Consumer trends in the biscuits and cakes segment in Scotland is changing towards healthy eating and diet. This is against the rich Scottish food and drink tradition that characterises Walkers Shortbreads. To launch its new product, shortbreads with whisky and liquor flavours, the company needs to gauge the perceptions and attitudes of its existing and potential consumers. A combination of exploratory and descriptive research study has been proposed to pre-test the market, in particular the Glasgow market, as this is the location of initial launch for shortbreads with whisky and liquor flavour. The research has been designed as a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis of Walkers Shortbreads’ consumers and their attitudes towards SWL product range.
Scope of Research
In our contemporary business environment today, the consumer is king, and market research is a valuable means for determining whether our marketing strategies are focussed on the right track, or not (Hague 2002). Congruent with this ideology, the researcher proposes Walkers Shortbreads to carry out a market research of their prospective consumers with the view to identify the potential consumers’ perceptions and attitudes towards shortbreads with whisky and liquor flavours (from here on SWL). In doing so, the company would be able to resolve the problem whether it has a niche in the Glasgow market for launching SWL, or not. Also, with the research results, Walkers Shortbread would be able to decide whether to launch this new product full-scale to other regions, or not. This market research has been designed to aid the executives and marketing department in developing their promotional strategies by optimising on the information therein.
Walkers Shortbread has been a symbol of tradition and Scottish history, especially in the region of Speyside, since 1898. To date, it has been the trusted brand for shortbreads over 60 countries, with the reputation of always following the Scottish tradition of shortbread-making. However, within our contemporary business environment today, consumers are being bombarded with new confectionary and sweet offerings from supermarkets, importers and local competitors; it is difficult to introduce even a relatively new product. Any product endeavouring to enter into this category requires careful evaluation of the consumer market, which is currently undergoing dramatic change (“What, no shortbread?” 2003).
Walkers Shortbreads have been considered to be a traditional product for its consumers in the past but with this new product SWL, the company needs to re-evaluate its position among consumers as well as competitors. The following research is expected to reveal the perceptions and attitudes of existing and potential consumers towards this new strategy.
The company is at a junction at the moment, whether to launch its new product SWL in the Glasgow market, or not. The results of this study hope to shed light in this direction and help Walkers Shortbreads to establish a niche in the market.
The purpose of a marketing research study is to acquire information about the consumers, their attitudes, behaviours and perceptions, which are needed for decision-making by executives and the marketing team (Hamersveld 2007). The following research has similar objectives – to resolve the problem of consumers’ receptiveness towards Walkers Shortbreads’ new product, SWL:
- To create awareness of Walkers Shortbreads’ new product.
- To study the receptiveness of existing and potential consumers for SWL for the company to launch it.
- To establish that there is a ready niche market for SWL in Glasgow to further its launch in other regions and branches of Walkers Shortbreads.
- To confirm Walkers Shortbreads’ position in the current confectionary and sweets consumer market as a name of trust and tradition.
Glasgow is not a new market for Walkers Shortbreads (Official Website 2010). Nevertheless, it is a commercial hub of Scotland which has a lot of competition and potential. However, there is the problem of consumers with changing lifestyle. In the recent years, the government has been endeavouring onto a campaign for healthy living for the Scottish people. This clashes with the traditional Scottish style of living – encompassing rich food and drink – which incidentally is also our company’s philosophy of upholding traditional shortbreads recipes (“What, no shortbread?” 2003).
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On top of that, the global financial crisis has also impacted on the confectionary and sweets industry. This has put many companies on the alert as to how to treat this setback to the industry, including Walkers Shortbreads. However, some experts are of the view that the consumer market is reacting against the market for healthy living and going back to the traditions. This would prove to be a positive prospect for Walkers Shortbreads and its aim to introduce SWL (“It’s crunch time…” 2010).
These conflicting market trends make difficult for the company to decide on its market. For this reason, the researcher has designed the following study as an exploratory investigation, and later follows it up with a descriptive study of Walkers Shortbreads’ market. An exploratory research, according to Kurtz (2009), “seeks to discover the cause of a specific problem by discussing the problem with informed sources both within and outside the firm and by examining data from other information sources” (p.252). An exploratory study opens dialogues between the company and its customers, as well as provides framework for analysis. By combining both internal and external investigations, the researcher is more equipped to develop questionnaires that would acquire the relevant information without redundancies (Kurz 2009).
Alternatively, a descriptive research is for “describing marketing problems, situations, or markets, such as the market potential for a product or the demographics and attitudes of consumers” (Kotler 1983, p.95). According to Kotler (1983), research often starts with exploration and then later is followed by descriptive research (Kotler 1983). This is the strategy that the researcher plans to follow.
Target Respondents and Sample
Initial research indicates that the Scottish consumers are undergoing a change of lifestyle for a more health-conscious living induced by the government’s campaign for a healthier Scotland. According to a Scottish Health Survey (2003), the number of obese individuals has increased since 1998, with the average person consuming 577 grams of sugar and sweet products (Defra Family Food 2007). Moreover, by comparison with England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland have the least healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.
