4.1 Research Objective
Starbucks is a brand of coffee that is known for its high quality around the world. In China, the brand is quite popular and customers gravitate towards the product for a number of reasons. The research seeks to finds out how brand equity, brand awareness, brand loyalty, and brand quality influence the customers. Additionally, the researcher aims to assess the views of consumers of Starbucks coffee in Shanghai and JiaShan and the factors that influence their purchase of the brand. The population is large and as such the researcher cannot get the opinions of all of the customers who consume Starbucks coffee, but a sample size of fifty customers from the researcher’s immediate environment will give the opportunity to make a qualified assertion of the factors that influence the purchase of Starbucks coffee. The researcher has observe that the selected sample have had some form of connection to the brand and have consumed the brand on previous occasions. As a result, these respondents will be able to truly assess the factors that help to influence the purchase of Starbucks coffee.
Of the twenty – five questionnaires distributed in Shanghai, twenty were returned and used in the research. The remaining five were not returned as the respondents did not have the time to complete the questionnaires effectively. In Jiashan, another twenty-five questionnaires were distributed. All of these questionnaires were returned, but only twenty of these could be used in the research as one of the questionnaires was not completed, two of the questionnaires were not completed fully, and the remaining two of the unused questionnaires were not used because the researcher realized that the answer unrelated to the research.
4.2 Research hypothesis and Conceptual Framework
Based on the related literature review, the researcher was able to develop the hypotheses around the factors of Brand loyalty, Brand Awareness, Perceived Quality, Brand Association and the monthly purchase frequency as it relates to Starbucks in China.
The impact of brand loyalty to the customer’s willingness to buy
Brand loyalty is an important aspect of the operations of any product or brand. Starbucks has recognized this factor and has realized that the customer has been part of the company’s asset, as the customers who show that a strong sense of loyalty to the brand will undoubtedly repeat their purchase over time. Additionally, the researcher found that the higher the brand loyalty, the higher the rate of repeated purchases. Oliver’s (1997) defines loyalty as a deeply held commitment that allows customers to re-purchase the product or re-patronize a preferred product or service on a future consistent basis. Loyalty, according to Oliver, results in repetitive same-brand or same brand set purchasing, regardless of the influences of the situation and marketing efforts which may impact the customers and change their attitude towards the goods or product. As a result, the research proposed that:
Hypotheses 1: The brand loyalty will influence the purchase frequency of customer
The impact of Brand Awareness to the customer’s willingness to buy
The level of awareness for popular brands will impact the product and help to determine the brand equity as the brand remains at the top of the minds of the consumers when they think of a particular product. Aaker suggests that brand awareness affects the attitudes and perceptions of the brand, (Aaker, 1996) and the salience of the brand as the consumers view the product, (Aaker, 1996). With this in mind, the researcher realized that Starbucks is an international based company that draws customers because of the customer’s awareness of the high quality of the service and the setting of these outlets. Despite the limited commercial advertising of the company, Starbucks’ locations in Shanghai and Jiashan draws customers to the location and create an awareness of the outlets as a place that offers a luxurious atmosphere and high quality coffee. Based on Aaker’s theory, the research proposed the following hypothesis
Hypothesis 2: Brand awareness will influence the purchase frequency of customer
The impact of Brand Perceived Quality to the customer’s willingness to buy
Aaker defines the perceived quality as one that a company can measure based on: level of differentiation, price, availability in different sales channels, the brand extensions and the price of the product, (Aaker, 1996). Customers perceive goods based on the service and the quality of the goods. With perceived quality, customers develop their personal views and judgment of the brand regardless of the actual quality of the product. Clearly, the perception of a brand’s quality reflects the general feelings towards the brand. In many cases, the perception of the brand depends largely on the performance and dependability of the perceived brand. The high price on Starbucks produce allows the customer to expect a high quality and good service. Therefore the customer perceives that Starbucks offers the highest quality goods. The customers create psychological assessment of the product based on the way they perceive the goods and this allows for differentiation in the purchase of goods. In essence, the perceived quality of the brand leads to brand loyalty and brand satisfaction. Therefore the perceived quality will direct influence the purchase decisions and brand loyalty. Based on this knowledge, the research proposed the following hypothesis.
