How Branding Affects the Consumer Buying Process?

The high rate of globalization presents an opportunity for firms in different economic sector. One of the sectors which will benefit is the global hotel industry as a result of growth in tourism (Gelder, 2005, p.34). Most investors around the world are considering venturing into the hotel industry due to the market opportunity presented. However, the future success of firms in the hotel industry is greatly dependent on their effectiveness in creating and sustaining long term relationship with the customers (Brady& Cronin, 2001, p.241). This is due to the fact that globalization also presents a challenge with regard to increased competition. Additionally, the global hotel industry is also faced with a challenge arising from the 2008 financial crisis. Despite the negative effects of the financial crisis on the travel business in China, most four and five star hotels survived the crisis. This is evident in the fact that China experienced an increase in the number of branded five star hotel rooms to 67,000 by 2009.

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One of the ways through which firms in the hotel industry can attain this is by ensuring that there is a high degree of customer loyalty. Customer loyalty in the hotel industry is affected by a number of factors such as the quality of services offered (Lau, Akbar & Fie, 2005, p.45). Failure to develop sustainable customer loyalty can jeopardize a firm’s effort to attain its profit maximization objective. To develop customer loyalty, hotels are increasing their investment towards management of customer relationships. As a result, firms’ management teams are able to understand the customers’ needs and demands. In addition, hotels are able to utilize the information received to develop their product or service to satisfy the customers’ needs. According to Ramzi and Mohamed (2010, p. 886), the main objective is to nurture the short term relationship established with the customers into the long term.

Problem statement

According to Glynn (p.129), less emphasis was given to branding. This arose from the fact that consumer purchasing behavior was regarded as being rational. On the other hand, brands were usually associated irrational and emotional issues. However, this trend has changed due to realization of the fact that consumers are influenced by other intangible factors in their purchasing patterns.

Considering the intensity of competition in the five star hotel industry, ability of firms in this industry succeeding is greatly dependent on the effectiveness with which they understand the consumer purchasing behavior (Kullman, 2007, p.34). As a result, firms will be able to influence the decision making process. This has arisen from the growth in the degree of homogeneity in the products being offered in the hotel industry. In addition, there has been a significant decline in the extent to which firms are undertaking product differentiation due to the intense competition. To develop their competitive advantage, firms are shifting their focus to consumer driven marketing activities.

One of the main focuses that firms in the hotel industry are considering is branding. According to Giribaldi (2003, p.23), branding entails a combination of a number of products attributes which as communicated to the customers through a name or symbol. These name or the symbols used have a capacity of influencing the customers’ decision making process. Currently, branding is being considered as a core organizational asset. Hassenien, Dale & Clarke (2010, p.32) is of the opinion that this arises from the fact that branding leads to emergence of symbolic values which the customers associate the product with. Branding leads to development of a certain perception of the product or service amongst the customers hence influencing it reputation (Franzen & Moriaty, 2009, p.34). Kotler (2003) is of the opinion that branding can contribute into a firm being effectively positioned in the market. This means that branding can be an effective means through which a firm can attain effective differentiation from its competitors. The resultant effect is that customers develop a strong loyalty towards the product (Akbar & Som, 2011, p.19).

Justification

The five-star hotel industry is characterized by intense competition. This presents a challenge to the consumers in their decision making processes since they have to select from a wide range of similar products. To be efficient in their decision making process, consumers often select brands which they are satisfied in the past (Ford, 2005, p.90). This means that consumers heavily depend on their past consumption experiences to satisfy their current need. Due to the intensity of competition in the five star hotel industries, firms which have incorporated effective branding have a high probability of succeeding because branding facilitates the consumers’ decision making process.

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Research objectives

This dissertation is aimed at evaluating branding within the five-star hotel industry in China. The research is guided by one main objective which entails evaluating how branding affects the consumer decision making process within the five star hotel industries. To attain this, the researcher has broken down the main objective into a number of minor objectives as outlined below.

  • To evaluate the aspects of branding in the hotel industry and how they influence consumer buying process.
  • To understand the consumers’ buying behavior within the five star hotels.
  • To evaluate what motivates customers to purchase from a particular five star hotel.

Research Question

  1. What are the main aspects of branding integrated by five-star hotel and how to they influence consumer buying process?
  2. What are the main consumers buying behaviors depicted within the five-star hotel industry?
  3. What motivates customers to purchase from particular five-star hotels

Limitation of the study

Due to scarcity of resources in relation to time and finances, it was not possible to conduct the study on the entire region in South East Asia. However, the researcher assumes that consideration of the selected respondents will contribute towards attainment of a general view of the how branding in the five-star hotel industry influences the consumer decision making process. This arises from the fact that findings obtained from the selected respondents will be considered to be a representative of the entire customer population in the five-star hotel industry.

Significance of the study

Findings of the study will be of significant importance to management teams of five-star hotels in formulating strategies aimed at positioning the hotel in a market characterized by intense competition. One of the ways through which this will be attained is by investing towards improvement of their reputation through effective branding mechanisms. By understanding the consumer decision making process and their past association with previous brands, the hotels will be able to offer products and services that result into maximum customer satisfaction. The resultant effect is five star hotels will be efficient in developing sustainable customer relationship (Sloan, Legrand & Chen, 2009, p.34).

