Consumer behavior research of Subway (Malaysia)

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List of figures

Figure 1 The Consumer Decision Making Process…………………………………………. 7

Figure 2 Consumer motivation process………………………………………………………. 11

Figure 3 Porter’s Five Forces Model………………………………………………………….. 21

 

List of charts

 

Chart 1 The population growth trend in Malaysia from 1970 to 2020……………. 17

Chart 2 Ethnic composition in Malaysia in 1970, 1991 and 2010………………….. 18

Chart 4 Gender percentage………………………………………………………………………. 23

Chart 5 Age groups of consumers……………………………………………………………… 24

Chart 6 Race of consumers………………………………………………………………………. 24

Chart 7 Income levels of consumers………………………………………………………….. 25

Chart 8 Preference of the natural and healthy food to traditional fried fast food 26

Chart 9 Consumer perception towards Subway fast food and service……………. 27

Chart 10 Plan for meals……………………………………………………………………………. 28

Chart 11 Importance of different sources of information in the information search stage      29

Chart 12 Importance of different evaluating criteria……………………………………. 30

Chart 13 Eat alone or with other people…………………………………………………….. 31

Chart 14 Eating in the restaurant or take away……………………………………………. 31

Chart 15 Willingness to recommend Subway to friends and families…………….. 32

 

List of contents

 

Executive summary………………………………………………………………………………………….. 1

Acknowledgement…………………………………………………………………………………………… 2

List of figures………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3

List of charts…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 3

List of contents……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4

1.     Chapter one- Introduction………………………………………………………………………….. 7

1.1           Research background…………………………………………………………………….. 7

1.2           Company profile…………………………………………………………………………… 7

1.3           Research aims……………………………………………………………………………….. 8

1.3.1     To provide a review about the customer behavior researches, in particular past studies in the fast food industry……………………………………………………………………………………. 8

1.3.2     To include an original marketing survey regarding the Subway customers’ behaviors and purchasing decision making process in Malaysia……………………………………………………. 8

