Tastes of consumers are complicated issues that signify the consumers favour on certain things, whereby as long as the things fall within the boundary of preferences of a consumer, that boundary itself explain about the taste of a consumer (Arsel & Bean, 2013). For example, should a person love spicy and salty food; it can be understood that the person has a taste preferences on spicy and salty food. However, the issue pertaining to taste from the consumer behaviours point of view is complicated as the different consumers have different taste (Šušteršič & Šušteršič, 2013); or more technically described as the phenomenon of heterogeneity in consumer preferences (Mammasse & Schlich, 2014). Indeed, such notion is supported by empirical evidences. In study carried out by Törnwall, Silventoinen, Hiekkalinna, Perola, Tuorila & Kaprio (2014), it is found that the tastes of different people can be categorised into different sub-groups. For example, those that love sour and spicy foods and responded favourably to capsaicin; while those that not showed less tendency for food neophobic.
The study about the tastes or preferences of consumers is important. Firstly, to understand about the tastes and preferences of the mass consumers is critical to the product sales (Fryer & Bakalis, 2011). Then, detail understanding on the tastes or preferences of consumers can provide the basis for improvement of fruit quality and for market segmentation (Causse, Friguet, Coiret, Lépicier, Navez, Lee & Grandillo, 2010). However, it may however be challenging to predict the tastes or preferences of consumers because it can be affected by many factors – whereby a business may need to constantly experiment to find out the real tastes preferred by the consumers, and yet also risk the change of the tastes of the consumers (Solomon, 2014).
From review of literature, there are many factors that can affect the tastes of consumers (in the context of tastes upon foods). For example, genetic traits can affect the differences of tastes preferences of a person (Törnwall, Silventoinen, Hiekkalinna, Perola, Tuorila & Kaprio, 2014). Then, the ingredients used in a food, such as the adding of sugar and salt in food can enhance the tastiness of foods (Mosca, Bult & Stieger, 2013). Aside from that, the exposure to different tastes may also influence the taste preferences of consumers. In such instance, new exposure to a group of consumers will cause some of the consumers to develop a taste for diversity (Šušteršič & Šušteršič, 2013).
It will be very interesting to also note that taste can also be affected by other factors that can be not related to the food itself. For example, two studies which include: Sörqvist, Hedblom, Holmgren, Haga, Langeborg, Nöstl & Kågström (2013) and Lotz, Christandl & Fetchenhauer (2013) found that the“eco-friendly” label by itself can enhance the tastes of a coffee, albeit the two types of coffee used in the experiments were exactly the same coffee. That indicates a situation whereby taste of a product can be affected by perceptions towards the foods. In fact, another study by Spiller (2012) also shows that the consumers tastes can be affected by beliefs and values emboldened by food knowledge and opinions. Indeed, study by Robinson, Blissett & Higgs (2013) also found that the social norms or influences from societal factors (such as peer preferences) can also affect food intake and food choice. Overall, it can be seen that many factors can affect tastes of consumers.
In the context of this study, it is hypothesized that the taste of consumers will affect their purchase behaviours. As such, a review on the previous study on this area is also necessary. This enable comparison of findings at the later chapters. To begin, Causse, Friguet, Coiret, Lépicier, Navez, Lee & Grandillo (2010) research into tomato consumer preferences. From the 806 consumers from 3 countries, a consumer preference map was developed. Some of the most important characteristics of consumer preferences were analysed. It is found that the overall flavour and firmness were two of the most important traits for meeting consumers’ preferences.
Then, Cox, Melo, Zabaras & Delahunty (2012) also study about how factors such as: (i) health knowledge and (ii) taste, can affect the consumers’ acceptance of Brassica vegetables (broccoli, red and green cabbages, broccolini, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts). From a sample of 200 adults range between 18–55 years old, it is found both the factors were predictor of consumers’ acceptance of Brassica vegetables. Interestingly, it is also found that gender can also explain about consumers’ acceptance on Brassica vegetables, as female exhibit higher consumption behaviours on Brassica vegetables.
Next, Pearson (2013) study about how to affect consumers’ purchase behaviours – in order to increase revenue. Based on samples selected from a city in Australia, it is found that factors such as taste, price, and freshness are significant in influencing consumers’ purchase decision. The study herein again reaffirm that taste can be a significant predictor of consumer purchase behaviours.