The hotel industry has become very complex over the past few decades. Currently, the industry has become very extensive since it is composed of different but closely related firms such as resorts, hotels, and motels. This has led to an increment in the degree of rivalry arising from intense competition in the industry. Despite the intensity of competition, the industry has witnessed significant growth over the past three decades especially in Asian countries such as China and India (Ball, 2007, p.75). The growth of the hospitality industry arises from an increase in domestic and international tourism around the world. In order to satisfy the customers and create a high level of customer loyalty, hotels are required to offer high quality services and to maintain high standards (Bateson & Hoffman, 1999, p.34).

The aim of this study is to evaluate the consumer decision making process. Through the analysis, the researcher intends to evaluate how branding affects the consumer buying process in five-star hotels.

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This chapter is organized into a number of sections. The first section illustrates how branding has been incorporated in the hotel industry. The second section gives an analysis of the link between branding and reputation. The third section illustrates how consumers in the hotel industry are increasingly using the brand name in making their purchase decision. The last section gives a summary of the entire chapter.

Branding in five-star hotels

According to Kayaman and Arasli (2007, p.92), branding is currently being considered as one of the most important aspects in the success if firms in the global hotel industry. Branding contributes towards a growth in the level of customer trust especially with regard to firms dealing with service (Rubini, 2010, p.20). Most of the firms dealing with consumer goods are increasingly considering introducing products of comparable quality similar to those dealt with by high-end firms. As a result, they are increasing their investment in value building (Fombrun, 2008, p. 41). Developing their corporate name has also become a strategic component in the success of firms in the hospitality industry (Hsu & Powers, 2002, p.45). Branding within the service sector is relatively different compared to firms dealing with tangible products.

To be effective in branding, firms which deal with services such as hotels have to take into account unique aspects such as improving the employees’ attitude. This is due to the fact that the external brand value commanded by a product is dependent on how the customers perceive the product relative to a competing product. According to Ind (2007, p.157), the external brand value is affected by employee behavior and attitude. Services such as hotel services have unique characteristics which include intangibility. In addition, production and consumption of services cannot be separated. Individual who consume hotel services are only left with memories of what they experienced.

Kayaman and Arasli (2007, p. 92), further assert that there is a high probability of firm that has incorporated the concept of branding penetrating effectively in the United States hotel market compared to one which has not. However, the ratio of penetration varies across continents. Luxury hotel managers are increasingly being concerned on how to tangible the intangible.

Branding entails the process of developing brand equity in an effort to gain competitive advantage (Foxall, Goldsmith & Brown, 1998, p.186). This can either be in the form of a name, logo, or a symbol. Branding is composed of five main components which include positioning, story telling, price, developing customer relationship and designing (Healey, 2008, p.10). Positioning entails the perception that the consumers have developed regarding a particular brand relative to the competing brands. Story telling refers to the emotional story developed by the customers regarding the product. On the other hand, design does not only entail the visual aspect of but also the various aspects of how the product is crafted. The price also plays and important role in branding. Highly priced products are able to develop a strong brand image. Finally, customer relationship entails the bond developed between the customers and the particular brand. Yee and Sidek (2003, p. 222) are of the opinion that one of the ways through which a firm can be effective in branding is by developing a strong brand name.

Increase in the popularity of branding within the hotel industry arises from a number of factors. Some of these factors originate from the consumers.

In searching for information consumers do not want to waste a lot of time searching for information. However, they consider purchasing products and services which they are conversant with since they feel confident (Teare & Bowen, 1997, p. 275). Additionally, firms in this industry are increasingly considering branding in an effort to minimize marketing cost. According to O’Neil and Mattila (2006, p.74), a strong brand is associated with a high level of customer satisfaction. The overall effect is that a firm is able to attain its profit maximization objective and hence a high growth rate.

Branding and reputation

Brand name is one of the most important components of a brand. According to Kotler (2009, p. 434), a firm has to be efficient in developing its brand name. The brand name must be memorable, meaningful, likeable, adaptable and protectable. With regard to being memorable a brand name should be easy to pronounce and spell. It should be easy to recall and recognize and have a meaning. The brand name should also be likeable, that is, good sounding. The transferability characteristic of a brand name entails the ease with which a new product can be introduced in the market using the brand name.

According to Kotler (2009, p. 434), branding should be easily protected by the law for such as using the brand name as its trademark. According to Fombrun (2008, p.41), firms’ corporate names represent a brand name. In order to survive in the long-run as going concern entity, firms in the hotel industry are increasingly seeking legal protection of their corporate names. A firm’s corporate name is used as an identity of its reputation. A strong name contributes towards a firm developing its corporate value.

