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With the active entry into our lives on the Internet, the search behavior of consumers has become much more complicated: new models of search behavior have appeared, with a large number of control points and more branching algorithms. The Internet has become an important part of consumer behavior in general and, in particular, the context of social networks. Before revealing the stated topic, I consider it necessary to introduce the concept of a social network: a social network is a collection of individuals connected by common social forms that allow the exchange of various social flows within the acquired and prescribed statuses and roles.
Globally, it is possible to divide the components of the network space of consumer behavior into:
Objective. This, as a rule, is direct interaction in transit networks, as well as recommendations received from representatives of the near-circle networks. In other matters, these interactions and the conclusions made based on the information received are understood by the consumer and are objective. At the same time, it is rather fragmented information (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019).
Subjective. This is the information field of the respondent, which is formed unconsciously by summarizing all the rational and emotional information received from all sources, including social networks (Sadovykh et al., 2015). The prevalence of emotional characteristics inclines a person to an irrational choice, and rational one, respectively, to a rational one.
The traditional media act as a source of information about the characteristics inherent in certain products. By identifying themselves, media messages also form a network, not a consumer one, but an informed one. Thus, they are an impersonal flow of information that directly impacts the search behavior of network members, shaping the image and perception of goods (Alsubagh, 2015).
The Internet, as mentioned earlier, acts as a means of implementing communication in social networks, on the one hand, and transit and impersonal information, on the other. That is, consumers communicate in networks of “my circle” and professional networks, while they have the opportunity to receive advice from sellers and read anonymous reviews and comments (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
Thesis: Social media have a significant impact on the decision-making process of consumers.
1.2.Scope and limitations of research
This study has attempted to research how social media influences the decision-making process of individuals. The study is limited to research data from individuals residing in the UK.
The research is based on primary and secondary data. The first one analyzed the secondary data in the literature review identifying the variables required for the study. These variables were then used to develop a theoretical framework which was utilized in the process of developing the questionnaire survey. The use and implementation of this questionnaire are described in the methodology chapter, with a further presentation of the results and their analysis. The study ends with a conclusion with future research and recommendations.
2. Literature Review
Throughout the 20th century, democratic transformations gradually spread worldwide (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019). At the same time, democracy has always been perceived as a form of government from achieving universal equality through transforming the political and social structure (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019). As a result of these transformations, the broad masses gained the opportunity to influence all aspects of social life, which, in turn, became a fertile ground for the emergence and formation of a “mass man” and also led to an increase in the importance of material values and the unification of people into groups and identification according to the principle material well-being (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). As a result, a person becomes in need of a certain cultural product that meets the need for self-realization. This product was provided by the emerging mass culture, which cultivated the foundations of consumerism (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019).
The 20th century and its achievements, on the one hand, gave birth to a standard man of the masses and provided him with the opportunity for self-expression and self-affirmation in all spheres of life – spiritual, cultural, political, and on the other hand, allowed him to issue his standards that exclude the spiritual component of life and cultivate its material side. Stereotypes for uniqueness and individuality (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
So, democracy, on the one hand, is the power of the people or the power of persons who are delegated the authority to manage the state and society (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020). On the other hand, it is democracy that leads to the conscious alienation of people from participation in social processes and frustration, which consists of the absence of desirable objects in people (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020). As a result, modern society is based mainly on the average worldview of the “atomized individual,” who, guided by the ideals proclaimed by mass culture, seeks to subordinate all spheres of social life to consumption (Nash, 2018).
The mass consumer is a necessary condition for developing an industrial society and, as history shows, a condition for developing a modern society that is moving into a post-industrial era (Stankevich, 2017). The rapid growth of industry, commercialization, which has spread to all spheres of society, and the transition to market relations make it possible to change the position of a person in society through the accumulation and acquisition of certain benefits (Alsubagh, 2015).
In the 20th century, the world turned into an accumulation of consumers, i.e., people for whom it is not this or that product that is important but the process of consumption itself (Pütter, 2017). At the same time, consumption has contradictory properties: on the one hand, it weakens the feeling of anxiety and anxiety, since what has become mine cannot be taken away from me; but on the other hand, it forces me to acquire more and more, since any acquisition soon ceases to bring satisfaction (Willman-Iivarinen, 2017).
The perception of the surrounding world is distorted, acquiring pronounced economic overtones (Sadovykh et al., 2015). People cease to separate their individuality and uniqueness from material well-being and, as a result, the goods they purchase. And the loss of personal uniqueness in the context of merging with a society based on consumption leads to individuals merging into a mass (Sadovykh et al., 2015).
As a result, the life of a modern person turns into a race for material goods, which becomes the main criterion for success (Alsubagh, 2015). To create and maintain the illusion of well-being, a person surrounds himself with expensive things, chooses a fashionable hobby, and strives to correspond to the desired social status in everything (Alsubagh, 2015). However, it is well-being that often causes a terrible disgust for life, which has affected large masses of people with all the ensuing consequences – a thirst for voluntary savagery, outbursts of senseless violence, and various manifestations of social hysteria, which have already become familiar and even seem to be normal signs of modern culture (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
However, the “average” person has the illusion of co-creation and subjectivity, which he acquires by identifying himself as an active and unique person, since when purchasing goods, he sincerely believes that this is his choice, forgetting that the image of this product is inspired to him. Such consumption, in turn, determines the production of a mass product (Ghose et al., 2019).