Last but not least, Mitchell, Brunton & Wilkinson (2013) also study about the impacts of individual’s salt taste sensitivity and their acceptance and consumption of salty foods. It is found that the consumers who consume a high salt diet appear to require a higher concentration of salt to obtain the same taste sensation as those less sensitive to salt. That study indicates that the preferences of consumers over salt can affect the eventual preferences over foods, as some of the food may become tasteless when the consumers have lower degree of salt taste sensitivity.
The perception of consumers towards a business is critical component that can determine the success or failure of a business entity – albeit this is not a frequently acknowledged or as a frequently underestimated issue in the context of business management (Bravo, Montaner & Pina, 2012). The importance of the consumers’ perceptions should be intuitive and self-explanatory. For example, the consumers’ perceptions on the image of a company or a brand can affect their attitudes as well as behaviours towards the company, or the products and services offered by that particular company. In the context of attempting to enhance marketing effectiveness, it is therefore crucial for any marketer to pay attention to understand, examining and in fact, proactively influencing the perceptions of consumers (Farhat & Khan, 2012; Andotra & Pooja, 2007). Considering all of these, it would then not hard to accept the argument that managing the perceptions of consumers, to a certain degree is critical in assisting a company towards achieving competitive advantage in the marketplace – especially when the business environment is becoming more competitive (Hsieh, 2002). By acknowledging the importance of examining and managing consumers’ perceptions, it is then crucial to better understand about the various concepts related to consumers’ perceptions towards business. Such materials will be presented in Section 2.3.2 below.
The studies on consumers’ perceptions on the businesses can be classified into two main areas, of which the first is the study on consumers perceptions on brand image or corporate image of the businesses, while the second is about consumer perceptions on the marketing mix of a businesses. The two approaches are similar but also different in some sense. For example, the first approach of studying about consumers’ perceptions on brand image of a firm is a comprehensive approach to try to understand how consumers perceive a business, without limiting the scope of study on the marketing perspective. Then, the second approach on consumers’ perception towards marketing mix of a business is taking a more marketing approach in trying to understand about consumers’ perception on marketing initiatives and outcomes of a business.
Anyway, the two approaches generally agreed upon the need to study the perceptions of consumers on a business from multiple angles. For example, Vahie & Paswan (2006) argued that the image of a departmental store business can be examined from these few angles: services offered to consumers; convenience of the store; quality of products; variety of product selection; price to value ratio; and general atmosphere of the store.
Then, the marketing mix approach in studying about the consumer perceptions towards a business is largely concerned about investigating consumers’ perceptions on the 4Ps or even 7Ps (and so on) of the marketing mix of a company (Yoo, Donthu & Lee, 2000). For example, Hu (2011) studied about marketing mix of a retailer from the consumers’ perceptions, from these angles: price; advertising spending; price deal; store image; as well as distribution intensity. Then, Bhuian & Kim (1999) studied about the perceptions of consumers on marketing mix of the foreign company offering foreign products from these angles: package design of products; package labels; brand name; repair and maintenance services provided; warranties and guarantees of products; availability in retails store; display arrangement of the products in retail store; reasonableness of price; as well as advertising and promotion.
Overall, the discussion above demonstrated the importance of studying about the perceptions of consumers towards a product, the brand or a company from multiple angles. This is instinctive, as there are many facets pertaining to a product, brand or company that a consumer will think through when evaluating on the status of the product, brand or company; or likelihood of purchase on that product. In that way this dissertation will also adopt similar method, as the various instrument to examine consumers’ perceptions towards KFC will be explained in greater length in the next chapter.
There are many studies concerned the factors affecting consumers’ perceptions towards the image of a product or on a company; as well as on how the consumers’ perceptions towards the image of a product or on a company may affect other variables. Understanding these will be crucial to this dissertation. For example, examining the various factors that can affect consumers’ perceptions will provide some details for researcher, as aside from the tastes of the consumers, what are other factors that can also affect their perceptions towards a product, a brand or a company. For that, the various empirical evidences on how other factors may affect the consumers’ perceptions on image of a product, a brand or a company will be presented accordingly below.