Hitt, Ireland and Hoskisson (2009, p.78), assert that firms in the service industry such as the hotel industry can greatly benefit by building their reputation as an intangible resource hence increasing its competitive advantage. Most scholars argue that reputation is a valuable resource that contributes towards a firm attaining sustainable competitive advantage. Reputation in the hotel industry arises from both actions and words. Hitt, Ireland and Hoskisson (2009, p.78) assert that reputation is not earned overnight but it is as a result of handwork and a number of years of marketplace competence. Therefore, developing a strong reputation forms the major reason why firms undertake branding.

Reputation signifies the extent to which a firm or its product has been able to develop a high level awareness amongst the stakeholders. One of the ways through which a firm can develop its reputation is through innovation and aggressive and continual advertising. According to Hitt, Ireland and Hoskisson (2009, p.78), firms are committed at improving and maintaining their reputation by increasingly building their brand name. In the event of their brand name being tarnished, firms undertake aggressive campaign to rebuild its image and restore its brand name since they consider it to be a strategic component in the firm’s success (Enz, 2010, p.34).

Brand name in the hotel industry

Considering the intensity of competition, the market is flooded with a wide range of brands for the consumer to select. However, Wu (p.388) assert that there is a high probability of consumers purchasing famous brands and creating repeat purchase behavior compared to products which are not branded. According to Kohli and Thakor (1997, p. 210), the success of a firm in the hotel industry is dependent on the product it offered and its corporate image. For a firm’s products to be successful in the market, it has to be timeless which means that the brand name must have significant impact on the consumers purchasing decision (Rubini, 2010, p. 45).

In their consumption patterns, consumers use brand to identify a certain product. It is possible to identify how consumers have relied on the brand name to differentiate a product from competing products by evaluating the brand history (Mozota, 2003, p.98).

Currently, the hotel industry offers a broad range of products and services. This has led to hotel rating into first class, mid-range, first class or economy hotels. According to Tepeci (1999, p.45), consumers portray certain behaviors in their purchasing patterns. Consumer behavior refers to all consumer decisions with reference to product acquisition, consumption, the experiences derived and ideas formed regarding the product (Hoyer & Macinnis, 2008, p. 3).

The consumer buying process

In their purchasing process, consumers portray diverse behaviors which vary depending on the type of product. If the product is purchased frequently, minimal effort is given in the decision making process (Pride, Hughes & Kapoor, 2008, p.429). However, it is important for marketers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumer behavior.

Prior to the purchase of a particular product, consumers undertake a comprehensive decision making process. According to Riesenbeck and Perry (2008, p.128), brands play a vital role in the consumers purchasing process. Reynolds and Olson (2001, p.4) are of the opinion that firms are faced with a challenge in their marketing process since they have to ensure that their products result into customers attaining a high value.

Considering the intensity of competition in the hotel industry, it is paramount for firms in the industry to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumer decision making process. When making a purchase decision, consumers undergo a series of steps. The first stage entails realization of the need, information search, identifying the product, evaluating the available alternatives and finally purchasing of the most appropriate product. If a consumer frequently purchase a particular product, minimal time is spent in the decision making process. However, the repurchase decision is based on their prior knowledge of brand name (Hansen & Christensen, 2003, p.33).

According to Pride, Hughes and Kapoor (2008, p. 429), there are three main categories of influences that affect the decision making process. These influences include situational influences, social influences and psychological influences. Situational influences relate to time, purchasing reasons, buyers’ mood and condition, physical surrounding and social surrounding. Social influences originate from the family, social class, roles, peer groups, culture and subcultures. On the other hand, psychological influences entail the consumers’ perception, learning, attitude, motives, personality and lifestyle. These influences affect the buying process.

When purchasing a product, consumers undergo a comprehensive process of decision making as discussed below.

Problem or need recognition

This arises upon the customer becoming aware of existence of a difference or a gap between his or her current state and the desired state. Recognition of a need or a gap can either be rapid or slow. This means that consumers can have a need but lack to understand. In an effort to stimulate or trigger need recognition amongst the consumers, marketers undertake various activities such as advertising and effective packaging.

Information search

Upon recognizing the need, consumers undertake a comprehensive information search to identify the product that will help him or her to solve the identified problem or need. Some of the sources of information that the consumer consider include internal search and external search. Internal search entails relying on their knowledge or memory to identify the most appropriate product.

External search entails use of different sources such as relying on personal associates, friends and relatives. These parties are influential in the process of the consumer making the decision. This arises from the fact that the consumer has developed a certain degree of trust from these parties.

However, Pride and Ferrel (2011, p.131) are of the opinion that the consumer may overestimate the advice given by his or her friends. Another external source of information that the consumer may consider includes the market-oriented sources such as salespersons, websites, in-store demonstration, advertising and package labeling. Searching for information from these sources requires minimal effort. The internet has become one of the main sources of information that consumers are relying on.

Consumers may also obtain product information from independent sources such as the consumer and government reports and other publications. These sources are highly considered to be credible because they are unbiased. In order to be effective in creating information amongst the consumers, marketers have perfected the art of advertising. Firms undertake continuous product advertising in an effort to increase learning amongst the consumers.

