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Conducting a Buyer Behaviour Study: The Holmes Institute, Australia

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABSTRACT                                                                                                                                    2

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                          2

LITERATURE REVIEW                              ........

                                                                                           2

INTRODUCTION                                                                                                                          2

LITERATURE REVIEW                                                                                                               3

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY                                                                                                   3

RESEARCH QUESTIONS                                                                                                             4

DATA COLLECTED                                                                                                                     4

1.1 DEMOGRAPHIC SEGMENTATION                                                                                     6

1.2 PSYCHOGRAPHIC SEGMENTATION                                                                                 6

1.3 EMOTION, MOTIVATION AND THE PURCHASE DECISION                                        7

2. RECOMMENDATIONS                                                                                                            8

CONCLUSION                                                                                                                               9

 

ABSTRACT

 

Multiple factors contribute to creating a sphere of influence around the behaviour of buyers. In order to study the behaviour of students as prospective ‘buyers’ of educational services from universities, a short survey has been undertaken that will enable the understand what drives their choices better. The subject of the study is the Holmes Institute, which is a private university with multiple campuses in Australia. Thirty students agreed to participate in our survey, and the findings will be presented after the data that has been collected has been duly analyzed. This study is in furtherance to classroom engagement in the topic of ‘Buyer Behaviour’.

INTRODUCTION

The Holmes Institute is situated in Australia. It is a well known fact that most universities in Australia are public(UOA, 2015), i.e. they are funded by the government and are not owned by private entities.This is not the case with the Holmes Institute. The university was established in the year 1963. It has been providing vocational and technical training for over five decades. It has multiple campuses across Australia for example in Brisbane and in Gold Coast. It also has a campus in Hong Kong (Holmes.com,2017).

 

Post-establishment, the university was primarily called The Holmes Management College, or simply Holmes College. It provides a variety of courses in the fields of Business Management, Financial Accounting, Fashion Technology and even Beauty Therapy.

 

The Holmes Institute is often regarded as providing an ‘alternate pathway’ to education in Australia. It has courses beginning from certificates that involve training of students for Australian High schools, vocational training courses all the way up till Master’s degrees in competitive courses such as Management and Financial Accounting. As a private institute, it has the freedom to determine its own system, as it does not fall subject to stringent government rules as do the public institutions. This means, that the institute can dynamically adapt itself in order to provide the best preparation for its students in the labour market.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The object of this study is to understand the various reasons that have motivated the sample size to opt for Holmes, and what aspects of the universities, or what personal drivers have determined the choices of these students. The behaviour of the students is sought to be understood, and the findings collected through the method of survey will be thoroughly studied to see what factor affects the decision to what degree. Different methods of data presentation will be used. The data that has been collected will subsequently be analyzed. It has to be kept in mind that through questionnaires, intricate traits of personality cannot be identified down to the specific details due to the several barriers such as clear communication. A general picture, however has been drawn out to the best of our ability to enable us to understand the different segments of students that are currently in the campus of the Holmes Institute.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

 

The method that is used to conduct this study is that of survey collection. This method has been chosen because of its widespread use in empirical surveys(stanford.edu, 2013), and its is preferred by those who seek to study consumer behaviour. Various studies on the subject of buyer behaviour prefer to use this method due to the personalization it comes with. It brings in valuable information that offers insights into the minds of the buyers. There are different types of surveys that are conducted, they vary from the face-to-face type to an online survey. There are also combinations of multiple survey methods that can be applied, and these are referred to as ‘mixed surveys’.

 

For the purposes of this document, the survey methods applied are the questionnaire survey and online survey method. The questionnaire contained 7 questions that were asked to each student in order to determine

  1. Demographic
  2. Course of choice
  3. First Impression
  4. Choice-making rationale
  5. Satisfaction
  6. Interests
  7. Favourite activities on campus

 

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

 

  1. What is your age group?
  2. What course have you opted for in the Holmes Institute?
  3. How did you first hear about the Institute?
  4. What made you choose the Holmes Institute?
  5. Are you happy with the decision you made?
  6. What are your personal interests like?
  7. What activities that take place upon the campus do you enjoy the most?

