An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Online Promotional Tools in Developing Brands in the Retail Industry: A Case Study of Marks and Spencer, London, UK

1.0 Introduction:

An increased tendency of following online promotional tool has been found considering the case of contemporary business organisation. Online promotional tool helps organisation in creating mass awareness within a shorter time span. Present study is focused on evaluating the effectiveness of online promotional tools in the UK retail industry. The researcher has chosen Marks and Spencer while conducting the research. This study would cover aim, objectives of the research. In the second phase, past theories and literature would be described by the researcher in order to justify with the findings. In the third phase, potential methodologies would be chosen by the researcher in order to make the research successful. Research design, methodologies would be mentioned by the researcher followed by data collection and data analysis process.

1.1 Research aim:

The aim of the research is to “Evaluate the significance of online promotional tools in developing brands of the retail industry, the UK”. It is a proven fact that online promotional tools are effectively helping organisations in build their brands effectively. As stated by Berthon et al. (2008), online promotional tools such a social media networking sites are creating consumer awareness by creating positive word of mouth, email and via chatting with the customers. Considering the fact, the researcher has chosen the study to judge whether the online promotional could effectively build the brand image of the UK retail industry or not.

1.2 Research objectives:

The objectives are:

Objective 1: To evaluate the significance of online promotional tool in developing the brand image in the UK retail industry:

Online promotional tools have been established as a significant brand enhancement initiative in the UK retail industry. However, Bogart (2006) criticised the same and stated that the negative word of mouth could generate miserable brand image while conducting promotional activity via online media. Taking this into consideration, the research has been chosen in order to judge the effectiveness of the online promotional tool in the UK retail industry.

Objective 2: To identify present online promotional strategies followed by Marks and Spencer, the UK:

Most of the retail market players in the UK are following online promotional tools to promote and establish successful brand image in the global market (Brown and Reingen, 2006). Marks and Spencer can be considered as an established retail brand in the UK. However, present study would identify current online promotional activities followed by M&S and its effectiveness is building the brand image of M&S.

Objective 3: To recommend effective online promotional tools for enhancing the brands in the UK retail sector:

Although online promotional tools help contemporary business organisations in the brand building exercise, few times it has been observed in exhibiting negative influence on the brand image. As stated by Chaharsoughi and Yasory (2012), negativity might be raised by ineffective utilisation of the tools. Hence, to mitigate the issue the researcher would attempt to provide strategic recommendations which could significantly help in enhancing the brand image of the organisation.

1.3 Research questions:

The research questions are:

  1. What is the significance of online promotion in enhancing the brand image of the UK retail sector?
  2. How much M&S is involved in the online promotional activity?
  3. What is the role of social media in building successful brand image of the UK retail sector?
  4. What are the ways of improving present online promotional tools for enhancing brand value of an organisation?

2.0 Literature review:

As the study is focused on evaluating the online marketing approach of the UK retail industry, ample of literatures about the online promotion can be evaluated. Evaluating theoretical aspects and effectiveness of online promotional tools could help in establishing theoretical platform for the research study.

2.1 Promotional mix strategy:

Promotional mix identifies and describes a blend of variables selected by organisations for reaching its goals. As stated by Godes and Mayzlin (2004), promotional mix could become an optimal way of allocating budgets for different elements to achieve market results in a better way. Advertisements, personal selling, public relations, direct marketing etc. comes under promotional mix. However, Packer (2011) stated that following an “Integrated Marketing Communication” strategy could become beneficial for the organisations as it covers all aspects of marketing mix in a single shade.

Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC):

Integrated marketing communication can be defined as an approach which combines variety of communication disciplines in order to provide the clarity, consistency and optimum communication impact. As stated by Reichheld and Schefter (2005), IMC helps to create seamless experience for the customers across varied aspects of the marketing mix.

The IMC tool is useful in describing different types of marketing, promotions, advertising and sales tools which can be extensively used while conducting promotional campaigns. In this context, Riegner (2007) stated that IMC tool could help the UK retail industry in promotional activity starting from search engine optimisation (SEO) to social media and blogs. By utilising IMC tool, the UK retail industry could significantly improve its brand awareness which is one of the vital criteria in brand building exercise. As stated by Steenkamp and Geyskens (2006), market players can significantly communicate brand story and provide valuable messages to the global customers.