In this step, the consumer may consider different product characteristics such as the brand name. According to Kaung, Yeh and Yang (2009, p.135), the brand is used to represent the consumers’ opinion and perception towards a certain product. The success of a particular brand in the market is dependent on the effect it has on the consumers. Brands within the same industry command different level of awareness amongst the consumers. Some brands have a high level of awareness amongst the consumers while others do not. In addition, some brands are easily acceptable and consumers do not have any difficulty purchasing them. As a result, consumers have developed strong brand loyalty for these products.

Evaluation of alternatives

Upon conducting a comprehensive information search, the consumer emerges with a wide range of products to select from. In selecting the most appropriate product, consumers tend to emphasize on brands that they have heard of previously. The selection process is based on a well formulated criterion. The criterion is developed on the basis of the most important aspects of the product according to the consumer. In addition, the consumer selects the products according to the importance he or she assigns a particular product. The consumer may also rank the selected products in accordance to their characteristics. In the event that the products identified do not meet the customers requirement, he or she will undertake a further information search.

According to Pride and Ferrell (2011, p.132), marketers may influence this process by prescribing alternative products for the consumer to consider. Additionally, they may also stress on some of the characteristics of the product selected. This process is referred to as framing. There is a high probability of the process of framing influencing the decision making process of inexperienced buyers compared to experienced buyers.

Purchase

In this stage, the consumer makes a decision on the product to purchase. This stage is dependent on the success of the evaluation stage. However, the availability of the product in the market may also affect the brand that the consumers will purchase. This means that the consumers can purchase an alternative product that is available in the market.

Post purchase evaluation

This stage entails evaluating whether the product purchased contributes towards the customer meeting the desired level of satisfaction. This stage forms the basis of whether the consumers will purchase the particular product in the future. One of the ways through which marketers can evaluate whether their products can form a long term relationship with the customers is by conducting a post purchase evaluation. At this stage, the marketers should evaluate the customers’ responses regarding the product. Upon consuming a product, buyers develop four main experiences. These include being delighted whereby the consumer achieves more satisfaction than expected, satisfaction whereby the product just meets the customers’ expectations. The other experience is dissatisfaction where the product does not meet the customers’ satisfaction. Finally, there is cognitive dissonance which means that the consumer doubts the product.

Consumer Buying Process
Figure 1: Consumer Buying Process

Brands names command a certain value which enables the consumers to consider in their purchasing patterns. The value of a brand is determined by its quality and the satisfaction derived by the consumers (Ganesan, 2007, p.64). If the value of the product is high, consumers tend to develop trust in such a product. The resultant effect is that a positive connection with the customers is established.

In their decision making process, consumers select products that meet their desired needs and utility. They also consider products that lead to improvement of their self esteem. According to Hansen and Christensen (2003, p. 29), brand names depict a particular aspect about the product and the consumer. The brand names give a summary of different aspects regarding the consumer. Some of these aspects include their knowledge, experiences and feelings towards the brand. Brand feeling refers to the customers’ emotional response to a specific brand. A brand name which evokes a feeling of warmth, fun, excitement, self respect, social approval and security is considered to be strong.

According to Yee and Sidek (2008, p.221), brand name play a vital role in the development of brand loyalty amongst the consumers. Yee and Sidek (2008, p. 222) further argue that the reputation of a brand affects the consumers buying process. This arises from the fact that consumer make their decision to purchase a product either consciously or unconsciously. These authors further assert that development of brand loyalty is the major reason why firms undertake various marketing activities (Wong & Sohal, 2003, p.497).

When making a decision to purchase a product which they are aware of, consumers feel more comfortable. According to Hansen and Christensen (2003, p.34), consumers in most cases do not prefer purchasing brands which they are not conversant with. This mainly applies if the product is costly. There is a high probability of a firm with a strong brand name attracting customers to purchase its products compared to unknown brand.

Conclusion

This chapter entails a review of information from various sources such as books and journals on how the reputation of a brand name affects the consumers purchasing process. A number of elements are highlighted in the chapter such as how the concept of branding is increasingly being integrated in the hotel industry. The chapter also reviews the link between brand name and reputation. Through the review of literature from various sources, the chapter helps to understand the fact that reputation of a brand name plays a significant role in the success of firms in different economic sectors such as the hotel industry.

In addition, the chapter evaluates how consumers consider the branding of a product or a firm prior to making a purchase decision. This is achieved by illustrated a theoretical framework that analyzes the process that the consumers undergo in their decision making process. One of the reasons cited in the chapter why hotels are integrating the concept of branding is to develop their competitive advantage. The review illustrates that a strong brand name contributes to creation a good reputation amongst the customers.

This chapter entails the method used in conducting the study. The chapter is organized into a number of sections. The first section gives an outline of the research hypothesis. Identification and selection of a research design to be used in conducting the study forms the second section. The third part gives a description of the procedure used in collecting data from the field. The fourth section illustrates the method used in analyzing the data. The fifth part relates to the sampling method used in selecting the respondents of the study. The sixth section gives an analysis of the sample size used in the study and the technique used in determining the sample size. Ethical issues which are considered in undertaking the research are identified and discussed in section seven The limitations and assumptions considered in the study illustrated in part eight. Finally a summary of the entire chapter is given.