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At the same time, the Scottish population is undergoing a taste change. They are exploring new tastes, especially the young people, who are making it difficult for businesses to leverage their products. Consumers are more knowledgeable today and aware of quality products; they are health-conscious and developing awareness of carbon footprints (“Tasty morsels” 2008). This is a potential population which Walkers Shortbreads can exploit for developing a consumer base. For this purpose, the researcher has chosen 12 individuals to participate in the survey. They will prove to be valuable as new consumers as they will taste Walkers Shortbreads for the first time.
Yet, at the same time, critics like Zuccardy (2006) believe that fancy foods like shortbreads are becoming the fashion as people prize them as artisan and are willing to pay extra for their consumption. For this reason, the researcher believes there is potential for our product in this mature consumer population. Therefore, it is expected that a small sampling of this population would contribute positively to the research. A group of 12 individuals are chosen at random from various locations of Glasgow to reflect this group of consumers.
Apart from the above criteria, the researcher has also chosen the participants to be among the age groups of above 20 and below 60. The latter population tend to have less inclination towards liquor, while the former is just above the legal age.
Secondary Data Sources
Consumer research is dynamic and requires constant analysis of changes that take place in the environment. While a field research is critical for taking a sample of the variables, it is the theoretical foundations that explain why consumers behave in a particular manner or respond to the survey conducted the way they do. Subjectivism, as Hogg and Maclaran (2008) indicate, provides meaning to the interplay between the subject and object in the research process. For this reason, today consumer behaviour study has to draw conclusions based on judgement of empirical data, as well as establish the trustworthiness of the data through the soundness of interpretation of secondary resources (Golden-Biddle and Locke 1993).
For this study, secondary data sources such as magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and expert opinions in articles shall be used to develop a sound foundation for interpretation of the data acquired through the primary sources. In particular journal articles and trade journals, the researcher is convinced, shall have information for verifying and interpreting the attitudes of our target consumers for developing an epistemological framework necessary for decision-making by the management.
Moreover, the use of secondary sources shall help in establishing the authenticity, plausibility and criticality of the insights acquired during the research process. It helps identify and reflect on existing differences of attitudes and perceptions to conceive new solution possibilities. By understanding the consumer behaviour in the buying process, we can determine what the consumer actually needs and use the information to develop our product offering through motivation, aspiration, needs etc. (Hollywood, Armstrong and Durkin 2007).
Primary Data Sources
For qualitative analysis based on evidence, comments, and ideas of participants, secondary sources provide the framework for analysis, while primary data is required for gathering factual evidence for interpretation. Some of the data-collection techniques for primary data include focus groups, non-random in-depth interviews, and public meetings. Focus groups often involve the participation of individuals with expertise on the subject of customers and the market under study, while the non-random interviews comprise of choosing participants at ad hoc basis for exploration of ideas. Public meetings are observations of public attitudes or patterns at public meetings or through questionnaires (Jakubiak, Mudge and Hurd 1990). In studying the attitudes and perceptions of Walkers Shortbreads’ consumers or potential consumers, public meetings are a good choice for gathering primary information, as they are hoped to provide information on receptiveness of the product.
However, this technique is limited and requires supporting quantitative data collection for analysis. Quantitative data collection methods include collecting response from a small sampling of the population with limited margin of error in calculating results; inclusion of only relevant population group for study, personal interviews, telephonic, mail or random surveys (Jakubiak, Mudge and Hurd 1990). Among these, a small sampling of the population of shortbread consumers, as well as non-consumers of shortbreads, shall be included so that the study can comprehensively explore the potential of SWL. The rationale is that this type of sampling involves low cost as it shall be carried out through sampling of the product and noting responses to the product on paper at a public meeting. But since it shall comprise of a small population, it would not be extensive to carry the burden of cost. Moreover, at a minimal cost Walkers Shortbreads shall be “meeting” with the public and re-establishing its relationship with existing customers, while new customers will have the opportunity to experience the company firsthand. The results generated shall be tabulated through computer software for analysis immediately by the research team (“The Six Steps in Marketing Research” 2010).
The above research has been recommended with the view to provide the company with an understanding of its consumers, existing or potential ones. The purpose is to create awareness of Walkers Shortbreads’ new range, as well as re-evaluate consumer awareness of its other ranges of products. The research has been designed to measure the receptiveness of the consumers of the SWL brand, and to test whether the company has a niche position in the market of biscuits and cakes. The research has been designed as a pre-test for uncovering any problems that Walkers Shortbreads is expected to face in the future. A pre-test is important for acknowledging the practicality of problems or issues, or resistance to products or services that we offer to the consumers before the product is fully launched throughout the country and the world (Diamantopoulos and Reynolds 1998). This assumption is congruent with the company’s initial test plan of launching SWL only in Glasgow and not other markets.
Moreover, this initial market research is a litmus test for Walkers Shortbreads’ understanding of its consumers’ attitudes and perceptions of the company’s range of products, so that it would be able to improve upon it; if need be, to increase customer-satisfaction level in the future.
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