On the other hand, it has been found that most of the global population prefers to be online in social media sites and interact with their fellows. IMC could become more cost effective rather than mass media as majority customers prefers to interact with various brands across forums and digital interfaces. Furthermore, Szmigin and Reppel (2001) identified that IMC could successfully build competitive advantage of the firm by offering more improved features to the customers. Additionally, the overall UK retail industry could become benefited by using IMC tool in terms of increased communication frequency with the global customers in a cost effective way.

2.2 Significance of online promotional tools in brand building exercise:

Online marketing tools helps organisations in creating mass awareness within a shorter time span. As stated by Wang and Emurian (2005), the basic utility of online marketing tool is that it helps to create “Brand awareness” in both types of business B2B or B2C. Online promotional tools conduct digital marketing, online marketing, e marketing or sales promotion via social media channels. However, East et al. (2007) stated that IMC basically increases the “Communication frequency” with the customers which makes organisation able to find actual lacking of the product offerings. By utilising online communication channel, organisations can significantly “Solve any type of customer issues” in a shorter time span. Apart from that, promotion via social media channels could significantly enhance the likings of the customers which could eventually enhance the brand awareness of the customers.

As several new brands are coming into the UK retail sector, promoting brands in an attractive way has become mandatory criteria for the market players. Online promotional strategy could significantly help retail organisations in promoting more brand features in a convenient, customised and cost effective way.

2.3 Online promotional tools extensively used by the UK retail industry:

Most of the UK retail organisations are utilising online advertising, social media, internet, and websites in order to build their brand values effectively.

Internet marketing:

Internet marketing is known as the digital marketing, web marketing, or e marketing which promotes products or services over the internet.  Advertising via web enables the marketers to offer sales promotion incentives such as coupons and contests to the customers (Brown and Reingen, 2006). It enhances the interest among the customers and eventually enhances brand awareness. Tesco is the largest retail manufacturer of the UK. It utilises social media channels, advertising via online media to promote sales offers such as buy 1 get 2 free or offering at a lower prices. All these initiatives of Tesco have increased the brand awareness in the market and it has increased its market share accordingly. Apart from that, social media channel is also used by the retail industry in order to provide daily updates to the user. The usage of “Hash tag” campaign in the Twitter redirects the user into the promotional sites of the users which enhances the brand awareness eventually (, 2014).

Online advertising and sponsored content:

Online advertising helps contemporary business organisations in maintaining the brand equity. Web placement of creative visual and banner ads are common forms of online promotional policies followed extensively by the UK’s retail organisations. As stated by Szmigin and Reppel (2001), online promotions can provide higher visibility and it could successfully make people able to click through a specific website. Not only this, Brown and Reingen (2006) stated that brand can also sponsor specific events on a third party side which could also create higher brand image in the global market. Walmart, ASDA, M&S are considered as valuable a successful retail brands in the UK retail sector. All of these organisations are utilising online advertising by introducing banners and graphical overlays (, 2014). It could enhance the visibility attraction and eventually the brand awareness can be increased.

3.0 Research design and methodology:

3.1 Type of investigation:

To conduct the study, the researcher has chosen potential research methodologies so that a certain degree of authenticity and relevance can be maintained. In this context, Brannen (2009) stated that the selection of research approach, philosophy and research design could help in reaching the authenticity of the study.

While conducting the study, the researcher has chosen positivism philosophy. Positivism philosophy deals with real life scenario and the researcher would require analysing practical facts in order to identify the actual scenario. As stated by Cameron (2009), positivism philosophy is applicable to the researches which consider practical facts and figures for establishing the required scenario. Considering the scenario, the researcher has focused on analysing the effectiveness of online promotional tools in developing the brand name in the UK retail industry. Hence, choosing positivism philosophy is supposed to be authentic for conducting present study.

Additionally, the researcher has opted for descriptive research design while conducting the study. As stated by Freshwater (2007), descriptive research design is useful in the cases where research problem needs to be addressed by solving ample of research questions. Furthermore, Miles and Huberman (2006) stated that solution of the questions is done in a specific way so that another vital problem can be identified. In this study, the researcher has created researcher questionnaires which need to be solved for addressing the actual problem statement. Hence, descriptive research design could be compatible for the present research study.