Research Hypothesis

In conducting the study, the researcher is guided by one null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis. The null hypothesis indicates the relationship between the dependent and the independent variable.

Null hypothesis(H0): The reputation of a brand affects consumers buying behaviour in that consumers purschase products that they consider to have a strong brand reputation.

Alternative hypothesis (H1). The reputation of a brand name does not affect the consumer’s buying behavior.

Research Design

Longnecker (2008) defines research design as a framework which guides the researcher in process of conducting the study thus making the study to be logical. According to Bickman & Rog (1998), research design acts as an architectural blueprint for a particular research project. This arises from the fact that it links the process of data collection with research questions and data analysis activities. This contributes towards ensuring that the research objectives are effectively addressed.

In an effort to understand whether reputation of a brand name affects the consumer buying process, the researcher undertook an investigative study by incorporating an effective research design. The research design ensured that the study was well organized through employment of data collection and analysis methods hence increasing the relevancy and purpose of the study.

According to Creswell (2003, p.203), effective selection of a research design is paramount. Maxwell (2005, p.2) further asserts that the research design selected should be reflective of the entire research process. In addition, a good research design should have all its components working harmoniously in promoting the findings of the study.

In conducting the study, qualitative and quantitative research designs were incorporated in an effort to increase the outcome of the study. Qualitative research design increases the ease of conducting the research thus making the study to be more comprehensive and realistic. Considering the fact that qualitative research results into gathering of a wide range of information, the quantitative research design will also be incorporated. This will make it easier for the target stakeholders such as hotel management teams to interpret the research findings. Quantitative research design incorporates a number of statistical methods which is made possible by use of numbers specific to the phenomenon under investigation. Integration of quantitative research design will also contribute towards improving the quality of the research. According to Creswell (2003, p.203), the core objective of integrating the two research designs in a study is to enrich the description given by the participants in the study. The ultimate effect is that the researcher is able to conduct deep analysis thus providing rich details regarding the study.

Data collection and instrumentation

This study will use primary sources of data. With regard to primary research, the study will employ the survey research strategy as a primary source of data. In collecting the data, the research will use questionnaires and interviews. The questionnaires will be both open ended and closed ended in nature. Open ended questionnaires will give the respondents an opportunity to answer the questions according to their knowledge without limiting them. The resultant effect is that the respondents are able to give their own views freely. On the other hand, close ended questionnaires will be used where a specific answer is required from the respondents.

In conducting the interview, the researcher will ensure that a good rapport with the interviewer is established. To achieve this, an interview guide will be developed to ensure that the interview is undertaken in a more organized and consistent manner. Closed ended questionnaires will be used where a specific answer is required.

Sampling design

In the process of conducting the study, the researcher incorporated the concept of sampling. Bryman and Bell (2005, p.185) define sampling as the process of choosing relevant data sources which will be used in generating relevant information. The concept of sampling is incorporated since it is not possible to collect data from the entire market. In sampling, the researcher has to identify a specific population from which the sample to be used in the study is selected. In conducting the study, the researcher incorporated the concept of purposive sampling. This entails selection or respondents who are conversant with the issue under investigation. Kent (2007, p. 23) asserts that the respondents should have a similar characteristics so as to ensure that the feedback is related.

Through sampling, all the parties in the sample population have the same probability of being selected thus eliminating bias. From the sample population, a sample which is the finite part of the statistical population is selected. When conducting a research, it is vital to for the researcher to determine the sample size effectively. This arises from the fact that there is a direct relationship between the degree of errors in a research study and the sample size. Small sample sizes lead into diminishing the power of the particular study. On the other hand, a large sample size increases the degree to which the results of the study are statistically significant. However, a large sample size is associated with huge costs in terms of time and finances (Kent, 2007, p. 23). Therefore, it is vital to select an adequate sample size so as to improve reliability of the study results.

Considering the fact that the researcher was mainly concerned with analyzing how reputation of a brand name affects consumers buying decision in the hotel industry, the target population considered was composed of customers who patronize 5-star hotels in China. The study will include will consider mainly individuals whose age is above 18 years. Selection of these respondents arose from the fact that these individuals are concerned with consumption of luxuries. In addition, these individuals form a class of professionals which means that they have a relatively high income and a unique lifestyle. The researcher will contact them by liaising with the hotel to give the contact of the intended respondents. The researcher will conduct the study in South East Asia whereby eight five-star hotels will be considered. Systematic sampling will be used in selecting the hotel so as to eliminate bias.

Decision to select South East Asia in conducting the study arose from realization of the fact that the region has a substantial number of 5-Star hotels. To familiarize with the region, the researcher will conduct a reconnaissance in South East Asia so as to determine the feasibility of conducting the study in the area.

In selecting the 5-star hotel to consider in undertaking the study, the researcher will consider a number of elements. The first element entails ensuring that the study is in a busy environment with regard to customer base all year round. In addition, the researcher ensured that the hotel selected is visited by quests from all over the world.

Validity and reliability of the instrument

Prior to administering the questionnaires, the researcher ensured that the questions were well structured for ease of understanding by the respondents. Any form of ambiguity from the questionnaire was eliminated.