Thus, the supply of goods forms the potential demand, which calls into question the humanistic focus of the market economy (Ghose et al., 2019). After all, if the protagonists are manufacturers, i.e., firms, their interests in the economy, politics, and other spheres of life are predominant. Firms manage the lives of consumers and manage them arbitrarily in their corporate interests. Their ideology is not humanistic. Their true goal is power over the market, over consumers, and the world of people. And the more their power, the less humanism in this world (Ghose et al., 2019).
Theorists, to prove the correctness of the marginal analysis, always limit themselves to the study of the subjective assessment of utility when consuming the marginal (last) instance of water or food but never give as such an example a unit of clothing, housing, cars, and jewelry (Weitzel & Hutzinger, 2017). The reason is that the latter’s consumption analysis does not confirm the correctness of the marginal analysis (Weitzel & Hutzinger, 2017). The subjective utility of jewelry or cars does not decrease, no matter how many units of these things the consumer has in stock. Demands for jewelry and automobiles are unlimited; the need for such goods is never satiated. And since there is no limiting instance of such goods, there is no need for a limiting analysis concerning all such goods (Xie & Lee, 2015).
So there is a need for consumption analysis. In theory, consumption refers to assimilating the useful properties of all goods (Xie & Lee, 2015). But, because of the above differences in the consumption of various goods, it would be appropriate to separate the consumption of food from the use of all other goods. Food consumption is necessary for man, and in this respect, is the same as the consumption of food for all other living beings. But if we consider food consumption as the most characteristic feature of a person, then it is not clear what its difference is from animals (Valos et al., 2017).
Yet, let’s consider that a person is characterized by precisely the highest needs that animals do not have. Food consumption is not a characteristic need of human beings (Valos et al., 2017). Therefore, concerning the highest needs, one should not speak of the consumption of clothing, housing, and similar goods but their use. Those. People consume food and use higher goods. However, it depends on the client’s preferences (Valos et al., 2017).
2.1.1. Decision-making process
The term “preference” refers to an inanimate neuter noun of the second declension. It expresses “primary attention, approval, respect for one of several options, desire to choose one of several options” (Wikipedia, dictionary) or “predisposition to this alternative in comparison with others due to its advantages” (Modern Economic Dictionary) (Patil & Atiue, 2015). Considering the interpretation of the term “decision making” as a one-time choice of one of the possible options for action, we conclude not only about the similarity of the semantic component of the two terms but also about their “technological” essence. To make a decision is to prefer (prefer, choose) a certain option from the available alternatives. But what underlies this choice? (Patil & Atiue, 2015).
The decision is entirely up to the individual. In making a choice, a person expresses his subjective attitude to one object among all available options (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016). Such an attitude is derived from the goals of choice and the conditions in which this choice is made and contains a set of interests, motives, and assessments based on which the decision is made, i.e., preference system (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016). Suppose we correlate the concept of a system of preferences with the system (set) of knowledge of a person who makes decisions. In that case, we can say that this part of it has an evaluative nature of knowledge about how to and how not to act, what is better and what is worse, what is permissible and what is not permissible, etc. (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016).
Revealing preferences is one of the fundamental tasks of decision theory. Understanding what drives a person when choosing alternative options opens up wide opportunities for modeling this process and, as a result, increases the effectiveness of choice in a complex environment (Agnihotri et al., 2016).
18.104.22.168.The need to take into account the system of preferences in the choice
Since it is impossible to directly observe the system of preferences, it finds its external reflection in the generated list of criteria (requirements) with the help of which the best solutions are selected (Valos et al., 2017).
The choice of a solution based on one criterion is simple, convenient, and unambiguous. You must decide on a new job, focusing only on the maximum wage. In this case, you will choose the option that provides the highest payout of all those considered (Valos et al., 2017). You have only one goal, so your choice will be reduced to a simple comparison of all options in one category (salary offered). However, most people faced with a similar situation will say that choosing a new job is more difficult, requiring consideration not only of the level of salary but also of other goals, such as career opportunities, the presence of a social package, the minimum distance between the workplace and home, etc. (Xie &, Lee, 2015). Thus, the task of choosing a new job has more goals than one, each of which has its base of comparison. The selection task is transformed from single-criteria to multicriteria (Xie & Lee, 2015).
Several reasons necessitate a multicriteria approach to the practice of economic activity. The first reason is that it is not always possible to directly consider the general goal through the prism of all the criteria for selecting solutions (Xie & Lee, 2015). The second reason for the multicriteria lies in the multisubjectivity of the decisions themselves (Alsubagh, 2015). Finally, the third reason for multicriteria is the influence of time and space factors (Alsubagh, 2015). The principle of the time value of money, which leads to the discounting of cash flows, is beyond doubt and seems objective; however, each specific implementation of it, which involves determining the discount factor, inevitably carries elements of the subjective attitude of the one who creates and uses this formula (Pütter, 2017).