Table 1: Factors Affecting Consumer Perceptions
|Burmann, Schaefer & Maloney (2008)
|The image of a particular industry can affect the image of the corporation operating within that particular industry, and that will also affect the brand image of products offered by the corporation.|
|Country of origin of a product can affect the perceptions of consumers towards the brand image of that particular product. It is apparent that consumers in developing countries favoured over products from the developed countries.|
|Malik, Naeem & Nasir (2011)
|Based on the study on various hotels, it is found that service quality of the hotels can affect the consumers’ perceptions towards the brand image of these respective hotels.
|Tanvir & Shahid (2012)||Sport sponsorship can have significant impacts upon the perceptions of the consumers towards a brand.|
|Kremer & Viot (2012)
|Within the context of retailing industry in French, it is found that the store brand image can affect the retailer brand image. This indicates that the decision of a retailer to conduct business within a departmental store can be affect how the consumers perceive the image of the particular retailer.|
|Bravo, Montaner & Pina (2012)||Issues such as the familiarity of a consumer towards the brand, the peer influences as well as (to certain degree) the advertisement on a company, can affect the perceptions of the consumers towards the image of a company.|
|Severi & Ling (2013)||Brand experiences can affect the perceptions of the consumers towards the brand image of a product.|
Yet, it is also noted that theoretical argument is that the perceptions of consumers are critical as how consumers’ perceptions will affect their attitudes, behaviours and eventually their purchase decision; which will then directly affect the sales of a product or revenue of a company. Considering that, it is also crucial to survey more about the impacts of consumer perceptions on other outcomes or variables. This is important as it is postulated within this dissertation that consumers’ perceptions on KFC will affect their purchase behaviours towards products offered by KFC. Reviewing some of the relevant literature will later enable comparison of the findings, from this study as to the other studies found within the literature. For that, the empirical evidences on how consumers’ perceptions may affect other variables are shown below.
Table 2: Impacts of Consumer Perceptions on other Variables
|Ataman & Ulengin (2003)
|The brand image of a particular product as perceived by the consumers can affect the revenue generated from that particular product in the marketplace.|
|Martenson (2007)||Within the retailing industry, it is found that the brand image of a store can affect customer satisfaction and loyalty towards that particular store.|
|Da Silva & Syed Alwi (2008)
|The image of a corporation can affect the two important construct in the context of consumer behaviours, namely: customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.|
|Pantin-Sohier (2009)||Issues such as product packaging (example: the colour, the design and the shape) can affect the perceptions of consumers towards the image on a product, or the company offering that particular product.
|Pars & Gulsel (2011)
|The perceptions of consumers towards the image of a particular destination, will affect the choice of destination to be visited to. In other words, the perceptions of consumers on the image of a destination are also crucial element to be examined, within the field of place marketing.|
|Yang, Wang, Song, Chen & Hung (2011)
|Within the mobile phone industry, it is found that the consumers’ perceptions on the brand image of the various mobile phone brands will affect the consumers’ evaluation on these brand, as well as their choice of mobile phone for purchase.|
|Bravo, Montaner & Pina (2012)||Within the banking industry, it is found that the perception of consumers towards banks will affect the consumers’ attitudes and behavioural outcomes towards these respective banks.|
|Fakharmanesh & Miyandehi (2013)||Aside from consumer ethnocentrism, brand image of a product can affect the eventual purchase decisions of the consumers.
Overall, the review of the relevant empirical evidences suggested that there are many different factors that can affect the perceptions of consumers, such as advertising, the previous experiences of consumers, the endorsement of product by celebrity and so on. Then, the perceptions of consumers can however influence many other outcomes, such as the attitudes of consumers on a products (example: satisfaction and loyalty) or the purchase behaviours of consumers on the products offered by a particular business. Putting that information in light of this particular study, then it is relevant to question if the taste preferences of the consumers will affect the perceptions of the consumers on KFC, and also if the perceptions of consumers towards KFC will affect their purchase behaviours towards products offered by KFC.
Generally speaking, consumer purchase behaviours is about issues related to what they buy, why they buy, when they buy it, where they buy it, how often they buy it and how often they use it (Gupta & Mehra, 2010). The importance of purchase intention is very straightforward. This is because through understanding of purchase behaviours, it is possible to better serve the consumers by structuring the marketing efforts to get aligned with the purchase behaviours of the consumers. Yet, by examining the factors that affect purchase behaviours of the consumers, it is then also possible to pay attention to the relevant factors so to influence the consumer to purchase the products or services offered by a marketer (Yao & Liu, 2012; Carrigan & Attalla, 2001). Particularly in today global environment with increasingly serious environmental issue, the understanding of factors influencing purchase behaviours of consumers is crucial as marketers can influence the consumers to make purchase more on green products, which can contribute to the preservation of the natural environment (Tan, 2011). Nonetheless, within the study carried out in this particular dissertation, the purchase intention of consumers is important as to observe how the tastes or perceptions of the Chinese consumers may affect their purchase behaviours, so to judge about the similarity or differences of consumer behaviours of the different cities in China.