1.3.3     To establish the strategic direction in term of marketing strategies… 8

1.4           Paper framework…………………………………………………………………………… 8

2.     Chapter two- Literature review……………………………………………………………………. 9

2.1           Consumer decision making process…………………………………………………. 9

2.1.1     Need recognition…………………………………………………………………….. 9

2.1.2     Information search………………………………………………………………… 10

2.1.3     Evaluation of alternatives………………………………………………………. 10

2.1.4     Purchase………………………………………………………………………………. 11

2.1.5     Post purchase behavior…………………………………………………………… 11

2.2           Consumer motivation…………………………………………………………………… 12

2.3           Product features………………………………………………………………………….. 13

2.3.1     Fast or food (nutrition)………………………………………………………….. 13

2.3.2     Taste……………………………………………………………………………………. 14

2.3.3     Localization or standardization……………………………………………….. 14

2.4           Purchasing behaviors: Usage-rate segmentation………………………………. 15

3.     Research methodology……………………………………………………………………………… 15

3.1           Source of data…………………………………………………………………………….. 15

3.2           Research design………………………………………………………………………….. 16

3.3           Sampling……………………………………………………………………………………. 16

4.     Findings and analysis……………………………………………………………………………….. 17

4.1           Situational analysis – environmental factors influencing the consumer decision making  17

4.1.1     Macro environmental analysis with PESTEL analysis………………… 17

4.1.1.1 Political factors………………………………………………………………. 17

4.1.1.2 Economic factors……………………………………………………………. 18

4.1.1.3 Social factors…………………………………………………………………. 19

4.1.1.4 Technological factors………………………………………………………. 21

4.1.1.5 Legal factors………………………………………………………………….. 21

4.1.1.6 Environmental factors…………………………………………………….. 22

4.1.2     Competitive environment analysis – Porter’s five forces analysis… 23

4.1.2.1 The threat of entry of new competitors (new entrants)………… 23

4.1.2.2 The threat of substitutes………………………………………………….. 24

4.1.2.3 The bargaining power of buyers……………………………………….. 24

4.1.2.4 The bargaining power of suppliers…………………………………….. 25

4.1.2.5 The degree of rivalry between existing competitors…………….. 25

4.1.3     Customer analysis…………………………………………………………………. 25

4.1.3.1 Section A: Respondents Profile………………………………………… 25

4.1.3.2 Section B: Consumer attitude toward Subway fast food…….. 28

4.1.3.3 Section C: Consumer perception towards Subway fast food.. 29

4.1.3.4 Section D: Consumer decision making process towards fast food 30

4.2           Company objectives and marketing goals……………………………………….. 35

5.     Conclusions…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35

6.     Recommendations: Implications to the company’s future marketing strategies… 36

6.1           Product strategies………………………………………………………………………… 36

6.2           Price strategies……………………………………………………………………………. 36

6.3           Promotion strategies…………………………………………………………………….. 37

6.4           Place strategies……………………………………………………………………………. 38

Appendix 1. The Subway consumer behavior questionnaire………………………………… 39

List of Reference…………………………………………………………………………………………… 47

 

Consumer behavior research of Subway (Malaysia)

and implications to marketing strategies

 

1.        Chapter one- Introduction

 

1.1    Research background

 

With a mixture of fresh ingredients, a whole lot of customer service, and a dash of innovation, the SUBWAY® brand continues to be the leader of providing nutritious and delicious sandwiches the whole family will love (Pradhan 2007, p.402). And in the end of 2010, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald’s 32,737 (wsj.com 2011). This project paper will research on the consumers behaviors based on which the marketing strategies of Subway (Malaysia) will be analyzed and we will provide a comprehensive marketing plan (next three financial years) to the company in the Malaysia market to better serve the needs of the Malaysian consumers.

 

1.2    Company profile

 

SUBWAY restaurants first ventured outside North America when the first location opened in the small Middle Eastern island nation of Bahrain in December of 1984; since then, the SUBWAY concept has gone around the world, with restaurants opening from Argentina to Zambia. As of 15 June 2012, Subway has 36979 Restaurants in 100 Countries with 106 Restaurants in Malaysia; the restaurants are committed to offering high quality food and exceptional service. The SUBWAY brand is famous for its made-to-order sandwiches and salads. Sandwiches are made right before the customers’ eyes and are served on Italian, Wheat and a variety of seasoned breads, baked daily in each restaurant (subway.com 2012).

 

1.3    Research aims

 

The objectives of this report could be divided into four major parts with the overall target to provide suggestions on the marketing direction to Subway (Malaysia):

 

1.3.1            To provide a review about the customer behavior researches, in particular past studies in the fast food industry

 

1.3.2            To include an original marketing survey regarding the Subway customers’ behaviors and purchasing decision making process in Malaysia

 

1.3.3            To establish the strategic direction in term of marketing strategies

 

1.4    Paper framework

 

Three major components would be included in this paper. The first component is the literature review of the relevant theories and models regarding the consumer decision making especially those talking about the fast food industry consumer behaviors; the second component is a check on the macro and industrial environment factors that shape the environment in which the consumers make their purchasing decisions with the fast food suppliers; the third component is a customer analysis by probing into the results of an original questionnaire done to the customers of Subway in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Then based on these analysis and findings in the end of the study we will provide suggestions to Subway to improve its marketing efforts in term of effectiveness by tailoring the company’s business and marketing strategies to the particular consumer behaviors found in this study.

 

 

 

2.        Chapter two- Literature review

 

2.1    Consumer decision making process

 

Consumer behavior describes how customers make purchase decisions and how they use and dispose of the purchased goods or services. The study of the consumer behavior includes the factors that influence purchase decisions and product use (Lamb, Hair & McDanie 2009). It would of great importance and significance to study how consumer behaviors are carried out by the consumers in the form of a consumer decision making process which consists of five major steps as demonstrated in the following figure.

 

Figure 1 The Consumer Decision Making Process

Source: Lamb, Hair & McDanie 2009

 

2.1.1            Need recognition

 

According to Charles Donald Spielberger (2004, p. 486) the decision-making process begins with the stage of need recognition, when the consumer experience a significant difference between his or her current state of affairs and some desired state. For example, a person who unexpectedly runs out of gas on the highway recognizes a need, as does the person who comes dissatisfied with the image of his or her car even though there is nothing mechanically wrong with it. And once a need has been activated, there is a state of tension that drives the consumer to attempt to reduce or eliminate the need. Tensions could also be from the knowledge that the current product are not doing well in meeting the relevant needs. And it is believed that all these kind of tensions mark the beginning of the majority of purchasing behaviors.

