, preferences and profile. Inbound marketing has led to the increase in E-commerce activities by offering useful information to the consumer. Therefore, it has helped in building of trust in and the ability to access online products and services.
Consumers have concerns in regard to online shopping that are essential in making rational decision in terms of safety, quality and pricing (Kim and Benbasat, 2003, p. 51). These issues are raised on the ground of personal information, service and products quality and pricing. Thus, there is a need to develop the way to address and understand the consumer need on the corporate side and the way consumers get information about products and services.
Kiran, Sharma and Mittal (2008, p. 63) in their research have focused on the online trend by focusing on the problems in using the web, finding about new websites, product and services offered and their reliability, consumer attitude towards E-purchasing and the influence of the Internet advertisement. They found out that the Internet was mostly used in gathering of information, communication, entertainment and online purchasing. In their findings they established that the Internet was used mostly for gathering information, communication, online shopping and entertainment, respectively. However, they were not able to show the growth of each of these and factors affecting each of these sectors.
Online business is clearly the emerging trend globally, according to the review. Researchers have sought to establish factors that influence people to shop online, and the ways, in which online marketing is more effective than the traditional method. However, the link between various aspects of the Internet use and the growth of E-commerce is yet to be established. The preferences of online shoppers have also not been established and it results in marketing, which is based on traditional assumptions. The research will, therefore, aim to fill this gap by exploring the effect of marketing strategies on consumer preferences.
To understand online consumer behavior, the researcher used the mixed method strategy of data collection. Here, a combination of qualitative data collection and quantitative data collection methods was used. Qualitative data collection would be used to collect information regarding consumer preferences and attitudes towards the Internet business, while the quantitative methods would establish the numerical aspects of the research. The research was also descriptive, as the state of the market in Northeastern Greece was to be elaborated. The researcher felt that the use of survey strategy would be suitable for data collection. This would involve the use of questionnaires and focus groups, giving a quality feedback from the research.
Data collection methods
The researcher used both secondary and primary data collection methods. In the secondary methods of research, the researcher referred to archives with information regarding Internet shopping. This gave the researcher time to establish what had been previously researched, and judging from it, be able to formulate a good objective and decide on primary research methods.
Collection of primary data was done by various methods. These included the use of questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. The questionnaires were distributed over a sample size of about 50 respondents, the interviews held with 40 respondents and three focus groups of ten people in Northeastern Greece. The questionnaires aided in the compilation of numerical data, while the interview was useful for collecting the qualitative data. This is because the interviewer had the opportunities to interact with the respondent and seek clarification if needed.
Respondents to the interviewing method were informed in advance and requested to give a time frame when it would be suitable for them to hold the interview. Some of the interviews were held via telephone when the researcher could not reach the respondents physically.
The researcher sent the questionnaires to the respondents with instructions to be as honest as possible in response, and the rest were handed in to the respondents. The questionnaires that were sent via post had a return address and postage stamps included to facilitate feedback. There were a few copies that were submitted online, and the respondents were given the access address to use. All these measures were used to ensure that all needed feedback would be obtained, by removing all possible challenges.
The focus groups were held in open places, and the participants were requested to interact freely but avoid deviating from the topic. The researcher held the focus groups for periods of one hour, allowing enough time to discuss all the questions available. The focus group members were diverse in gender and profession, but attempts were made to keep particular age brackets.
The sample size is 120 respondents. The sample size comprises of professionals, entrepreneur, students and academicians from Northeastern Greece. Simple random sampling method was used, where the researcher randomly picked respondents from each of the groupings. The sampling method is easy to implement and the researcher does not have to engage in complicated tallying processes. It was especially suitable for the research due to the profile description of the respondents required. The researcher finally used the sampling in all the populations involved, this was meant to help obtain as diverse a view as possible for the research.
Eventually, the researcher managed to compile a list of respondents who had experience with online shopping, while those without were given adequate time to get the experience.
In conducting the research in Northeastern Greece, the researcher focused on several ethics required.
The researcher sought the prior permission of the respondents before conducting an interview. This ensured that the interview was conducted at the respondent’s convenience and willingly.
The researcher assured respondents before every interview that responses are confidential. This meant that no recording was done before permission was granted. After the research analysis, the researcher was to destroy all recording or keep them in safe archives. The assurance of confidentiality was also included in the questionnaires.
For the respondents in institutions, the researcher had to seek administrative permission. Since none of the respondents were under the age of eighteen, the researcher did not have to seek parental consent.
The researcher conducted the research in safe environments, physically away from any occurrences that may offend the respondent. The respondents were informed to be free with their answers, assured that no response was wrong.
Finally, the researcher discussed withdrawal from the research with the respondents. The respondents could withdraw from the research at any point except after the analysis had begun. Should they choose to withdraw, the researcher was to return or destroy any data obtained from their responses.