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Introduction

The marketing research will enable the company to acquire practical and objective information so as to develop and implement the ready meals marketing strategy amongst the UK students within the institution. Ready meals account for 9% of the total UK student’s food market in many institutions. Ready meals and pizzas are the fastest growing sectors both achieving around 60% growth between 2009 and 2011 (Harris & McDonald, 2004). Yoghurts, desserts and prepared salads also perform well with growth rates around 37% for the same period. Sales of ready meals to students are expected to increase by 23% between 2010 and 2012.

The purpose of the research is to inform the company about the student’s needs and desires, marketing opportunities for the ready meals and changing attitudes and purchase patterns of students (Pride & Ferrell, 2006). The research will aid in detecting shifts in buyers behaviors and attitudes and help the company to stay in touch with the ever changing student’s demands. 

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According to Hall (2008), this research will help the company to determine how different market segments and new products can be tested in the speciality food industry without the initial investment required of the major food producers. Lindgreen & Hingley (2009) says that for approximately 9000 students in the institution, the absence of ready meals for the UK student’s population has meant that many students have to go off campus to get hot lunches at cheaper prices. Britain is the only European country where the ethnic food market accounts for more 1% of all packaged food sales, and the market continues to grow rapidly.

The research will establish the need to compare the student’s lifestyle tending towards longer reading hours cited as the main reason for the increase in the consumption of convenient ready meals within the school. Baker (2012)says that a more recent development among the UK student population is the buying behaviour. Students are now suffering a poor diet as a result of lack of financial assets. The identity of a UK student buying a cheap ready meal may change, but there is always likelihood of an ethnic minority section of UK student population facing dietary problems induced by factors such as lack of English and cultural dissonances with the British food milieu (Stringer & Dennis, 2000). 

The research will help the company to devise ways of satisfying the student’s demands of high quality ready meals. Sun (2005) argues that there is a need to bring together many challenges facing the ready meals industry. These include selecting the most appropriate manufacturing treatments and raw materials for the wide range of often complex recipe dishes, maintaining the quality of these food materials up to the point of consumption, while taking into account the student’s sometimes unreliable role in the final part of the chain, storage and reheating.   

Research Objectives

Students’ attitude is a fundamental concept for the ready meals business. The primary objective of the research is to establish why there is a shift in UK students purchasing patterns of ready meals. This research objective will help the company to understand how students are integrating changes in terms of food they purchase and consume. This will give a conceptual background explaining the interest of UK students towards ready meals (Arora, 2006).

The second research objective is to determine how UK culture, student’s lifestyle and changing patterns are affecting the purchase of ready meals among the UK student population. Arora (2006) says that the impact of student lifestyle and changing patterns in terms of food purchased among the students will help in providing a further understanding of the changing lifestyle in terms of meals purchased. This will show the difference between the UK students and the rest of the student population within the institution.

The third research objective is to establish the various factors leading to the growth in the demand of cheap, nutritious, ready meals amongst the UK student population. Arora (2006) says that this research objective will explore factors such as the importance of marketing, effect of peer groups, pricing and quality of food and how they affect the students buying behaviour.    

Terms of reference

Objective 1: Why there is a shift in UK students purchasing patterns of ready meals

Within this objective the company will determine the attitudes and perceptions of the students. The sub-objective is to determine if the students are looking for new and different ready meals. Harris & McDonald (2004) says that another sub-objective is to explain why less than half of all students do not eat school meals and, therefore, there is a great potential for growth. Another sub-objective is determining the market size of ready meals and the major brands in ready meals students are interested in. 

Objective 2: How culture, student’s lifestyle and changing patterns are affecting the purchase of ready meals among the UK student population

The sub-objective within this objective is to explain why peer grouping amongst the UK student population plays an important role in the students buying behavior. The second sub-objective is to explain why the students’ culture is seen in terms of food they consume. Another sub-objective is to outline the relationship between longer class hours and ready meals as an alternative for ready meals (Arora, 2006).