The purchase behaviours of a consumer is also a multi-facets construct, as there are many aspects that can be examined in the study to understanding the purchase behaviours of a consumer more comprehensively. For example, in Meyer-Waarden (2008), purchase behaviours of consumers are studied from these aspects: the average store basket purchased by a consumer when shopping in a retailer’s store; the total store basket purchased by a consumer under certain period; the share of category purchase; the frequency of making purchase; the length of inter-purchase time; the number of visited stores; and switching behaviours. However, not all scholars model purchase behaviours from these aspects. For instance, Vazquez & Xu (2009) separated purchase behaviours into three aspects: willingness to buy in the future, having a strong intention to purchase, and considering to buy. Yet, in Ding, Suet, Tanusina, Low & Ker (2011), the following aspects are examined in order to examine about purchase behaviours of consumers: being satisfied with the products, having more positive experiences than negative experiences, intention to continuing using a product, and likely to make a purchase in the future. Overall, these findings indicate that the study on purchase behaviours must approach it from multiple angles. As such, this will also be considered during the development of the questionnaire to interview the research participants in the next chapter.
Theoretically, there are many factors that can affect the purchase behaviours of the consumers. For example, some of these factors include: brand image of the product, the product involvement of consumer, product knowledge of consumers (Bian & Moutinho, 2011), mood of the consumer, the impacts from peer pressures or influences (Zhang, Lu, Shi, Tang & Zhao, 2012), and so on. Anyway, given the importance of purchase behaviours of consumers, the study on purchase behaviours of consumers are abundance. In the following, some of these empirical evidences on factors affecting purchase behaviours will be presented.
Table 3: Factors Affecting Purchase Behaviours
|Wu, Yeh & Hsiao (2011)||The consumers’ perceptions towards the image of a store as well as the perceptions towards service quality provided will affect their purchase intention.|
|Tanvir & Shahid (2012)||Sport sponsorship will affect brand image of a brand, and that in turn affect the purchase intention of consumers.|
|Yao & Liu (2012)||External information such as label of a product can affect consumers’ purchase behaviour.|
|Kumaravel & Kandasamy (2012)||Brand image as perceived by the consumers is significantly and positively related to purchase decision of consumers – within the context of purchase of durable products.|
|Akehurst, Afonso & Goncalves (2012)||Socio-demographic and psychographic variables can affect both green purchase behaviour and green purchase intention.|
|Marques & Almeida (2013)||Product attributes such as safety, efficiency, convenience or symbolic amenity that meet expectations of consumers are crucial factors that can affect their purchase behaviours|
|Pearson (2013)||Factors such as taste, price, and freshness are significant in influencing consumers’ food purchase decision.|
Overall, it can be seen that aside from the taste preferences of consumers and the perceptions of consumers towards a product, a brand or a company, there are many other factors that can affect the purchase behaviours of the consumers. These can include the socio-demographic and psychographic variables, peer influences, product attributes, and even sponsorship campaign. Anyway, based on such findings presented in the table above, it would be reasonable to expect that the tastes of consumers and the perceptions of the consumers will affect their purchase behaviours.
In this section, a review of the relevant studies on consumer behaviours in China will be provided. With regard to that and first of all, it is important to firstly highlight that it is not appropriate to treat the China as a homogenous market. There are some evidences that point to the fact that China is a heterogeneous market. For that, it is highlighted by Zhang, Van Der Lans & Dagevos (2012) found that there are at least four segments of consumers in China, based on their individual preferences for fast food, salty snack foods, soft drinks sugared fruit drinks, as well as on the food retail environment. Then, it is also discussed that Xu, Zheng & Zhou (2011) found that the young and elder Chinese consumers have distinctively different preferences over western foods (and are willing to accept a relatively high price).
There are also some other studies that pointing to the notion that China as a heterogeneous market. For example, Chu & Chan (2008) found that there are significant differences in consumer life styles and behaviours, among consumers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Next, the study from Xin-An, Grigoriou & Ly (2008) also found that the notion of China as a homogeneous market is a myth. There are evidences on personal value differences between consumers in China’s coastal cities (Shanghai and Guangzhou) and inland cities (Chengdu and Harbin). Last but not least, Cho, Jin & Cho (2010) had also examined about the regional differences in China by socio-cultural factors. It is found that cultural diversity within China is critical. It is further argued that an understanding of the regional differences within China will enable the marketer to strategize more effectively in trying to meet the needs and wants of the diverse base of Chinese consumers in China.