22.214.171.124.The psychological basis of choice
The issues of modeling decision-makers’ preferences affect three main aspects: psychological, mathematical, and informational. Each has several undeniable advantages and almost insurmountable difficulties concerning the practical side of its implementation. First, the right to choose always belongs to the decision-maker (Ghose et al., 2019). And therefore, the psychological background of this issue is important, i.e., understanding how preferences shape choice in complex, problematic situations. Based on attachment to the one who makes a choice, the system of preferences results from a complex mental activity of the human mind. The value of human choice is determined by three major components: moral, emotional, and objective (Ghose et al., 2019).
Value orientations and moral obligations determine the moral side of the choice. It testifies “to the attractiveness of choice from the standpoint of the correspondence of the decision made to the internal moral values” of the decision-maker. It determines the preferences in the choice in terms of “acceptable-unacceptable,” “good-bad” (Alsubagh, 2015).
The emotional side determines the preference for certain options in terms of the personal preferences and interests of the person making the decision. A person makes a choice based on his internal attitude to the considered alternative options. Emotions can have positive and negative sides to their manifestations (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016). In principle, any decision-maker in the selection process is aimed at minimizing negative emotions. However, it is impossible to completely ignore emotions and exclude them from the decision-making process. The main thing is understanding how this component affects the selection process (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016).
The objectivity of choice requires an assessment of the attractiveness of choice from the standpoint of objectively existing conditions for describing the problem situation, i.e., her living space. Such a description concerns understanding the essence and limitations of the behavior of all participants in the problem situation under consideration. However, as noted above, each participant in this process implements its own goals in the decisions made (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016). These goals are far from being coordinated and contradictory. Hence the nature of the decisions made is always a compromise. Achieving such a compromise is possible only when knowledge of the context of the problem is available to us, i.e., understanding the limitations and obstacles that the external environment objectively contains (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019).
I must say that all three sides that provide the value of choice are inextricably linked. For example, the cognitive aspect of choice based on a system of preferences, considering the living space of a problem situation, uses the so-called mental structures (forms of abstract knowledge), which include “archetypes,” semantic and conceptual schemes, scenarios, and frames (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019). Their construction and use in decision-making require experience and knowledge to understand the essence of problem situations and the moral and emotional aspects that accompany this action (Voramontri & Klieb, 2019).
126.96.36.199.Decision-making while shopping online
Transit networks in offline stores, i.e., sellers, facilitate search and impersonal information flows about the product – the so-called POS materials (point of sale – at points of sale). If we use indicators of social networks as characteristics of sources of information about a product, namely trust and intensity of communication (in this case, the frequency of contact). The most important sources of information about a product are the recommendations of friends and acquaintances, i.e., networks of “my circle” (Agnihotri et al., 2016).
Search behavior is closely related to the choice of a product, which is conditioned by an impersonal information field and all the same recommendations from close people. Nevertheless, the final stage of consumer behavior (the final one, only from the point of view of the marketing aspect of studying this issue) is associated with consumer behavior, i.e., behavior at the point of sale (Agnihotri et al., 2016).
Goods or services have different characteristics and properties that are aimed at satisfying certain needs, namely:
Search characteristics. These are the properties of a product or service that the consumer can get acquainted with even before purchase. For example, the appearance of a car is a characteristic that is visible to the consumer even before buying it (Xie & Lee, 2015). This set of characteristics is called search because it is on the basis that the consumer selects alternatives for himself at the first stage of his behavior (Xie & Lee, 2015). So, having decided to buy an imported vacuum cleaner, the consumer selects vacuum cleaners with foreign names among the alternatives;
Experienced Characteristics. The consumer can only get to know these properties of a product or service after purchase or consumption. By these characteristics, he evaluates the degree of his satisfaction at the last stage of the consumption process. For example, he can check such a property of a vacuum cleaner as reliability only after the vacuum cleaner has worked for several years or burned out in the second week.
Characteristics of faith. These are properties of a product or service that the consumer cannot directly verify, and therefore they remain a matter of faith (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). So, if it is written on the vacuum cleaner that it does not create electromagnetic radiation harmful to health, this property of the vacuum cleaner cannot be checked before or after purchase. This includes a product’s image and emotional characteristics (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
So, with the movement from the pole of consumer goods to the pole of intellectual services, the complexity of the assessment for the consumer increases – up to a complete impossibility when he can only believe. In general, the world is moving toward the complication of goods and services, and the role of the characteristics of faith is constantly increasing (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
Following the above scheme, it is possible to classify the transit networks/information fields that accompany the selection process:
“Information” network impact. It presents the consumer with goods and services that differ in the prevalence of search characteristics (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). These characteristics are objective, observable properties of a product or service in advance. Therefore the task of this little man is to ensure that the consumer is well-informed about these characteristics. If he does this well, it will be easy for the consumer to decide to purchase a product or service (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
“Educational” network impact. It presents the consumer with goods and services that are distinguished by experienced characteristics (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). Since the success of the consumption experience depends on the circumstances, in what conditions, and how consumption takes place, this representative of the transit network/information field must teach the consumer how to properly consume a product or service. He acts as a teacher or trainer, not leaving the consumer with the purchased product or when receiving the service (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
“Professional” network exposure (Alsubagh, 2015). It presents the consumer with goods and services that are distinguished by the predominance of the characteristics of faith. These are high-tech products, intellectual services, and many other things that are often not related to essential goods and services (for example, luxury goods). This representative of the transit network/information field is an absolute authority whose opinion is credible. The consumer believes what this little man says about his goods or services, although his claims cannot be verified (Alsubagh, 2015).
