A qualitative exploration and cognitive mapping of retail consumers sensitivity regarding the use of personal and behavioural information in relationship marketing tactics
Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In a global era of growing consumer economies, retailers rely extensively on the exploitation of consumers’ personal and behavioural information, in order to successfully execute and sustain their business models and strategic objectives. The gathering and mining of consumers’ personal and behavioural information represent tremendous potential in the application of relationship marketing tactics, towards consumer intimacy, and ultimately towards competitive advantage. However, in their quest to understand consumers better, retailers need to be acutely aware of consumers’ views regarding the gathering and use of their personal and behavioural information, in order to derive the associated benefits whilst mitigating the risk of alienating consumers. To this end, the main objective of this research assignment was to understand the thoughts and feelings of a selected sample of retail consumers, regarding the use of their personal and behavioural information in relationship marketing tactics. The research aim was achieved through a qualitative exploration of the thoughts and feelings of thirty millennial retail consumers who shared their individual views in written format and small group interviews. Cognitive mapping was used as the central technique for the coding and interpretation of written and interview data, depicting the central themes of consumer rationale, as well as the causal relationships of the concepts, which influenced their sentiment and decisions. The insights produced by the cognitive mappings were triangulated using additional techniques of sentiment analysis and word frequency analysis. The combination of research techniques produced robust overarching insights of universal value, coupled with insights of specific subtleties alluding to consumer groups with differentiated engagement needs. Universal insights included strong negative sentiment whenever consumer participants considered the possibility that retailers with whom they engage on the basis of their personal information could potentially share such personal information with third-party entities outside of their explicit or implicit relationship with a particular trusted retailer. Similarly, the personally intrusive nature of telemarketing as an engagement and communication channel was met with universal disdain at every mention thereof, clearly eliminating it as a viable channel for any retailer who would seek to build and sustain trusted consumer relationships. The sample of participants revealed four broad groups of millennial consumers, each with different preferences of engagement with retailers. The majority of the participants across two groups recognised a conditional and transactional basis for exchanging varying degrees of personal information for a variety of derived benefits. A small group of participants indicated a clear preference towards avoiding engagement on a personal basis and sharing of personal information with retailers. A similarly small group of participants exhibited general openness and willingness to engage retailers and share personal and behavioural information with little restraint or concern. The insights derived from this research assignment provide a solid foundational exploration for future research on the specific and related topics, whilst the application of the cognitive mapping technique provided profound multi-dimensional insights. Businesses stand to gain potential material benefit through the careful consideration of the terms of engagement with their consumers, as provided through the universal and specific insights of this research assignment.