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According to France philosopher, Jean Baudrillard who believes that “the characteristic of our society is the condition that people consume as if it is the center of their life”. Another characteristic of a consumer society is that people often spend their money and sometimes their time by purchasing goods that not actually cover their needs. Considering the purpose of my research, first, I tried to gather as many as I could culturally data and secondly, that I should start looking for informants regardless their age, gender, social class etc.
The first issue that I had to deal with was to find ‘the right’ informants for my fieldwork and I thought that it was also extremely important for my research. Furthermore, I noticed that young-adult women between 20 and 30 years old were that group of people who were interested more in shopping either in a physical store or online. So, I tried to focus more on this group of people in my research as their different backgrounds and the reasons for choosing Zara as a brand for their shopping would result in different kinds of experiences for my fieldwork.
In addition, when I started thinking about my fieldwork, I realized that the language would be also an issue for me. As an International student, and not being familiar with the Danish language I thought it would be difficult to approach people especially those who are not speaking English. That’s why I decided that it was ideal to start finding some of my informants from the University where I study.
Here, I had already gained a network that would be helpful, and I hoped that they are buying online.
The second group of informants that I used because I luckily had access to it, was the employees of Zara in Odense. Most of the employees were Danish that’s why I asked them politely if they had any friend who was interested to have a friendly conversation with him about his shopping habits and why of course he chose to shop online. The truth is that I was not as lucky as I expected from this group of informants because some of their friends did not have the time to have a meeting with me and some others, they were not in Odense the period that I need them.
But still, I managed to find few informants through the employees a method that could be characterized as a snowball sample (Gobo, 2008). The snowball method which is “more effective in small communities because their informants are likely to be in contact with one another” (Bernard, 2011). Furthermore, according to Neuman (1997), snowball sampling is “used often by researchers who are interested in an interconnected network of people or organizations”. That was also the characteristic of my approach, that each person who I interviewed, was connected to the employees.
Bratton and Gold state that “recruitment is the process of generating a pool of capable people to apply for employment to a company. Selection could be characterized as the process by which researchers use specific instruments to choose from a pool of persons in order to succeed in their process” (Bratton, J. & Gold 2007). Considering all the above, I aimed to base my recruitment process upon both the people who work in Zara and of course the people who are buying from this store.
Overall, as I mentioned, in the beginning, I approached the managers and the employees of the store and I used them as my key informants because I thought that was the most appropriate people to explain a lot of things and characteristics of the customers. The managers are the people who are close to the customers because they are there every day and they hear the complains, the comment that they have in order to get better. So, having this everyday contact with them was the best way to find out and after that to be informed which will be the best questions in order to get the data that I need for my research.
Before starting to conduct my fieldwork, I had decided that I should distinguish my position and keep a very natural position. As a person who is interested a lot in shopping either online or in a physical store and as an employee also in this company, I thought that it was better for my research to forget what I already knew and start everything from the beginning.
It is evident that factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and other things were important for my research so, I should take them into consideration. As an International student, I am part of an international environment where people from all over the world came to study. So, I had to respect all the differences that may have from my own way of thinking and living.
Furthermore, in this regard, during the part of the observations, I tried not to participate so much, not to express so often my own opinions because they could affect their decisions, and probably to change the things that they wanted to say. An anthropologist is “supposed to interact and participate with the researched people, but also needs to act as an objective observer” (O’Reilly, 2009). Therefore, during the observations, I tried to spend more of my time during by keeping field notes which will help me in the future to understand better the consumers and to remember what I have seen until now.
Finally, I aimed to be very aware not to offend my participants and to gain their trust because otherwise, we will not be able to have a friendly conversation and give me more personal details about their way of thinking and acting in their everyday life. My hope during the field process was to come about this through building rapport and a trusting relationship to participants as well as to try and speak some Danish with and to make feel more comfortable. I made sure throughout the study that “the participants are aware of the fact that my research is exploratory and not confirmatory” (Bernard, 2011).
During my fieldwork, the store managers and costumers of Zara, in Odense were approached, in order to be involved in my research. In the beginning, in order to gain access to the face-to-face conversation, I asked both from the store managers and from the customers the permission to do it. According to Saunders M et al., 237 “Researcher’s should not attempt to apply any pressure on intended participants to grant success” so, as a good researcher, I did not give any pressure on the participants to participate either to my interview or to my survey. For answering the research question of my paper, I chose both quantitative as well as qualitative research methods.