Network exposure plays a very important role in deciding which product to buy. Nevertheless, non-network factors influence the buyer in the store (Alsubagh, 2015). According to the author, purchasing behavior in various categories of goods is also directly related to several factors (Alsubagh, 2015).
For food products, the following subjective factors of influence in the store can be distinguished:
Buyer mission. There is a standard set of buyer missions that is relevant for many product categories: stock-up mission (i.e., long-term purchase of goods); top-up mission (i.e., a situation where a consumer buys more goods that have run out); snack mission (to have a snack on the way) and special occasion mission (for special occasions, holidays, etc.) (Xie & Lee, 2015).
Purchase planning degree. The higher the degree of planning, the faster and easier the consumer makes a purchase. The degree of product planning varies from category to category. For example, according to the results of studies, 78% of buyers plan to buy baby food in advance, while only 40% plan to buy chocolate, 62% – juice, 74% – sweet soda, 58% – coffee, 47% – breakfast cereals, and 47% – condiments. About 70%. Undoubtedly, the most planned are the goods of the mandatory consumer basket – bread, milk, etc. (Patil & Antique, 2015)
The quality of the display of goods. As mentioned earlier, each consumer exists in the information field, which forms his understanding of a particular category of goods or services. With a high degree of planning, the layout must fully reflect the understanding of the category through the eyes of the buyer – otherwise, the purchase may not take place at all (Patil & Antique, 2015).
For high-tech products, the subjective side is based on the following factors of influence:
Category engagement. in contrast to food products, which, one way or another, are present in every consumer’s life because they satisfy their basic needs, high-tech products are a reflection of higher needs. That is why the fact of involvement in the category is the main model of search, selection, and purchasing behavior. The more the respondent is involved, the more difficult his choice is.
Category awareness. Given the existence of the first factor, it is important not to confuse it with awareness. Because greater awareness always makes a choice easier. The objective factors of influence in the store still include the quality of the display of goods. Similar to consumer products, the display of high-tech products should reflect category segmentation through the eyes of the consumer (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017). Otherwise, buying behavior becomes more complicated and is accompanied by negative emotions. Thus, the processes of selection, search, and purchase of goods are accompanied by transit networks (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017). However, the most important component of consumer behavior at these stages is the information field, which is formed subconsciously by the consumer, using the accumulated information about products and services from various sources (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017).
2.2.1. What is social media
In the context of the ongoing processes of globalization, the emergence and growing functioning of information media communications and network systems cause a significant change in the social structure of society. With their functions and features, social media can now compete with full confidence with traditional media and create their system of mass social communications, laying at its core the social nature of these communication channels (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017).
The concept of “social media” is relatively recent. This was facilitated by emerging new technologies (RSS, blogs, etc.) and Internet resources (social networks, photo hosting, video hosting, etc.). All these new technologies and resources are united by the fact that they make it possible to facilitate the exchange of information between people, in contrast to the technologies that existed before, when the Internet consisted mainly of static pages (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017).
Increasingly, modern society, and especially young people, prefer to use social media as sources of information and news sources, which, in turn, are increasingly replacing traditional media – television, radio, newspapers, and ad magazines (Weitzl & Hutzinger, 2017).
Compared to traditional media, social media has the quality of interactivity. Thanks to interactivity, social media contribute to establishing communication with users and involving them in certain processes. Also, the features of social media include the involvement of the audience in communication, when users can create their content and discuss and evaluate content offered by other users.
The audience wants to consume information and create content and share it with like-minded people (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). The audience has always looked for alternative ways to participate in agenda-setting. In this, they were able to help the Internet, which from the very beginning of its public existence, focused on collective creativity. Various newsgroups, e-mail newsletters, discussion boards, and message boards were the forerunners of the modern forums, blogs, and virtual communities that are now part of social media (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
Another feature of social media is the accuracy of targeting when in the course of using social media, a person can mark his tastes, hobbies, and friends. And based on this, a huge flow of information and news is filtered, and conclusions are drawn about what is worth offering to this user and what is not (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
188.8.131.52.Social media marketing
Today, the relationship between buyers and producers has changed. Thanks to the development of the Internet and the digital world, everyone can quickly get information and compare products, services, and prices. Therefore, today we can talk about the digital transformation of companies. In such a situation, marketers are interested in new ways to promote a product or service on the Internet (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). Modern advertising activity uses a huge number of different types and forms of advertising in terms of using the impact on the feelings of a potential consumer, the nature of the presentation of advertising material, the nature of the strategic direction of advertising, the degree of influence on the consumer – what underlies the effectiveness of advertising as such (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017). Advertising is always the main tool for promoting products on the market. It is designed to increase the number of customers to maximize sales. In the context of digitalization, we can say that the role of social media has increased. This is a relatively new form of marketing that every business today knows about and uses in advertising (Jashari & Rrustemi, 2017).