Objective 3: To establish the various factors leading to the growth in the demand of cheap, nutritious, ready meals amongst the UK student population

Within this objective the sub objective is to establish why students do not derive value from the ready meals consequences but rather from its characteristics. Another sub objective is to determine why the ready meal markets are investing large amounts of money in understanding and interpreting student’s needs wants and desires. Another sub objective is to outline the amount of money UK students are willing to pay for convenience. Arora (2006) says that it is important for the research to explain why UK students are viewing ready meals as a solution rather than replacement.

Approach – Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is appropriate in this context because it describes the student’s environment by identifying the characteristics of things or phenomena that are associated with ready meals and the characteristics of the most frequent student purchasers (Hyman & Sierra, 2010). The descriptive research will seek to detail the characteristics of the company’s current customers, its competitors and the features of ready meals the students prefer. Parasuraman, Grewal & Krishnan (2006) says that descriptive research is the more frequently used form of conclusive research. This type of research will be classified into cross sectional and longitudinal studies.

Longitudinal studies will be appropriate because they offer repeated measurement studies that collect data over several periods in time. Parasuraman, Grewal & Krishnan (2006) says that longitudinal studies are more informative than cross-sectional studies. The primary purpose of longitudinal study is to monitor changes of student’s uptake of ready meals over time. The successive measurements in descriptive research will be obtained from a physically different but representative sample of students or from the same sample of units each time.

The following three tables illustrate how longitudinal studies will be used to give substantive information about ready meals with a certain period of time

Use of

Period 1

Period 2

Meal X

40

42

Meal Y

30

29

Meal Z

30

29

Total

100

100

In table 1 it can be noted that meal x is the leader with roughly a 40% share because the sample size is 100; the number of users of a brand can be interpreted as the meals percentage share of the market. In tables 2 and 3 the numbers under row total represent brand shares at the end of period 1 and the numbers opposite column total represent brand shares at the end of period 2. In this context, the overall brand shares at the end of period 1 and 2 of the descriptive research are identical to those in table 1.

No. of students brand at the end of period 1

Meal x

Meal y

Meal z

Row total

Meal x

17

21

2

40

 Meal y

23

5

2

30

Meal z

2

3

25

30

Column Total

42

29

29

100

 

No. of students brand at the end of period 1

Meal x

Meal y

Meal z

Row Total

Meal x

38

1

1

40

Meal y

2

27

1

30

Meal z

2

1

27

30

Column Total

42

29

29

100

 

The student’s data shown above has the advantage of enabling comparisons at different points of time. Nargundkar (2003) says that the effect of a change in price of ready meals, pack design or other elements of the marketing mix can be checked easily through descriptive research. Pride & Ferrell (2006) noted that the reason for using descriptive research is on the basis that if the company needs to understand the characteristics of certain group of students to analyse their needs descriptive research will help them.  

Issues for Inclusion in the Research

Rugimbana & Nwankwo (2003) says that before preparing a research, the company should ask itself for whom they conduct the research, what the research problems are, where the research is to be conducted, when it needs to be done and how it is to be done. Another important issue is to note that although there are unavoidable errors in the data collection procedure, such as response and non-response errors, and sampling errors, the researcher should ensure these errors are kept to a minimum (Rugimbana & Nwankwo, 2003).

Another issue of consideration is to determine the real student value proposition. McLoughlin & Aaker (2010) says that this value needs to be real rather than merely assumed. Value for the students is more likely to be real if it is driven from the customer’s perspective rather than from that of the business operation. The company should determine how the point of differentiation affects the student’s experience of buying a certain ready meal. It is important for the company to determine if the ready meals serves to reduce cost, add nutrition or increase satisfaction (McLoughlin & Aaker, 2010).

Methodology-Questionnaires

Determining the methodology for research is an important step which can never be underestimated. In this research I propose to employ questionnaires. Arora (2006) says that to determine the nature of the impact of various aspects on the purchase of ready meals, a structured questionnaire should be developed to collect the quantitative data needed. Rugimbana & Nwankwo (2003) say that questionnaires will use as a research instrument in measuring students’ behaviour, attitudes and perceptions. The advantages of using a questionnaire is that it help researchers to obtain accurate information, helps in structuring an interview, standardizing the interview format and assists in facilitating the data analysis process.