 

The rationale behind requesting the sample size to disclose the details of its age was to ascertain the demographic of our sample size, that aids better research. The course opted provides for information regarding what stage of his/her education the participant is at to determine what they must expect after the completion of the course. How a prospective buyer comes across the choice is a relevant question, as that helps ascertain the domains over which the institute has the most effective presence. What factors compel a person to opt for a particular option, will also offer an insight into what aspects of the Holmes Institute is considered to be a positive factor in determining whether it would be a viable institute for further education. Finally, each participant was asked  if they were satisfied with the decision they made, i.e. if - they are happy with their alma mater- to help determine if any of the participants felt like they had made a premature decision. The last two questions were asked to specifically enable a Psychographic Segmentation analysis. The participants were asked to share their personal interests, such as hobbies or things they like to spend their time doing. Then, they were asked to share what activity that took place on the institute campus that they enjoyed the most.

DATA COLLECTED

 

AGE GROUP:

17-20

9

20-25

12

25-30

5

30 and above

4

 


 

COURSE:

Vocational Training Courses

12

Undergraduate Courses

7

Post Graduate Courses

11

 

FIRST IMPRESSION

Online

3

Friends and Family

6

News articles and media coverage

7

Others

14

 

CHOICE MAKING RATIONALE

Infrastructure

10

Proximity

7

Affordability

5

Variety of Courses

8

 

SATISFACTION

Yes

27

No

3

 

PERSONAL INTERESTS

 

Indoor Activities

12

Outdoor Activities

18

 

CAMPUS ACTIVITIES

 

Student gatherings, events, dinners

8

Seminars, academic events

4

Sports events i.e. varsity matches

10

Performances

8

 

 

 

1.1 DEMOGRAPHIC SEGMENTATION

 

The demographics of the data collected indicate to that most of our sample size is actually relatively young. Most of the respondents to the questionnaire are between the ages of 20-25. This helps conclude that their expectations out of the Institute would actually be quite different. Another matter of interest from the sample size is that most of our participants have opted for vocational training courses. These courses are designed to equip those who enroll for them with quick technical skills that would enable them to find jobs in the labour market.(Karmel, 1992). Therefore an inference can be drawn that most of our sample size is currently in the quest of being able to secure themselves through fast technical skills by finding a job that best suits their needs, interests and skills. The least share of our sample size comes from undergraduate courses.

 

While infrastructure has been a significant determinant in the decision-making process, it is found that the sample respondents also rely on practicality i.e. proximity is a key determinant in pointing to Holmes Institute as an appropriate choice.

 

 

1.2 PSYCHOGRAPHIC SEGMENTATION

Market segmentation is a process that is used in the formulation of marketing strategies, as it helps a business determine its target consumers. It helps to shape marketing energies and direct them towards specific segments of the market that will respond best to specific strategies.

One of the most common basis upon which the market is segmented is demographic segmentation, or segmentation based on indicators such as age, income, expenditure, area of residence etc. This helps determine the basic interests of the test-group, their economic outlay, and subsequent analysis help determine whether they will respond to one marketing strategy, or another(Ortmeier and Perri, 1991), or none at all.

However, over time, businesses have realized that consumers are not merely driven by how the permutation and combination of these indicators affect them. They are also affected deeply by their own individual personality traits.

In the context of this study, psychographic segmentation can be used to determine how the institute is to direct its marketing efforts towards individual segments of students. In the instant case, this has been done by taking into account the array of interests that the sample size has disclosed.