If the goal of a business is to attract as many customers as possible, then a social media presence is essential. Also, as we said earlier, small businesses can advertise their products or services on at least one social media platform without a large financial investment. Social media marketing seems the most economical way to advertise any product (Ghose et al., 2019). Creating a new profile and subscribing is free on almost all social networks. Awareness of the advertised brand is increased as the company interacts with a wide audience. To get started, you need to create profiles on social networks and start interacting with them. Simply communicating with potential buyers will increase brand awareness and start building the business’s reputation. Each message that is shared will be presented by a new group of people, which can lead to them becoming potential customers, and the more people who know about the business, the better (Ghose et al., 2019).
Thus, we can say that social media advertising works well when it is necessary to reach a wide range of people because the effect of “word of mouth” is triggered. There is no doubt that just by having a social media page, a brand will be recognizable, and with regular use, it can create a wide audience for a business. Social media advertising gives you a lot of control over your target audience (Ghose et al., 2019). Like traditional display ads, a company can tailor social media ads to target age groups, locations, income ranges, and specific likes or dislikes of potential consumers. Considering that in today’s world, almost everyone owns a smartphone, desktop, and laptop, and they spend a lot of time on social media sites, implementing an SMM strategy greatly improves product recognition as the company will interact with a wide audience (Ghose et al., 2019).
Many argue that social media marketing is arguably the most cost-effective part of an advertising strategy. Signing up and creating a profile is free for almost all social networks, and any paid promotions you choose to invest in are relatively low cost compared to other marketing efforts (Valos et al., 2017). But when developing a strategy for promoting a product on the Internet, you must be careful and monitor how advertising affects sales. If you decide to use paid advertising on social media, you should always start small to see the result. Other competing companies also use social media. One of the disadvantages of using them to run an ad campaign is that many other companies use the same platforms for their promotional messages, and here you can find that the competition is quite fierce, depending on the service or product that is being advertised (Valos et al., 2017).
Accordingly, today the idea of the effectiveness of advertising in social media remains very vague. But while posting on social media can result in a business spending some traffic on the site, it takes more effort to achieve significant success.
2.3.Social media and the consumer
Social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, are currently actively used by companies’ marketers to communicate with their consumers (Nash, 2018). Retail chains are no exception in this regard. Almost every company has its account on al media. It is generally accepted that marketers develop content (text, pictures, and video) and place it on the company account on social media, hoping to interact with consumers (Nash, 2018). Traditionally, this activity is called content marketing. With the use of the content, the companies are trying to win buyers’ interest and ensure a high level of consumer involvement in relations with the brand (Nash, 2018). Increasing consumer preferences entails building strong brand relationships with consumers and increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. That is why the growth of consumer choice is a popular task for marketers nowadays. Despite this, little is known about the impact of different content (Valos et al., 2017).
At the same time, we proceed from the fact that RRP indicators are indicators of such structures as “buyer attitude” and “marketing results,” which result from a reaction to social media content. Likes show the buyer’s attitude toward the content and signal the thoughts and feelings of the buyers (Patil & Atique, 2015). Customer comments show feedback from the company’s consumers and are a meaningful marketing result. The number of buyers who shared a post with the community is another significant marketing result showing word-of-mouth spread.
2.3.1. Special features used online
It should be noted that research on the impact of content on social media FMCG retail chains is rather limited. Some research, both from the field of social media and from the field of advertising and related fields, formed the basis of our content classification.
This category usually includes content with characteristics that can evoke a positive emotional response from a person (Patil & Atique, 2015). We have included two components in this category. First, humor. That is, we will evaluate the impact of the presence of humorous content on the UR. Secondly, icons depict emotions, which are also called an emoticon.
It’s worth noting that we could also measure negative content. However, there is no negative content on the social media pages of retail chains because marketers deliberately seek to evoke positive emotions through content (Ertemel & Ammoura, 2016). Therefore, we will not include the assessment of negative content in our classification. The characteristics of emotional awakening show us how a company conveys its message to consumers on social media through linguistic and visual tools to create positive emotions (Song & Yoo, 2016).
Humorous content. Researchers have previously found that the presence of humor has a positive effect on RH. Worldly wisdom encourages marketers to use humorous content on a company page on social media to increase consumer choice.
Emoticon. Having icons in posts depicting various emotions is common in social media. Retail chains also use this tool to evoke positive emotions in the audience. Studies show that the use of an emoticon has a positive effect on consumer choice (Song & Yoo, 2016).
184.108.40.206.Call to action
This category usually includes content that encourages buyers to take action, for example, follow a link, like it, or write a comment. Marketers often use call-to-action to increase consumer involvement. It is worth noting that a group of scientists has to save previously conducted a study in which they studied the effect of calls to action in the form of questions on consumer engagement (Song & Yoo, 2016). We want to find out how calls to action affect consumer choice in the context of retail chains.
This category usually includes characteristics associated with information keys. I bring to your attention the classification of information based on the study using the information keys proposed by the authors (Song & Yoo, 2016). The researchers suggested information keys such as price information, discount and competition information, product information, and others. We chose among the keys found on the pages of retail chains in social media. These keys are presented by us below.
Discounts. Discount information is one of the information keys. Song & Yoo (2016) showed that discount information negatively affects consumer choice.
Contests. Contests are quite a popular topic on the pages of retail chains on social media. The study by Song & Yoo (2016) showed that the availability of information about competition positively affects consumer choice.
Product information. Product information is the information key used in Resnick and Stern’s work. Some studies show that product information hurts consumer choice (Song & Yoo, 2016). This information is valuable to the consumer.