Through questionnaires, the respondents can provide the researcher with information required at ease and in relatively short time. Rugimbana & Nwankwo (2003) says that the researchers should be attuned to social and cultural backgrounds of the students in order to better understand their needs. Doole & Lowe (2008) says that while using the questionnaire it is important to take into account any differences in underlying student behaviour, decision making processes, psychographics, lifestyles and demographic variables. Doole & Lowe (2008) indicated that unstructured questions reduce cultural bias because they do not impose any response alternatives to the students. Data collected from questionnaire is transformed into statistic related figures computed by mathematical processes and then produce various tables in which numbers have unique meaning to be interpreted (Baier, Decker & Thieme 2005).

The questionnaire offers a consistent data gathering procedure and minimizes the effects of potential human errors. Its use also eliminates any bias introduced by the feelings of the respondents towards the interviewer (Arora, 2006). The researcher should use closed questions and one open question asking students’ suggestion for the improvement meals.          

Analysis

Data analysis will be based on the answers given in the questionnaires. The basis of the data analysis is to reveal features of the basic composition of the data collected. Parasuraman, Grewal & Krishnan (2006) says that data analysis will provide useful insights pertaining to the research objectives and suggest meaningful approaches for further analysis of the data. Zikmund & Babin (2009)

Zikmund & Babin (2009) says that descriptive analysis is the elementary transformation of data in a way that describes the basic characteristics such as central tendency, distribution and variability. In this context a researcher takes questionnaires from 100 UK students and tabulates their favorite ready meal and the price they expect to pay. The mode of ready meal and the average price across all 100 students would be descriptive statistics that describe central tendency in two different ways (Zikmund & Babin, 2009). The use of descriptive analysis will help the company to summarize responses from large numbers of respondents in a few simple statistics.

The sample of the UK students should include 50 females and 50 males. Their monthly allowance offered by their guardians should be £350 to £500. They should be aged 18 to 26 years old.

Variable

Male (Frequency in %)

Female (Frequency in %)

Age

18-20

25

25

20-22

25

25

22-24

25

25

24-26

25

25

Monthly allowance (Pocket Money)

 

 

£350-£450

65

75

£450-£500

35

25

 

The grouping of the sample size according to the different demographic variables will assist in understanding the changing attitudes and behaviors of the student’s consumption of ready foods. This table will help the company to direct its attention towards attracting the target student population by paying attention to the factors that are given most importance for the purchase of ready meals (Baker, 2012).

Output of the Analysis

The results collected for the data analysis should be discussed according to the answers provide by the respondents for the research objectives. The students were inquired about the type and price of the ready meals they purchase. This helped in establishing how the type and quality of food and price of the ready meals affects the purchase decision of ready meals amongst the students. To measure it, the relationship between the type of ready meal purchased and price and the student’s opinion towards if ready meals are a convenient substitute was analyzed with the help of correlation. The hypothesis tested will be as follows: Ho: Number of students and replies to ready meals as a convenient substitute are independent of each other. H1: Numbers of students and replies to ready meals as a convenient substitute are not independent of each other.

           

 

Frequency

Percent

Valid Percent

Cumulative Percent

Valid 

 

 

 

 

No

101

50.5

50.5

5.5

Yes

99

49.5

49.5

100.0

Total

200

100.0

100.0

 

              

If the results indicates that the relationship between the replies for ready meals as a convenient substitute for the students and number of students is 0.466, this implies that correlation is paramount; different from zero because under H0, p=0. Since significance (2Tailed) is <0.05, the researcher can reject Ho at 5% level of significance. Since the relationship is positive, it can be concluded that students prefer nutritious ready meals at low prices. The result will depict that student’s monthly allowance, age, and gender plays an important role in deciding whether to purchase ready meals.

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