Most of my interviews took place at a location chosen by the participants because I wanted to feel comfortable in order to have a good conversation. The most common place that most of them chose was a café in front of Zara and some others chose the university because it was the easiest way to have a meeting. It is evident that the interviews took place in the English language because it was easier for everyone to understand each other. On average the interviews lasted 30 minutes and I tried to record them on a voice recorder, after asking, of course, their permission. I had some circumstances where the participants did not want to record them that’s why I used extensive notes during and straight after the interview. I wanted to have as much as possible notes regarding their feelings or thoughts that may help me for the fieldwork.
Qualitative research is “a set of investigation techniques which are widely used in research methods”. It gives “an insight into the behavior and perceptions of people and allows to study multiple views on a particular topic in more depth than with a survey”. Moreover, it is a method that “it generates ideas and hypotheses that can help us to understand how an issue as the online shopping is perceived by a targeted population and define or identify options related to a specific topic” (Rugg & Petre, 2007; Blumberg, 2005; Flick, 2006).
My first methodology was based on semi-structured or sometimes unstructured interviews where I aimed to start with a set of questions developed for the purpose of my study. I chose this methodology as it gives me the opportunity to go in-depth with domains of interest which I identified during my observation in the store and I hoped that I will get more information from my respondents.
Moreover, my next step was to have some informal interviews both with the store managers and the employees in order to help me and gain background knowledge for the company and the customers. The informal interviewing was a good opportunity for me to discover some new things which probably I did not know, and I have not considered before entering the field. Also, the informality of the interview which I characterized more likely as conversation, it helped me to establish a good relationship with the managers, to explain in detail the reason of doing this fieldwork and gain their trust as a purpose of sharing important things from the inside of the company.
After that, I attempted to approach the employees of ZARA who were in the company for more than one year and they had a useful experience with the customers. In this case, I also started with informal interviews. According to Bernard (2011) “doing an unstructured and informal interview give the opportunity to informants to be more comfortable and is more efficient when you want to know about the experiences of human beings”.
In addition, I found that as an unexperienced researcher as me, who has not conducted a lot of interviews, it would be a challenge to do unstructured interviews. Therefore, the semi-structured interviews looked to be a good solution for me and my research which will provide a good counterpart in comparison with participant observation.
Formulating the questions of my interviews was much harder than I was expected. My first step was to prepare an interview guide which included the domains of interest that I would like to ask, and I thought that would be useful for my research. After formulating the questions and after three-four interviews with my respondents, I understood that I had some questions which could be answered with “yes” or “no”. So, I started thinking about how I can change them in some more open questions where the informant could give me more information and more of their thoughts about my research.
In general opinion, I believed that the process of interviewing got well, and I was actually very satisfied with my self because it was something that I tried it for the first time. Interviewing people is an interesting process where a researcher can learn a lot from his respondents. My biggest afraid was that I would get nervous while interviewing, or that my interviewer did not understand me or the questions or that they will not have anything to say to my questions. But all my interviews went well, and all of my interviewers answered my questions and gave good explanations to me.
On the other hand, it is evident that the recent years the qualitative research methods have seen technological changes because the researchers could use the Internet in order to perform interviews. This new phenomenon is said to represent a more and more important place in data collection in the future studies. This relatively new method of data collection has become an important tool; “it is innovative and creative which will allow me to reach in a wider number of respondents” (Flick, 2006; Meho, 2006).
Flick (2006) argues that nowadays, “more and more people use their email as a secondary tool of communication; plus, it contributes to reaching people who are not easily available for a face-to-face interview”. Online interviewing was a method which helped me to gain time especially when my participants did not have the time for a face-to-face interview. I used this methodology twice because it was difficult to find with my respondents in the correct time and place and to be convenient for both of us.
It is obvious that online interviewing gives also the advantage to the respondents to think clearly about their answer and feel open to give more information about the subject as they will remain anonymous and no of their personal information will be revealed. Hence, their answers will be more detailed, with examples, and a deeper explanation of personal experiences. In contrast to face-to-face interviews, some respondents might feel pressed for time and reveal less about their real feelings and experiences towards my topic. Moreover, in a face-to-face interview, the interviewer can indirectly or directly influence the respondents while in an e-mail more objectivity is guaranteed.
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