Data coding, sample size

In order to increase the ease of data analysis, the researcher incorporated the concept of data coding which entailed assigning codes to the data collected on the basis of the responses. Data coding was enhanced by utilization of a 5 point Likert Scale. The resultant effect was enhancement in the ease interpretation and reduction in the volume of data collected from the field. According to Longnecker (2008, p. 56) data reduction culminates into the data becoming sharp and focused through elimination of data which is not relevant. In order to minimize errors in the study, the researcher appreciated the importance of using a small sample size of 20 respondents.

Data analysis

In analyzing the data collected effectively, the research integrated both qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis. In order to be effective in data analysis, the research should incorporate effective data analysis tools. To achieve this, the researcher employed data analysis tools which included Microsoft Excel and Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The computer program incorporated is SPSS 16.0. For these tools to be used effectively, the researcher incorporated data coding. In this case, the data collected was categorized into a number of classes in which various codes were assigned. This made it easier for the researcher to analyze the data. Use of these tools helped in analyzing the data by presenting it using tables, percentages and charts.

Ethical consideration

According to McBurney and White (2009, p.9), consideration of ethics is an integral part of a research study. The first element relates to the responsibility towards the various individuals involved in the study. Secondly, the researcher has to integrate honesty and accuracy in the reporting process. The researcher also ensured that there was voluntary consent in relation to the parties involved in the research by eliminating any form of force, duress, deceit, fraud, over-reaching, any form of intervention or ulterior form of coercion or constraint in the study. The respondents had the capacity to pull out of the study as desired without any repercussions. There was no any form of penalty associated with pulling out of the study.

It was also ensured that the respondents selected had comprehension and sufficient knowledge with regard to the subject matter of the research. This consideration ensured that the respondents had a capacity to fully participate in the research. The researcher also obtained permission from the local authority to conduct the study in the respective area thus minimizing suspicion from the public during the actual study.

Limitation and assumptions of the study

Due to scarcity of resources in relation to time and finances, it was possible to conduct the study on all the 5-star hotels in the region. However the study selected 8 hotels in the region. The researcher assumed that the selected sample will be a representative of the phenomenon in the market.

Summary

The study is aimed at establishing whether branding affects the consumer buying process within the five-star hotels in the hotel industry. This chapter illustrates the research method used by the researcher in conducting the study. Both quantitative and qualitative research designs are used. To increase the relevance of the study, an effective sampling process was incorporated. Questionnaires and interviews were used to obtain relevant data.

The chapter presents a demographic description of the respondents in the study. Some of the respondents demographic characteristics evaluated include their gender, age, education background and profession. The chapter also evaluates the research questions in the study and the framework of decision making process in an effort to understand the consumer buying behavior in the five-star hotel industry. This is attained by reviewing the primary research information obtained from the consumer’s contemporary buying behavior.

For firms in the hotel industry to attain a high competitive edge relative to their competitors, they have to offer products and services that make the customers love their brands. Schiffman (1991, p.34) is of the opinion that despite customers having the will to purchase and being familiar of the products that they intend to purchase, it is vital for business owners to ensure that there is a substantial level of brand awareness. This is due to the fact that it can have a significant influence on the customer’s purchase decision. If a consumer intend to purchase a certain product and a certain brand name comes into his or her mind, it indicates that the product has a high level of brand awareness.

The chapter is organized into a number of sub- sections. The first sub-section entails presentation of primary data collected in the field. In this section, a description of the respondents’ demographic characteristics is given. Some of the variables considered include the respondent’s gender, age, education background and profession. Sub-section two entails an analysis primary data. This is attained by evaluating the research question used in conducting the study. This is attained by analyzing the various components of the question.

Primary Data Presentation

In conducting the study, the researcher integrated diverse demographic variables such as gender, education background, profession and age. The main objective was to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumers buying behavior.

Gender

The study took into consideration both the male and female respondents but in different proportions. Sixty five percent of the respondents were male while thirty five percent were female.

Age

The study took into account the existing age difference amongst hotel customers. The objective of integrating respondents of different age was to determine how age group that frequents patronizes five star hotels. From the study, the researcher revealed that 35% of the respondents who patronized five star hotels were aged between 35-45 years. This forms the largest category of customers who patronize five star hotels. This is followed by individuals aged above 45 years, 25-35 years and below 25 years who account for 30%, 25% and 10% respectively.

Educational background

The researcher appreciated the fact that customers of different educational backgrounds patronize five star hotels. As a result, the different educational backgrounds which were integrated include primary level, secondary level, college and university level. Additionally, the researcher also integrated the individuals who have never attended school in the study.

Respondents Profession

The researcher appreciated existence of differences amongst the customers with regard to income. To capture this aspect, the researcher evaluated three aspects of respondents which included whether they are employed, self-employed or unemployed. Forty five percent of the respondents interviewed were self employed; thirty five percent were employed in different economic sectors while twenty percent were unemployed. The objective of integrating these elements was to develop an understanding of the respondents’ motive of visiting their preferred five star hotels. Despite their occupation, their objective of patronizing the hotel varied. Fifty six percent of all the respondents said that their objective was to for leisure purpose. On the other hand, forty four percent of the respondents said that their objective was business. The chart below illustrates the results obtained from the questionnaires used in conducting the study.