When it comes to research approach, the researcher has opted for deductive research approach in order to meet the accuracy of the study. As stated by Morse (2007), deductive research approach maintains the proper flow of the study. On the other hand, deductive approach contradicts the inductive research approach which prioritises theory testing than developing new theories. Inductive approach prioritises developing new ideas followed by theory testing (Saunders et al. 2009). In this study, the researcher has not focused establishing new theories. The researcher has tried to analyse the significance of online promotional tools in developing the brand of the retail industry considering the case of Marks and Spencer, the UK. Therefore, deductive approach is considered more specific for conducting current study.

3.2 Data collection method:

Present study would be based on primary and secondary research technique. The researcher would undergo quantitative and qualitative data collection while gathering primary data. To collect primary data, the researcher would send a questionnaire to the existing customers of the retail brand and depending on the response quantitative data could be gathered. On the other hand, qualitative data would be gathered by involving the managers of M&S. While conducting quantitative data collection, 60 customers of M&S would be involved in the process. On the other hand, 6 middle line mangers of M&S would be involved in the qualitative data collection process. Furthermore, face to face interview would be conducted by the researcher to get the response of the middle line managers in the process of gathering qualitative data.

The choice of secondary data would lead to the success or failure of the research. Secondary data would be collected by suing various books, journals and by using theoretical propositions used by various authors. The university library could be assessed for gathering e-resources. Not only this, prior reports of several leading retail organisations would be downloaded from the official websites and it could help understanding current scenario.

3.3 Sampling method:

Incorporating potential sampling process is essential as it selects homogeneous groups from wider population of heterogeneous groups. However, a suitable sampling method needs to be employed to achieve the success of the project (VanderStoep and Johnson, 2009). Furthermore, the research would choose simple random sampling method for gathering the response of the customers in an equal manner. On the other hand, non probability sampling method would be used by the researcher in order to acquire the qualitative data from the managers of M&S.

Sample Size:

Without selecting proper sample size, it would become very difficult for the organisations to collect appropriate data from the respondents. As mentioned by Morse (2007), sample size below 40 might not provide desired data which would be adequate to conduct the research. Considering the fact, the researcher would choose 60existing customers of M&S for gathering quantitative data. On the other hand, 6 middle line managers can be taken as sample for generating qualitative data.

3.4 Accessibility issues:

Quantitative data analysis would employ inline media and it could become accessibility issue while conducting the research. Any gathered information can be lost due to power cut or any network failure. On the other hand, middle line managers might not be available always for participating in the face to face interview.

3.5 Ethical issues:

Ethical considerations are very essential for ensuring transparent conduction of the research (Saunders et al. 2009). While conducting the study, data privacy, integrity and honesty needs to be considered by the researcher. Otherwise, it would create an ethical issue. While conducting the interview, no respondents would be made forced to respond and no responses would be made public in order to maintain data integrity. However, the secondary data collection would also be done from a valid source in order to avoid any duplicity of the research.

3.6 Data analysis plan:

Data analysis would be done within a specific time limit and it would allow the researcher to accumulate potential data which are required to gather while conducting the study. Quantitative data analysis would be done by using Microsoft Excel and the percentage response would be presented in a graphical manner. Furthermore, the researcher would utilise Microsoft Word while describing the analysis and presenting the graphical presentation.

Qualitative data analysis would be conducted by the gathered response of the middle line managers of M&S. The gathered response from the mangers would be in a descriptive way in order to receive the actual scenario of online promotional usage of M&S and its impact on maintaining the brand value of the firm.

3.7 Research limitations:

Number of chosen middle line manager might not be able to provide authentic data. Furthermore, due to the lesser time availability, the researcher might not be able to create accurate data for successfully conducting the research.

4.0 Strength of anticipated findings and the relation to aims and objectives of the study:

The utility of online promotional tools could become an agenda in marketing portfolio. This could make an effective communication channel between the customers and the organisation that could lead to improved brand reputation. Present strategy of M&S can be identified and it could be related to the objectives of the research. However, online promotional strategy could help the UK retail sector in improving its brand reputation and loyalty across the global business platform.

5.0 Dissertation structure:

The proposed dissertation structure is given below:

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Chapter 3: Methodology

Chapter 4: Findings and Analysis

Chapter 5: Conclusion and Recommendation

6.0 Time table:

Main activities 1st week 2nd week 3rd week 4th+5th week 6th week 7th week
Selection of the topic
Literature Review
Methodology Chapter
Collecting primary and secondary data
Analysing and interpreting the data
Conclusion and Recommendation
Final submission of the study


Figure 1: Time table

(Source: created by author)



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