Information about the company’s service. Retail chains sometimes provide information about the service the company provides to consumers, such as home delivery information (Song & Yoo, 2016).
Information about the company. Retail chains periodically post information about the company on social media, such as the company’s exhibition participation.
Congratulations on your holiday. Some messages on the pages of retail chains on social media are not directly related to the company, for example, congratulations on holiday (Song & Yoo, 2016). This information can positively influence the customer’s choice since associated with events that people already know about and are already thinking about. On the other hand, buyers may consider such posts inappropriate for the brand theme, which may negatively affect consumer choice.
This group usually includes such elements as videos, pictures, links to sites, etc.
Video. Studies show that content that includes video has a greater effect on consumer engagement than content that only contains images or photos (Song & Yoo, 2016).
Pictures of ready meals. Studies show that the presence of pictures positively affects consumer choice (Song & Yoo, 2016). Currently, all posts on retail chains’ social media pages contain pictures or videos. In this regard, we want to find out how the presence of pictures (or photographs) depicting ready-made dishes affects the customer’s choice. These pictures are actively used by marketers of retail chains (Stankevich, 2017).
Changing buying behavior affects retail chain sales. Sales in stores “on the ground” are falling, and sales on the Internet are growing. The rise in popularity of social media such as Instagram and Facebook has led networks to compete for social media buyers (Patil & Atique, 2015). Almost every retail chain has its own social media page where customers write reviews about their shopping experience at the retail chain. Consider the impact of reviews on customer engagement, and sales of the company, and also discuss the idea of managing reviews by the company (Patil & Atique, 2015).
Due to the development of the Internet, online reviews have become actively used by retail chain marketers to promote the brand and products and ensure sales (Patil & Atique, 2015). Thus, online reviews in practice have become a tool for marketing communications. The effectiveness of online reviews and their impact on sales has grown significantly in recent years due to the popularization of online sales and the growth of consumer confidence in online reviews.
It is worth noting that earlier feedback from buyers was distributed only “by word of mouth.” The buyer could tell about his experience only to his acquaintances (Patil & Atique, 2015). With the advent of the Internet, companies began to introduce a mechanism for obtaining feedback from customers in the form of so-called reviews (reviews), including on social media. As a result, many Internet users now have access to reviews. As a result, the influence of this electronic form of word-of-mouth information on purchase decisions has grown significantly. We will call the verbal description of the experience of using the product left by the buyer on the Internet site “online reviews” or “reviews” (Patil & Atique, 2015).
Studies have shown that reviews affect consumer confidence in the company and brand and increase sales. Also, reviews indirectly affect the involvement of buyers in relations with the brand on the company’s social media page, their desire to interact with the brand and actions in the form of “likes,” comments on posts, and how the buyer shares information with other members of the community (Patil & Atique, 2015). By engagement, we will understand the psychological state of the buyer, which is expressed in the interaction of a person with a brand on a company page on social media and subsequent consumer behavior: likes, comments on posts, and the fact that a person shares information with other members of the community (Patil & Atique, 2015). The buyer reads the reviews on the company’s page, builds trust in the company and the brand, and trust increases the buyer’s involvement in the relationship with the brand. According to research results, engagement leads to increased company sales (Sadovykh et al., 2015).
Thus, reviews affect the company’s sales directly through the formation of customer confidence and indirectly through the involvement of consumers in the relationship with the brand on the company’s social media page.
The influence of product-related characteristics on the perception of reviews. Product characteristics such as category, quality, product price, etc., influence the perception of customer reviews, which is confirmed by the results of several studies. For example, in their study, Sadovykh et al. (2015) confirmed that reviews affect customers differently depending on the product category (Sadovykh et al., 2015).
Lăzăroiu et al., (2020) confirmed a relationship between customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth transmission. The researcher found that those who were very dissatisfied with the product and those who were very satisfied with the product distributed the most information (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020).
Satisfaction is a function of both product characteristics and price. In a fixed-price environment, a decrease in product quality leads to decreased customer satisfaction. In conditions of fixed quality, lowering the price leads to an increase in customer satisfaction.
Research results (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020) confirmed that an increase in sources of information leads to an increase in trust. The study’s authors showed that the degree of trust in the product grows with the increase in the number of reviews and the feeling of product quality (Lăzăroiu et al., 2020).
Reviews affect buyers in different ways depending on the following characteristics of the person himself: the buyer’s education, Internet experience, etc. Research by Lăzăroiu et al., (2020) showed that various subjective characteristics influence the buyer’s behavior. For example, the level of education of the buyer affects his need for information about the product.
Conditional reviews can be divided into two types: reviews of low quality and reviews of high quality. From the point of view of information systems theory, the quality of information is assessed based on objectivity, trustworthiness, understandability, and effectiveness of information (Lăzăroi et al., 020). In marketing, information can be viewed from the point of view of its effective influence on the decision to purchase. The results of the study showed that the message that has an impact on the buyer is objective and understandable. In contrast, subjective and emotional messages are considered low-quality and weak. We will look at the quality of reviews in terms of relevance, credibility, understandability, and effectiveness (Ghose et al., 2019). Relevance shows the degree of relationship between the information and the product.