Presentation of demographic data Percentage%
Gender Number of respondents
Male 130 65
Female 70 35
Age range
Below 25 20 10
25-35 50 25
35-45 70 35
Above 45 60 30
Educational Background
Have never attended school 15 7.5
Primary 35 17.5
Secondary 45 22.5
College 50 25
University 55 27.5
Profession
Employed 70 35
Self employed 90 45
Unemployed 40 20
Main purpose
Business 112 56
Leisure 88 44
Total 200 100

Presentation of demographic data

Analysis of the research questions

The study took into account one research question which entails analyzing how branding affects the consumer buying process within the five-star hotel industry. In order to develop a better understanding of branding in the hotel industry, each of the research questions was evaluated individually.

Main aspects of product branding considered by consumers when purchasing in five-star hotels

The researcher evaluated the main aspects that consumers consider in purchasing five-star products and services. The respondents interviewed cited different aspects as outlined below.

  • The perceived value of the hotel.
  • The perceived quality of the hotel.
  • The hotel’s commitment towards ensuring that customers receive maximum satisfaction.
  • The degree of trust developed between the customer and the hotel’s staff.

When the respondents were asked the perceived qualities that motivate them to purchase from particular five-star hotels, their responses were varied. Ninety two percent of the respondents cited the physical appearance of the hotel. According to these respondents, they considered their choice of the hotel to be well designed and equipped. These respondents further said that their hotel of choice must have a conducive environment. When asked how the hotels should achieve this, they said that the hotel rooms should be will lit such as by using neon lights. These respondents said that they are able to derive a high level of satisfaction by patronizing such five-star hotel.

Ninety one percent of the respondents interviewed said that they patronize the preferred five star hotels due to the level of hotel service offered. Most of these respondents said that the five star hotels offer excellent room service. On the other hand, eighty nine percent of the respondents said that they consider consuming products and services of their preferred hotel since the overall delivery of services was high. As a result, they are able to attain a high degree level of reliability.

When asked about their perceived value of their preferred five-star hotel, the respondents gave varying responses. Eighty nine percent of the respondents interviewed said that their choice of the hotel was motivated by the fact that the hotels employees depict a high level of empathy. As a result, they are able to offer them personalized attention in addition to being caring. This has made these hotels to be very effective and efficient with regard to service delivery.

On the other hand, seventy nine percent of the respondents interviewed said that decision to purchase from the particular hotels identified arose from the fact that the hotel’s hours of operation are convenient. Eighty seven percent of the respondents were opinion that their preferred hotels were fitted with modern equipments and technologies which they associate with increased probability of receiving value for their money. Some of these respondents cited installation of secure internet connection within hotel rooms to be a great source of value for their money. This was mainly common amongst the business visitors. When asked why, they said that the internet connection gives them an opportunity to communicate with their clients and to also undertake their services more efficiently.

When asked about the level of satisfaction received by consuming the services offered by their respective five-star hotels, the respondents’ responses varied. Eighty five percent of the respondents said that their choice of hotels enabled them to attain their highest expected satisfaction. On the other hand, ninety percent of the respondents said that they were contented by consuming the hotel services offered by their preferred hotel while eighty seven percent said that they enjoyed staying at their selected hotel.

Satisfaction amongst the customers acts as a measurement standard that a firm can use to measure its success. Additionally, satisfaction amongst the customers contributes towards effective positioning of the firm in the market. This arises from the fact that the satisfied customers will spread positive information regarding the quality of service within the hotel to their families, relatives and friends hence promoting the hotel.

In an effort to understand the role of the trust in influencing the consumer buying process, the researcher asked different questions associated with trust. The respondents gave diverse responses. Ninety percent of the respondents said that they trust the hotels’ services and their staff. These respondents said that the employees of the five-star hotel are knowledgeable and have a high degree of courtesy. Additionally, they hotels staff are able to inspire a high level of trust and confidence. On the other hand, eighty percent of the respondents said that their preferred hotel offer the services as they promised while eighty two percent said that they consider it safe dealing with the hotels’ staff.

Consumers buying behaviors depicted within the five-star hotels

When asked what they consider when making a decision to consume services offered by five star hotels. The respondents cited a number of aspects. These include how the hotel prices its services and whether it offers loyalty programs. Ninety five percent of the respondents interviewed said that they consider how the hotel sets the price of its services. This indicates that despite the fact that consumers’ objective is to achieve utility maximization; they are price conscious in their purchasing patterns. As a result, they desire to receive more value for fewer amounts.

Additionally, seventy five percent of the respondents interviewed said that they also search for information regarding the hotel to determine whether they have integrated loyalty program. This is due to the fact that loyalty programs enable customers who develop a strong relationship with the hotel through repeat purchases to receive discounted room rates. Sixty percent of the respondents said that they evaluate whether the hotel offers free transport service as a result of entering the hotels membership program.