Overall, the availability of such finding indicates that it would be reasonable to expect to find the diversity of tastes among the Chinese consumers from these different provinces or cities being examined within this study, namely: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing. Indeed, it would also be not surprising if the consumers’ perceptions towards KFC also differ significantly. Nevertheless, that will be addressed more specifically in the subsequent chapters.
For now, another interesting finding from the review of the literature is about the idea that the Chinese consumer behaviours are changing. For example, Piron (2006) research into the cultures of Chinese people in mainland china, and found that China’s contemporary culture is rapidly changing, somehow breaking away from traditions, yet retaining core values and reshaping them with modern, sometimes alien inputs. Indeed, that observation is most obvious among the younger Chinese consumers, which are much more individualistic, capitalistic and materialistic. Then, Yan-Yong & Jung (2006) also found that traditional society in China is evolving due to influences from modernized industrial societies. As a result, the traditionally collectivistic societies in China had become more complex – giving rise to diversity of consumer behaviours. Last but not least, Helou & Caddy (2007) had also found that the characteristics of today’s Chinese consumer are evolving, demanding businesses to adapt and innovate accordingly to meet the changing demands and needs of the Chinese consumers.
Overall, these findings suggest the importance of having more recent survey into the consumer behaviours related issues in China. Due to the changing of the consumer behaviours in China, many previous findings may be obsolete and irrelevant. The conduct of the research within this dissertation would hope to provide some more current update on the consumer behaviours related issues in China.
From another perspective, there are also quite a number of studies on factors affecting consumer purchase behaviours in China. As this study is about to examine Chinese consumers’ purchase behaviours towards KFC, a review of other studies on this field is important. To make the review, the various findings related to purchase behaviours of Chinese consumers are summarised and presented in the table below.
Table 4: Factors Affecting Consumer Behaviours in China
|St-Maurice & Wu (2006)||Among the factors that can affect teen purchase behaviours in China include: modern products, brand image, traditional values, and nationalist feelings.|
|Li, Jiang, An, Shen & Jin (2009)||It is found that money attitudes were found to significantly affect young Chinese consumers’ compulsive buying behaviour.|
|Mummalaneni & Juan (2009)||The service quality perceptions of young Chinese customers are very significant in affecting their online shopping behaviours.|
|Ogba & Tan (2009)
|Brand image of a product can affect customer loyalty and commitment in China, of which will in turn affect the purchase behaviours of the Chinese consumers.|
|Jin & Kang (2011)||Based on consumer data were collected from Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou; the attitudes of consumer towards a brand are most significant predictor of their purchase behaviours.
|Qing, Lobo & Chongguang (2012)||Variables related to lifestyle and ethnocentrism are significant in impacting Chinese consumers’ attitudes and intentions towards the purchase of domestic and imported fresh fruit.|
|Chen & Lobo (2012)||A study on consumer purchase of organic food products in urban China, found that factors such as product, regulatory and lifestyle (variety seeking and self-indulgence) are all significant influencer of consumers’ purchase behaviours.|
|Zhang, Lu, Shi, Tang & Zhao (2012)||It is found that the mood of the consumers has significant effect on consumer purchase behaviour, which has significant impacts on perceived benefit and purchase intention.|
|Li, Li & Kambele (2012)||It is found that consumers’ fashion lifestyle, perceived social/ emotional value, perceived utilitarian value, and perceived economic value are all variables that positively related to consumers’ willingness to pay for luxury fashion brands.|
|Davis, Peyrefitte & Hodges (2012)||Among the consumers from Northwest China, functional needs rather than social needs are found to be more important predictor of their eventual purchase decision.|
|Twing-Kwong, Luk & Fullgrabe (2013)||It is found that relationships to salesperson, the various attributes of a salesperson, perceived risks and perceived trustworthiness are all important determinants of purchase intention.|
|Chu & Lin (2013)
|Corporate social responsibility (CSR) perception among the Chinese consumers can affect their purchase behaviours – whereby consumers that place greater emphasis on CSR will more likely to support businesses that are acting ethically.|
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