Due to the forces of globalization and modernization, the role of culture within the purchase decision is becoming less and less intense, but the role of the society is increasing. At this level, the decision to purchase is greatly influenced by the reference group, or the organization or team with which the individual identifies or to which he wishes to belong. In order to gain the acceptance of the respective group or to feel himself as integrated within the group, the individual will purchase those items which allow him to meet the expectations and goals of the reference group (Borrow and Bosiljevac, 2008).
2.4. The decision making unit (DMU)
The concept of the decision making unit is explained by Ray Wright's (2004) Business to business marketing: a step-by-step guide, in which the author reveals the mechanisms behind the decision making process. The decision making unit is understood as the series of elements and persons who participate and influence the purchasing decision. In his own words, "the DMU […] is a way of describing all the people that might or might not be involved in some way in the ultimate decision to buy the product" (Wright, 2004).
Wright argues that the decision making unit integrates a total of six roles, which can all be assumed by one single person or by several individuals. These six functions are:
The decision maker
The end user
a) The suggester is the person who initiates the purchasing process by identifying a necessity for a respective product or service and suggesting its acquisition.
b) The purchaser is the person who actually completes the purchase, but he might easily be different from the other persons. The actual role of the purchaser varies based on the power to actually decide -- as opposed to the possibility of him only being delegated to complete the acquisition -- but also based on the access he has to information.
c) The advisor is someone outside the vendor or the prospective buyer who is brought in -- especially by the buyer -- to offer his objective opinion. Within the organizational context, this advisor could be a consultant, whereas within the private field, it could be a simple friend or a family member.
d) The decision maker is the very person with the power to complete a purchase.
e) The end user is the person who will actually use the product considered for purchase. The end user can have a varying power, from the complete power to make the purchase to the lack of power and the situation in which he is only presented with the already purchased item. The role of the end user in the purchase decision is ultimately given by the features of the community in which the decision is made -- the organizational context or the family context for instance -- but in most cases, the end user has the ability to at least influence the final purchase decision.
f) Finally, the "gatekeepers control access and information into and out of the buying group. In some cases the gatekeeper can actively influence a buying decision by filtering the kind of information made available" (Wright, 2004). Within the organizational context, this role is mostly obvious in secretarial positions, but it can also be observed at the personal level from the part of a friend, a family member or even the vendor.
2.5. The purchase decision within the IT&S industry
While they are also integrated within the overall category of consumers, the buyers of Information Technology and Communications appliances are differentiated by varying values, such as the search for technological innovation as prestige and social statement, rather than actual necessity. Regardless of the elements which differentiate the IT&C consumers, fact remains that some sources in the specialized literature have indeed paid attention to them. P.J. Louis (2002) for instance, in the book Telecom management crash course: managing and selling Telecom products and services, argues that the IT&C products of today are extremely similar and all able to meet customer needs through high quality standards. This virtually means that the actual functionality and quality is no longer a major component of the purchase decision. From Louis's standpoint then, the decision to make an IT&C purchase is given by a combination of the following factors:
The price of the respective product or service -- the price remains the number one determinant of the purchase act
The ease of using the product or service
The levels of professionalism on the part of the staff members
In cases when the payment is more complex and handled by bill or by installments, a crucial element in the purchase decision is given by the buyer's ability to understand the payment scheme (Louis, 2002).
Throughout this section, the research project is focused onto three distinct directions -- (1) the explanation of the onion ring methodology to be used; (2) the construction of the questionnaire to be addressed to the Apple consumers; and (3) the selection and description of the research samples.
The methodology used in the current research is that of the onion ring. This method is generally less popular that other research tools and techniques, but it is complex and reliable, despite the limitation of implying often tedious work. In order to better understand the study, it is at this point necessary to explain the methodology. In a most simplistic formulation, the onion ring research methodology refers to a complex research process, observable at different layers. Just like the onion, the research process is complex and to get to the next layer -- or research level -- one has to peel the current layer -- or complete the current research level.
The research onion is best revealed in the picture below:
In short; I would peel research onion at every layer.
1. In regard to research philosophies, the positivist approach has been selected.
2. The data collection processes would be completed through a deductive approach.
3. Surveys are used to gathered primary information in the form of quantitative input.
4. Single quantitative data technique and the memo method will also be used.
5. Due to time constraints, the research would be conducted in a cross-section method, and the interviews would be held during week-end or after work hours.
6. Snowball sampling is also to be used and this would materialize in the sending of the questionnaire to people in Dublin, the United States and China in order to get a more accurate sense of consumer behavior.
The following paragraphs offer more details about the methodology. At the core of the research process stands the collection and analysis of the data, which will be completed through the tools and techniques considered most suitable to a particular research endeavor. However, until this point of the research process is reached, it is necessary for the exterior layers to the addressed:
a) The research philosophy
There are generally two categories of recognized research philosophies. The first is entitled positivism and the second is called phenomenology. The positivist philosophy assesses phenomena within the business -- or otherwise -- community with objectivity. It looks at numeric evidence and it leads to findings which can be generalized to explain the entire community. The phenomenological approach on the other hand believes that a certain situation -- such as the purchase of Apple products in this case -- is a complex phenomenon, influenced by a series of non-measurable elements. From this standpoint, the phenomenological approach states that the laws of economic, social, political or otherwise behavior cannot be integrated in theories (Oriesek, 2004).
The current research uses a combination of the two methods in order to reveal the numeric findings as well as the impact of human behavior. Since the decision to purchase the Apple products is subjective and based on the particularities of each individual, it is as such assumed that the integration of all consumer behaviors within the expected theories is not sustainable, nor relevant.
b) The approaches to research
The research approaches can be either inductive or deductive. In terms of the inductive research methodology -- which is the one used in this research endeavor -- the researcher observes a phenomenon or a situation and -- based on the observation -- formulates his findings. In terms of the deductive methodology -- often referred to as scientific research -- the research processes commences with a theory, which is broken down into testable hypotheses. The scope of the research is then that of collecting data in order to test the validity of the initial theory (Oriesek, 2004).
c) The research strategies
The research strategy is selected based on the decisions which have already been made at the levels of research philosophy and research approaches. From this standpoint then, a combination of research strategies is desirable. On the one hand, the research would…