Fifty percent of the respondents interviewed said that they also evaluate whether the five star hotels have integrated the concept of social responsibility. These respondents were of the opinion that the hotel should operate in an environmentally responsible manner. Additionally, the hotel should also respect the society within which it operates.

The study has illustrated that there is a strong relationship between branding and consumer decision making process. From the analysis, it was evident, that consumers consider brands before making a purchase decision. In most cases, consumers tend to purchase brands which they are confident with. This is in certain instances necessitated by past knowledge regarding a particular brand. According to Reid & Bojanic (2010, p.34), this ascertains the fact that brand is not only a marketing tool. However, it indicates a firm’s effort to deliver its products features and the associated benefits. This means that a brand acts as a contract between a firm and its target customers (Rumambi & Djati, n.d, p.4).

Despite the effort that a firm puts with regard to creating brand awareness through a comprehensive brand campaign, it is not easy to create brand bonding with the customers. Rumambi and Djati (n.d, p.4) are of the opinion that for a brand to establish a bond with its customers, the customers must experience the benefits associated with the brand. For a firm in the hotel industry to be effective in its operation, it must consider internal branding. This will entail training the employees to ensure that they are committed towards delivering the promises made to their target customers. For example, they should depict a high level of courtesy and trust in offering their services.

The study has illustrated that is vital for five-star hotels to develop its perceived value amongst the customers. The resultant effect is that customers will develop a perception of receiving a high value for their money. The study has also illustrated the importance of developing a strong sense of trust amongst the customers. The satisfaction associated with a certain brand also emerged as a core element that consumers consider in their decision making process.

The study has also illustrated the importance of influencing the customer’s perceptions, experiences and feelings in their decision making process. The resultant effect is that consumers will be influenced to purchase the product. This arises from the fact that the brand can play a vital role in differentiating their brand from other competing brands. For example, consumers can be able to associate a certain brand name with the associated benefits. The study has indicated that branding can be used to communicate the values that a firm is committed towards attaining. Some of these values include quality, ensuring customer satisfaction, trust, and ensuring that customers receive value for their money.

Management teams of firms in different economic sectors are faced with an obligation of developing a comprehensive understanding of the consumer buying process. This will increase the efficiency with which the firms market their products and services. One of the aspects which management teams of firms in the hotel industry should consider is ensuring that there is effective development of their brand. This arises from the fact that branding can is currently a very important organizational asset that contributes towards a firm attaining a high competitive advantage. The probability of success as a result of investing in branding arises from the fact that consumers consider known brands in their decision making process.

Conclusion

Through effective branding, firms can be able to trigger purchase impulses amongst the consumers by making them to refer to their past experience with a certain brand in their purchasing process (Brothernton, 2003, p.34). For a brand to compete effectively, it must have some salient features that differentiate it from other competing products. This means that it must position itself in the market as the preferred brand.

According to Hutt and Speh (2010, p.211), brand positioning entails establishing a unique association with a brand amongst the customers’ minds with the objective of attaining competitive superiority. Development of a strong brand reputation illustrates a firm’s efficiency in delivering the promises it has made to its customers. The resultant effect is that brand performance which entails the effectiveness with which a brand meets the customers’ functional needs such as price, service effectiveness, quality and style (Salver, 2009, p. 43).

In their consumption patterns, consumers usually prefer associating themselves with certain brands thus influencing their purchasing patterns (Roll, 2006, p.54). To attain this, a brand must have point of difference. These include the unique, favorable and strong characteristics of the brand that influence the consumer’s behavior. Therefore, branding plays a significant role in a market that is characterized by intense competition and a wide range of brands for the consumers to choose from.

Recommendations

To develop a strong brand that has a capacity of influencing the consumers in their decision making process, management teams of five-star hotels have to consider a number of elements. The first element entails developing emotional appeal amongst the customers. Emotions include the feelings that consumers have and how they make consumers to react to the brand. There are a wide range of feelings that managers of five-star hotels should nurture. Some of these feelings include a feeling of warmth, excitement, safety and fun. For example, the hotels should develop a feeling of ‘coolness’ by patronizing the hotel. There are a number of ways through which five-star hotels can attain this such as being effective in their branding strategy. For example, by adopting a slogan such as’ Welcome, Relax Its Holiday Inn’ might elicit a feeling of warmth. According to Janson-Boyd (2010, p.69), emotions play a significant role in the consumers’ decision making process. Therefore, it is vital for hotel managers to brand their hotels in a way that creates strong feeling towards the firm such as trust and admiration.

In their branding strategy, it is also important for five-star hotels to consider developing a strong brand relationship (Tjiptono, 2005, p.4). This entails ensuring that there is a certain degree of personal identification between the customers and the brand. The resultant effect is development of brand resonance. Hutt and Speh (2010, p.211) define brand resonance to include the psychological bond developed between the consumer and a certain brand. Brand loyalty culminates into emergence of brand loyalty and attachment.

Additionally, the firms should ensure that they offer products and services that are of high quality and value. The resultant effect is that customers will develop a perception of attaining value for their money. It is also important for five-star hotels managers to ensure that the hotel has an environment that communicates a high level of friendliness.

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