Understandability indicates the degree of ease of perception of information. Detailed reviews show the number of objective characteristics you can evaluate the product. High-quality content is compelling because it contains relevant information presented in an understandable form and assesses many objective characteristics (Ghose et al., 2019).
The effect of “disagreement” in reviews on the number of reviews (Ghose et al., 2019) was also seen. “Disagreement” refers to polar opinions. The more opposing opinions reflected in the reviews, the more reviews will appear in the future. The researchers also revealed the complex dynamic nature of the relationship between online reviews, as first feedback influences subsequent feedback (Ghose et al., 2019).
On the one hand, negative reviews can lead to a decrease in sales. On the other hand, as studies have shown, negative reviews are necessary to create customer confidence in the site and brand (Ghose et al., 2019). Negative reviews help provide credibility to the source. Modern buyers understand that the presence of only positive reviews may indicate that reviews are being deleted and edited. The researchers noticed that buyers consider not only the review but also the author of the review. If the reader does not like the author of a negative review, then the reader can ignore this review. Therefore, the company needs to ensure transparency of reviews and reviewers (Ghose et al., 2019).
The literature review has allowed us to determine that besides simply an internal preference and disposition that the individual may have towards a particular product, there are specific means that the company employs to promote its product and entice the individual to make the purchase.
3. Research Methodology
Social media impact the change in media consumption practices and the formation of new types of target audiences. Social networks have brought Internet communication of users to a qualitatively new level, associated with the possibility of individual and collective communication and collaboration: “It can be argued that for many users such communication is becoming an essential part of social life and daily communications. This is especially true for the population in the active consumer phase of the life cycle. The generation of young people (Internet generation) is more technologically advanced than previous generations. They are more open and active in using the Internet in their lives. And, accordingly, be influenced by companies and brands.
The choice between quantitative and qualitative methods is one of the most important research decisions since it determines not only the nature of data processing – with or without quantitative calculations, but also the deep foundations of the study, the very approach to studying the object. The differences between the methods are, firstly, in a different understanding of social reality: quantitative methods are based on the position that social reality, like the physical world, is an external, objective, independently existing given, and qualitative methods are based on understanding social reality as a continuous a construct created by people, as a result of the collective formation and attribution of meanings to various objects, events, phenomena.
In quantitative studies of stereotypes, these provisions are realized in the approach to the stereotype as a strictly defined, fixed, “given from the outside,” objective social phenomenon that can be identified and measured. These methods are used to cut stereotypes in a certain society and/or to reveal their dependence on various social factors. In this case, the dynamics of changes in stereotypes are studied in a diachronic aspect over sufficiently long periods (usually decades) by utilizing the information from the large groups.
Qualitative methods approach the stereotype as constantly constructed and reconstructed at the individual psychological and social level, creating a subjective phenomenon of perception and thinking in the communicative process. They are focused to a greater extent on the contextual study of the mechanisms of formation, transformation, and functioning of stereotypes in everyday life and the reconstruction of subjective images as elements of social reality from the point of view of the bearers of stereotypes themselves. In other words, the use of quantitative methods involves the external view of an impartial observer, as it is believed. In contrast, the use of qualitative methods is an attempt to describe the reality of life.
Considering the peculiarity of the topic, one has designed the questionnaire following the qualitative method. The questionnaire design can be found in Appendix A.
The participants have been approached online via Facebook. The questionnaire has been spread around various social groups with a request for the users to fill it in. Thus, the age and gender are different, with the people coming from different backgrounds. The study has several limitations that one has turned to. One is that the individual must reside in the United Kingdom as this study is staged in the setting of the British Isles. At the same time, because most internet users are above the age of 18 and under 30, this study is also limited by age.
Because Facebook was chosen as the platform to spread the questionnaire, one must consider that there are as many as 2.93 billion monthly users of this social media platform. Naturally, only as much as 24% of this amount is within the designated age group between 18 and 30 years. Thus, the amount of interest is 703 200 000 individuals. However, naturally, it is impossible to reach out to all of them.
n = (z²*p*q)/e²
n – sample size;
z is the normalized deviation determined based on the selected confidence level. This indicator characterizes the possibility, the probability of getting answers in a special – confidence interval. In practice, the confidence level is often taken as 95% or 99%. Then the z values will be 1.96 and 2.58, respectively;
p is the variation for the sample in shares. In essence, p is the probability that respondents will choose one or another answer option. Suppose we believe that a quarter of the respondents will choose the answer “Yes.” Then p will be equal to 25%, p = 0.25. When using a percentage measure of variability, the maximum variability is reached for p = 50%, which is the worst case, is taken into account. Sometimes, when it is impossible to determine the variation for the sample, the maximum measure of variability is used.
q = (1 – p);
e is the allowable error, infractions. In our case, it is 5%
3.1.1. Validity and reliability of data
In the social sciences, validity is understood quite broadly, but most often – as validity. The concept of validity refers not to the sample but the research methodology. A technique or measurement (questionnaire, block of questions, test) is considered valid if it captures exactly the concept planned to be measured. For example, if we want to assess the level of customer loyalty to the store and choose only the indicator of the frequency of visits, the validity of this approach will not be complete.
The study has a well-developed theoretical framework with an explained sampling method regarding the number of people required for this study. No violations of sampling representation have been found.