In the field of higher education, the prevalence of many universities offering competitive courses has given prospective students the ability to exercise their choice in the matter. Like other business entities, universities have also to adapt and morph according to the consumer driven behaviour displayed by the respondents. In this atmosphere of competition, it becomes essential for an establishment to place its brand value firmly in the eyes of students who consider education in Australia as an option. The ‘international student’ is an important element of the market share, and Holmes University must also adapt to appeal to that demographic. As of March 2017, a statistic released by the Australian Department of Education indicates that there are 480,092 international students currently pursuing higher education in Australia. Due to the diverse number of courses that are available to the students, the statistic also proves that students enroll in multiple courses in one calendar year.

Of the international students that attend Australian universities, as high as 30% of them are from China and 11% are from India. Other countries that also contribute significantly to the influx of students from overseas universities are Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal at 4% each. From 2016 to 2017, the number of students enrolling in Australian universities from China increased by 20,000.

Two broad categories of students have been identified from the data collected, one segment who are interested in the academic activities that the university provides, and another larger segment that prefers outdoor activities and enjoys the student based sport and cultural events that take place on campus.

Therefore, there are two types of prospective and current students that the institute has to take into consideration while formulating its marketing strategies. It has to ensure that the campus has ample space and provisions for both types of students to indulge in activities they like. This will contribute towards improving not only the level of satisfaction among students, but also inter-student unity, that will reflect in the overall improvement of the quality of education they receive.

 

A majority of the sample size prefers outdoor activities, meaning the university is going to have to invest more in making outdoor facilities accessible to all students. Although it is true that the number of students who prefer indoor activities is lesser from the sample size we have collected, their needs have to be included too in order to appeal to a large prospective student base. Therefore, like automobile businesses have diversified their range in order to cater to multiple psychographic demographics, (Albaum and Hawkins, 1983) it is essential for Holmes University too to provide for all different types of student personalities who are on campus. Many activities that take place on a campus are directed towards specific groups of students, what can be  learned from this survey is that, although different types of students prefer different activities, it would be preferable if the university could create a platform where the interests intersect with one another, bringing together the different types of students that one observes on campus.

1.3 EMOTION, MOTIVATION AND THE PURCHASE DECISION

In Australia, families encourage youth to become independent since a very young age, and they are usually asked to make their own decisions with respect to choice of educational institution, career path, etc. It is interesting to note that more students from aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities are opting for mainstream university education.(Abs.gov.au, 2017) From the survey, it is learned that there are a variety of factors that affect the decision of a university goer to decide to attend any particular university. As already stated above, majority of the sample size is pursuing a vocational training course, which means they do not prioritize academic pursuits, but job opportunities in the current career market. The use of news articles as a tool to create an impression in the minds of future candidates, has seen as much as 23.3% of our sample size stated the first contact with the brand of the university to be through the news coverage of the university. ‘Infrastructure’ has been stated as the most important factor that affects the decision of a student, and is one that enables them to choose Holmes University. This indicates that the consumer base is a pragmatic and practical one (Hasan, 2012), and motivation plays a very important role in this decision making process.

In order to build the brand presence of the Holmes University, it would be best to make investments in the infrastructure of the university, proximity and course variety have also been stated as important factors by the remainder of the sample size. This shows that to the sample size, Holmes is the right option due to its fulfillment of a variety of criteria. It is difficult to pinpoint to what makes this university unique, as if proximity is a consideration then Holmes becomes a replaceable option for a student who has multiple choices within a proximate distance from his/her residence.

Affordability forms an important choice too, but among the sample size it is the least important. This is because the cost of tuition in Australia has been standardized by the government, therefore the students do not have to compromise or forego a potential choice for higher education merely on account of lack of financial resources to be able to afford them. The true test of the ability of the university to make a recognizable brand of itself will be fulfilled when it is able to bring students from its courses back to complete other programmes such as MBAs. Universities cannot continue to use the strategies they used to in the past, but will have to start anticipating the future by preparing their campuses and marketing teams for it.

