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In-depth interviews usually require high interview skills of the research such as flexibility (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). As the researcher does not have previous experiences, several pilot interviews will be conducted to obtain some knowledge and experiences in understanding the way that the participants are likely to respond to the questions. Besides, the researcher could also adjust the interview questions more appropriately. Therefore, the researcher could to conduct the subsequent interviews more effectively and efficiently (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000; Silverman, 2011).
Two pilot interviews would be conducted: one participant from Japan and another from China. In order to realise some improvement in the subsequent interview process, after the pilot interview, participants will be invited to offer suggestions relating to how they feel about the research questions, whether the researcher behaves and asks question properly, and their advices on better form the questions and the interview schedule. In addition, the pilot interviews would be recorded to assist review and making adjustment to the interview process.
3.4.1 Sampling Design Defined as “the method, criteria and procedures used to select subjects for study” (Lunsford and Lunsford, 1995:106), sampling is generally conducted to permit the detailed study of part, rather than the whole, of a population (Marshall & Rossman, 2010). There are two types of sampling: probability and nonprobability sampling (Coyne, 1997). The former refers to that the subjects are selected at random in order to avoid selection bias, and the latter means the participants are not chosen randomly. It is usually criticized as the samples chosen might potentially be less able to represent the whole population (Lunsford and Lunsford, 1995).
The research aims to discover motivations towards fashion luxury consumption of Japanese and Chinese young female consumers, the researcher would then solely focus on selecting representatives from these two targeting groups. Participants are selected based on the researcher’s personal contacts and networks (e.g., classmates, Japanese language session teachers, friends in China, etc.). In addition, as the research topic explores the luxury purchasing motivations, interview participants are carefully selected considering the income level (or family income level), exposure to fashion luxury brands, and whether the person has purchased luxury goods before.
Therefore, the non-probability sampling is appropriate, considering the research question and aim, the population scale and resource limitations. Methods of nonprobability sampling available are convenience sampling, snowball sampling, purposive sampling, and quota sampling (Coyne, 1997). This research would apply snowball and purposive sampling. Snowball sampling means the first respondent is a friend, and then samples are extended to the friend’s other friends (Coyne, 1997). In addition, purposive sampling refers to that the researcher chooses the samples based on who they think would be appropriate for the study (Coyne, 1997). The technique of purposive sampling allows researchers to select participants based on preselected criteria that are relevant to the research question (Coyne, 1997).
3.4.2 Respondents Demographics Eight Chinese young females and eight Japanese young females aged from 24 to 35 were interviewed; the researcher was therefore able to collect relative valuable and sufficient data. Firstly, the participants were born in China or Japan, and lived in their own country for a considerable part of their lives, and still lived there currently. Secondly, majority of the respondents were from big cities, such as from Shanghai or Beijing of China, and Tokyo or Osaka of Japan. Thirdly, respondents’ educational levels were almost all Bachelor degrees or above, and most of them were currently working. The demographic data describes the respondents are displayed in the Table 4. As for the privacy protection reasons and participant comfort, no names were recorded within the interview; instead, the interviewees were named with numbers as shown below.
The samples of respondents were selected for several reasons. Firstly, narrowing the demographics to females aged from 24 to 35 reduced heterogeneity in the data, as males and a different age group could have different purchasing behaviours and motivations for luxury purchasing. Secondly, having respondents born and living in their own countries allowed the participants to offer the researcher with raw information and data that truly and reliably reflects consumers’ perceptions and motives towards luxury fashion goods in China and Japan. Thirdly, participants interviewed were almost all from big cities in each nation (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen in China, and Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kanagawa in Japan), this is because luxury fashion brands usually distribute largely in big cities, which means that all respondents had similar or close levels of getting familiar and access to luxury fashion brands. Fourthly, similar educational degrees lead to similar income levels to some extent in each country;
therefore, the ability to purchase luxury fashion products might be similar as well.
Setting constraints in choosing samples could reduce heterogeneity in data, help to understand certain group’s luxury purchasing behaviours more deeply, and make it easier for the cross-culture comparison. Besides, as the young generation accounts for a large proportion in luxury fashion products consumption in Asian countries, the exploration of their motives would bring benefits for luxury fashion brands in developing marketing strategies. Limitations as to the samples chosen would be discussed later in the conclusion chapter.
3.5 Interview schedule
All interviews were recorded for further reviews. The interviewer started with asking general questions such as ‘do you enjoy shopping?’, ‘can you tell me your luxury purchasing experiences?’ to build trust with the interviewees (Thorpe & Holt, 2008).
The researcher then directed the conversations gradually to the luxury fashion purchasing, asked open-ended questions, and encouraged the respondent to talk freely.
The interview schedule included the following steps.
The interviews started with warm-up conversations with the respondents. The researcher firstly told the participant that there were no right or wrong answers, they were free to use any thoughts and comments on the topic, and they were free to leave the interview at any time they desired.