4. Results and Analysis
The questionnaire has many questions that revolve around the same topic, which were required to ultimately determine whether the individual was genuinely responding to questions or simply ticking them off one by one. Therefore, these questions were grouped in the presentation of the results below.
The raw data from the survey questionnaire was then analyzed in SPSS, and the results are presented below with their consecutive discussion
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
As can be seen from the received data, 38.2% (n=147) were female, and 61.8% (n=238) individuals were male. This is somewhat strange, as it seemed that females were more inclined to participate in “shopping surveys” that are widely available on the Internet.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
The results from participants regarding social media preference about finding information about a particular product are presented further. Only 1.8% (n=7) consider Twitter a viable source of product information. Of all participants, 9.1% (n=35) think that Tik Tok is a good source of information. Yet, surprisingly, only 10.9% (n=42) of individuals have determined Facebook to be a good source to search for a product. Next comes YouTube with 38.2% (n=147) individuals, and Instagram is in the lead with 40% (n=154). This means that most participants consider YouTube, with its video reviews and ads, as well as Instagram, with a massive amount of information, to be the perfect platform for searching for information about a product online.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Here, there was no surprise as 100% (n=385) of the individuals spend more than 10 hours weekly surfing the web. Ultimately, as one considered the age group from 18 to 30 years, the age group that is the largest user on the Internet, it ought to have been obvious that 100% would have been spending more than 10 hours weekly online.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
No individual thought that social media channels were not an informative means of receiving information. Although 18.2% (n=70) did remain neutral on this question, as much as 45.5% (n=175) and 36.4% (n=140) agreed and strongly agreed that social media channels have a substantial amount of information regarding the product that the individual is interested in.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
As illustrated in the theoretical framework, personal predisposition plays a significant role in an individual’s choices. The results show that 14.8% (n=57) always and 56.9% (n=219) often consider their predisposition towards a product while shopping. As much as 28.3% (n=109) have claimed that they are open to options and will not necessarily consider making the ultimate choice based solely on personal preferences, although the possibility was never denied.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Social media is a trigger for consumer choice. At least 35.6% (n=137) agreed with this statement. However, 50.6% (n=195) disagree that it is a trigger claiming that they make the ultimate and final choice. These individuals are sure that they are making their decision based on the numerous factors and variables that they have met both online and considering their predisposition. Sensing the uncertainty, 13.8% (n=53) have claimed that they are unsure whether social media triggers the choices that they make.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Regarding whether alternative channels such as TV, radio, newspaper, and brochures are better than social media channels, the respondents were rather quick to reply. As much as 58.2% (n=224) have disagreed, and 41.8% (n=161) have strongly disagreed, that is the case. One must remember that the age group that one is working with is 18 to 30 years old. These individuals spend more than 10 hours of their weekly time online. Naturally, they would like social media as the most reliable and comfortable source of information that they have available to them.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Irrespective of whether the respondents found social media convenient and more comfortable than the traditional channels. There is always a question of prior research before the purchase is made. The numbers are as follows: 16.6% (n=64) individuals always scour the Internet with prior research, 59.5% (n=229) often do this, whereas as much as 23.9% (n=92) sometimes accomplish prior research.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Social media has a great impact on consumer choice. At least 35.6% (n=137) agreed with this statement. However, 50.6% (n=195) disagree, claiming that they are the ones who make the ultimate and final choice. Of course, they are 100% sure they are the ones to make a choice. Yet, as much as 13.8% (n=53) are not so sure.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Many scholars have always brought up the question of social media credibility. Yet, of the respondents, 47.8% (n=184) have at once responded that, yes, social media can be trusted. Yet, 52.2% (n=201) of individuals have adopted a more logical approach. It is futile to judge them as this is a matter of trust. Naturally there are many scams on social media, with some people trying to take the benefits of others. Yet, in this case, prior research is a must, as 71.7% (n=276) of individuals have agreed before.
|Frequency||Percent||Valid Percent||Cumulative Percent|
Feedback and comments do influence consumer behavior and the choices that an individual makes. Of course, just reading the review, comments, and feedback on production can make a personal choice. Yet, ultimately getting to the reading the feedback stage is considered prior research that one performs online. Nonetheless, as much as 25.5% (n=98) individuals strongly agree, whereas 52.7% (n=203) individuals simply agree that feedback availability triggers consumer choice. Yet, 21.8% (n=84) have remained rather skeptical due to knowing that many companies pay people to create these feedback comments. Nonetheless, if the product is bad, there would be feedback about its qualities from multiple people and one will be able to make a decision based on that.
This study shows that social media plays an important role in consumer choice. The raw data received from 385 individuals has allowed one to assess the impact of social media on their shopping. Yet, what is interesting, is that despite the obvious evidence that social media influences people’s choices, more than 50% are inclined to believe that they are the ones who are making the ultimate choice. It seems that these people do not understand that social media creates a possibility, or rather conditions, this choice that the individual makes. As mentioned in the literature review, social media imply various means that push the individual to make a certain choice, one that the company-manufacturer needs, namely to have the individual make the purchase.
6. Future research and recommendations
There has not been much research studying social media’s impact on consumer preferences, let alone specific social media impact. Thus, we can propose a further study of the share of the above-mentioned social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube, in terms of the influence on a person when making a specific purchase.
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