Qualitative analysis of existing market data has indicated that the international students in Australian universities constitute a large proportion of the demand, and it is ergo necessary for universities to identify that market and adapt to meet the demands. The flexibility of the choice that can be exercised by local students is not as high as that which can be exercised by international students. Here, it becomes clear that not merely the university but also the viability of the location needs to be advertised and made available for visits from other international interested stakeholders.

A study of the psychographic demographic of all the students attending Australian universities provides that a large proportion of the students visit from rapidly developing countries such as China and India. Therefore, these markets need to be identified as potential sources of advertisement of the Holmes’ name. Exchange programs for instance, are good tools to increase the exposure that prospective students receive of the university.

Since we are living in an age where students are increasingly encouraged to pursue their interests, universities have to shift focus from marketing their courses to marketing passion. They have to be able to bridge the gap between students’ individual interests and passions, and careers in this highly globalized world economy. (the Guardian, 2017) ‘The aim is to show them the way to do what they love’.

One of the risks that the competitive market poses is that of new entrants that can evolve quickly to meet the rapidly rising demand, and capture a significant share of it. The Australian government has already ascertained that the competition is against international players, and it is therefore in the furtherance of collective interest that the government has been making endeavour to spread awareness about Australian universities abroad. Education brings in revenue, much like Tourism, and is naturally of national interest.

The top choice drivers that have been identified from our sample size is course choice, infrastructure and affordability.

2. RECOMMENDATIONS

The purpose of conducting a psychographic survey along with a demographic survey was to ascertain certain general personality traits of the participants to determine what segment of the student body demands a certain infrastructure installment, or a certain program to be provided. The personal interests of students are relevant(the Guardian, 2017) while studying educational institutions because they determine how individual students respond to various aspects of their education. Qualitative analysis of existing market data, however, provides a clear picture of what the university needs to do in order to tap opportunities, and at the same time, avert risks that the competitive market will pose. Certain recommendations have been made based upon the data gathered, and the conclusions drawn. A university that aspires to utilize the potential in this market must shape marketing strategies;

  1. To integrate academic events into the student sphere to enable interaction between the students and various parties from the labour market
  2. To ensure the proper functioning of services such as libraries, cafeterias and other common services utilized by the students
  3. To provide opportunities for students from diverse cultural groups to be able to celebrate their heritage in the campus space
  4. To use social media platforms to enhance the image of the institute (Washington.edu, 2017)
  5. To encourage students to share their individual experiences with the university on the internet
  6. To ensure a close nexus exists between current students and the alumni (Universitiesuk.ac.uk, 2017)
  7. To build a strong community based on connections that expands outside of the campuses
  8. To strengthen inter-campus unity, as there are multiple campuses

CONCLUSION

As we are moving towards a more literate, driven globe, the competition among educational institutions is on a sharp rise. The consumer base for educational services i.e. students look for more than just a good classroom experience. They look for institutions that are equipped with the infrastructure to give them a well-rounded university experience. In the case of the Holmes Institute, the courses that are offered are truly diverse, and hence, the kinds of students on campus are also different.

There are vocational courses for the attainment of skills that can get one quick jobs in the market, and then there are heavy, serious post graduate courses such as MBA that is recognized by Oxford, that sees a different demographic of students, who are looking to take on decisive management roles. Therefore, a varied student body also demands a multi-pronged response from the institution. It has to make space available for both the building of hard and soft skills, while ensuring that students do not feel demarcated on the basis of their level of education, or the course that they are opting for. A university environment, although deeply heterogenous in nature, demands the institute itself to cater to the needs of all students, and bring them together as a community.

The sample surveyed in this report, albeit small, still provides a great insight into the phenomena of psychographic demarcation. The differences in personality traits and interests affect behaviour of buyers, and this effect has to be understood in order to enhance it, and bring the service or product to the attention of more potential consumers in the forray. It is noteworthy that the competition among private institutions in Australia is far tougher than that among public institutions because the options among the former are few, and the prospective applicants, many. Therefore, every competitive edge must be tapped into, in order to attract more students.

NOTES