Hypothesis 3: Perceived quality s will influence the purchase frequency of customer
The impact of Brand Association to the customer’s willingness to buy
Brand association comes from the awareness and perception that the customer has of the brand or product. Businesses must ensure that customers are aware of their brand through the quality product that goes out on the market. The associations that one makes with a particular brand come through the ability of the customers to associate quality products with the name of the brand. Customers will recall and recognize different brands when the product is popular or when the product offers services that are good and in some cases products that are bad. Customers who associated Starbucks with high quality service and excellent coffee will recognize the brand readily and increase the loyalty and equity of the brand. Aaker postulates that brand recognition, brand recall, and top of the mind helps with the association that a customer makes to Starbucks, (Aaker, 1996). Similar to brand awareness, brand association allows the customers to choose a product based on the popularity and quality of the product.
Hypothesis 4 - Brand association will influence the purchase frequency of customer
The research comprises of the dependent and independent variables:
Dependent Variable - The average purchase frequency of customer is the dependent variable. Independent Variable - The brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality and the brand association.
4.4: Research Design
The researcher use questionnaires that include close-ended form and the respondents will be required to select the most appropriate responses based on the questions. The respondents are allowed to tick the responses that they believe are best suited. The vocabulary in the questionnaire is simple and each respondent should be able to answer the questions as the pilot questionnaire allowed the researcher to remove ambiguities in the questions and words that would create a challenge for the respondents to understand. The questionnaire carries a cover letter that explains the level of confidentiality in the questionnaire, the purpose of the research paper and the hope that they will be open and honest in their answers.
4.5 Research Method
4.6 Population and Sampling
The researcher hopes to gather data that will help to assess the customers’ views of brand and service of Starbucks in China and the frequency of purchase of the product. As a result, the researcher observed students who have interacted and consumed Starbucks coffee as they would provide the information in a shorter time. From those who were observed, the researched checked to ascertain the number of respondents who had coffee from Satrbucks in Shangai and those who had coffee from Starbucks in Jiashan. The questionnaires were then distributed accordingly. The researcher made use of convenience sampling or non-probability sampling as it allows the researcher the opportunity of selecting respondents who could be located easily and this helps to save on the cost and time to collect the data.
4.6 Instrument and Measurement
The data was measured based on the rating scale that is used to measure attitude. This measurement allows the respondent to provide an estimate of the quality of the product and as a common measurement in quantitative research, the rating scale allows for an estimate of the strength of the belief and the attitude of the respondents to the product. The researcher used the Likert’s five scale diagram to measure the responses of the respondents. There are four main aspects of the questionnaire. It includes the options of strongly disagree (I point) disagree (2 points), average (3 points), agree (4 points) and strongly agree (5 points). (See Appendix 1). Based on the scaling, the researcher is better able to assess the degree of the respondents’ answers as the respondents will be better able to agree or disagree with the questions. Part A provides general information on the age, gender, and average purchases Starbucks coffee. Part B, C and D of the questionnaire sought answers on the brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality and brand association respectively. The design of the questionnaire is based on the concept from Aaker (1991) and Kotler et al (2007) and refers to the business pattern of Starbucks China.
4.7 Data Analysis
After collecting the data the researcher will make record the information from the effective questionnaires and profile the data. The data will use statistical calculations by Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS). The researcher chose this method as it allows for graphic presentations and statistical output. The result will be analyzed using the descriptive statistics analysis and factor analysis. The chosen method of analysis allows the researcher to find the relationship that exists between the dependent variable (the average purchase frequency of customer) and the independent variable (the brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality and the brand association) and show how one variable can predict the other variable.
Oliver, Richard L.(1997), Satisfaction: A Behavioral Perspective on the Consumer, New
York, NY: McGraw-Hill.