Secondly, the researcher gradually guided the conversation topic to the luxury purchasing. The participants were encouraged to talk about their luxury fashion branded items purchasing experiences, hopefully the luxury goods perceptions could be brought to the participants’ minds. During this period, the researcher asked the respondents their experiences and the brands they were familiar with, as well as described their views towards these brands. How participants viewed and considered about certain brands could indicate their inner perceptions towards luxury brands to some extent.
Thirdly, the interviewer explored participants’ views about the differences between luxury products and standard normal products, or in their views, what distinguished the luxury and normal products. Further exploration aims to investigate what benefits they feel they might get from purchasing a luxury product instead of a standard one.
This could help the researcher gain insights into the reasons that they bought luxury fashion items.
Fourthly, the country of the participants began to be brought into the conversation.
Participants were asked whether their friends and families purchased luxury fashion items, how their friends viewed about their luxury consumptions, if there were any luxury brands more famous than others in their country and the reasons for that. The participants were also asked about whether they were influenced by the majorities’ preferences in choosing luxury brands in their countries. These questions could help the researcher gain some insights about the social groups’ influences on the participants’ luxury consumption behaviours.
Fifthly, the researcher presented the respondents with the motivations summarised from the literature. The participants were asked to say whether each motivation would be either a strong or weaker feeling for them. Then they were invited to describe the reasons and make comments on how they thought about other motivations.
Sixthly, the interviewer drew out the motivations of luxury purchasing. During this time, the researcher asked the participants’ views towards fake luxury products; asked if they bought fake luxury products before, and the reasons of purchasing. Fake luxury fashion products present an issue to the brand buyers and the satisfaction of their motives. The way they viewed fakes might help reveal their own motives from another perspective.
3.6 Data Capture
The data collected from the interview was recorded in two forms: through a simple hand writing recording, and a taped audio recording of the interview. Then the researcher translated and transcribed the recorded conversations into text in order for reviewing and further analysis. These methods produced raw data for the researcher.
3.7 Data analysing technique Transcriptions were divided into two separate documents by countries. Silverman (2011) notes that in dealing with respondent’s answers to open-ended questions, one good method is ‘to treat the respondents’ answers as describing some external reality (e.g. facts, events) or internal experience (e.g. feelings, meanings)’ (Silverman, 2011:238). This approach contains elements of positivism (facts) and ‘experience’, which could ensure the accuracy and validity of the interpretations to some extent by ‘securing a fit’ between the researcher’s interpretations and some external reality (Silverman, 2011:238). The data collected would be coded into similar themes, and these themes would then be interpreted and compared to luxury purchasing motivations from the literature.
In summary, in order to explore and compare the luxury fashion product purchasing motivations of Chinese and Japanese young consumers, the interpretivism research paradigm and the qualitative procedure are adopted in gathering data from the in-depth interviewing, with eight Chinese and eight Japanese respondents recruited by snowball and purposive sampling. Besides, the interpretivism is mainly adopted in coding and theming the factors that affect respondents’ luxury purchasing motivations.
Chapter 4 Research Findings and Discussions
4.1 Introduction Sufficient data was gathered after interviewing eight Chinese respondents and eight Japanese respondents in exploring their motivations towards luxury purchasing. The data collected was coded, and the information was classified into different categories relating to the research topic. The findings and discussions are presented in this chapter by three sections addressing the similarities and differences in luxury purchasing motivations across China and Japan. The first section illustrates the main/common luxury purchasing motivations shared by respondents from the two nations. These common motivations are: perceived functional values, interpersonal effects, personal effects, and the financial values. The second and the third sections refer to the specific motivations of Chinese and Japanese respondents discovered within this research data.
4.2 Common Motivations of Chinese and Japanese respondents
4.2.1 Functional oriented motivation Both respondents from China and Japan emphasise the importance of the functional value when they purchased the luxury fashion branded items. Wiedmann et al (2007) argued that luxury consumers can be motived by the functional attributes of luxury products such as the good quality, the longevity, design and the uniqueness.
Quality and Durability Almost all participants from both countries emphasised that, when they purchased luxury fashion branded goods, quality and durability were important considerations as luxury goods are of excellent quality and could be used longer. As Chinese respondent 1 and Japanese respondent 4 answered when asked about the reasons why purchasing
luxury fashion goods:
‘Quality, good quality means it can be used longer, compared to spend the similar amount of money buying many different items of normal products, I prefer spending this amount of money buying one or two luxury good, I can use it longer because of the good quality’. (Chinese respondent 1) ‘Good quality. When I decide to buy one luxury fashion product, I would think carefully about the decision, and plan to use it for a long time…because I spend much money on it, and I would certainly take good care of it ’. (Chinese respondent 6) ‘I don’t really buy cheap stuff because they do not last long and they are usually not good. If I need to buy things like a handbag or clothes, I prefer to buy with better design, higher quality and longer using period. Higher prices equal to higher quality to some extent, which is why sometimes I prefer luxury things’. (Japanese respondent 4) Almost half of the Chinese respondents mentioned that luxury fashion brands could last longer than the normal high street fashion brands, therefore, when they purchased certain items from luxury brands, the intangible value from the high brand reputation could help extend the using period of the item.