2.1.2            Information search

 

An information search has two aspects: internal search and external search. In an internal search, buyers search their memories for information about products that might solve the problem. If they can not retrieve enough information from member to make a decision, they seek additional information from outside sources in an external search. The external search may focus on communication with friends or relatives, comparison of available brands and prices, marketer dominated sources and/or public sources. According to William M. Pride and O. C. Ferrell (2011, p. 132), an individual’s personal contacts such as friends, relatives and associates often are influential sources of information because these are usually considered as reliable persons.

 

2.1.3            Evaluation of alternatives

 

From the previous step, information search, a number of brand names would appear from which the consumer could select, these are in general considered as possible alternatives. In the next step, the consumers would start to evaluate the options that they have which they believe would meet their particular needs. According to the view of Abraham Pizam (2010, p. 104), in the stage of evaluation of alternatives, product attributes are analyzed using some cutoff criteria or ranking of the importance of the product/service attributes as predetermined by the consumer. Though this stage could be quite simple or complex depending on the individual differences as well as the nature of the products, for example, people will not in general spend a lot of time in thinking about which convenient stores when they think about buying a cold drink to address the tension of thirsty, they may just go to the one of the nearby convenient stores in their memory.

 

2.1.4            Purchase

 

The fourth stage is purchase or consumption. Having evaluated the alternatives, the consumer chooses the product and as a result is either satisfied or dissatisfied. At this stage the level of customer satisfaction is open to change, and the consumer may, for example, overstate the positive features in order to reduce anxiety. Alternatively, the consumer may regret making the choice and therefore accentuate the negative aspect of the product (Williams 2002, p. 49). According to Dr. A. Sarangapani (2010, p. 21), in case of consumer non-durable products such as food products, cigarettes, toilet soaps and so on, which can be purchased on regular basis, there is a possibility to make trial purchase, if the consumer purchase that product or brand first time and is satisfied with the utility and quality of the products or brand, which he purchased on trial basis, he would likely repeat the purchase. But, it is not feasible in case of consumer durable products such as TV, fridge, vacuum cleaner and so on as they can be purchased only once for a considerable period of time.

 

2.1.5            Post purchase behavior

 

The goal of a business is not just to sell but to sell consistently, brand loyalty is therefore the prime objective, if customers are satisfied with their purchases they would probably repeat their purchasing and hence become regular customers. Therefore, it is important that the product and service live up to the brand promises. According to David Holston (2011), motivation for consumers to carry out repeatable purchasing depends on the consumers’ interpretation of particular message, both visual and textual. This stage of purchasing is hence impacted by a number of factors such as consumer cognitive style.

 

2.2    Consumer motivation

 

Based on the view of Solomon (1995), an important aspect of consumer behavior is consumer motivation which could be referred as the “inner state of arousal” to achieve a goal (Hoyer 2001)”. And the motivation process starts with the recognition of a need by the consumer and ends with the consumers’ goals and the difference between the consumers’ present state and the ideal state creates tension. Depending on the degree of arousal the consumer aims to reduce this tension. It is believed that personal and cultural factors influence this process. One important motivation theory that could be applied in the consumer motivation is the expectancy theory. The expectancy theory originated in the work of Kurt Lewin and it resolves around two core concepts: (a) expectancy (the individual’s beliefs that certain actions will lead to certain outcomes) and (b) valence (the amount of positive or negative value the individual associates with the outcome). The theory is widely accepted and applied in the consumer behavior researches. For instance, consumers who perceive themselves “above average” regarding rewarded behaviors (i.e. high expectancy) are more likely to join a reward program (Kivetz & Simonson 2003).

 

 

 

 

Figure 2 Consumer motivation process

Source: Solomon 1995

 

There are several major techniques to apply the expectancy theory into the marketing practices. The first technique is the use of incentives. Incentives could be tangible or intangible. A tangible incentive involves awards or some form of public recognition while an intangible incentive is one that is intrinsic by nature such as feeling good about oneself. According to the expectancy theory, people are motivated to perform a behavior if it is associated with positive incentives or outcomes that offer positive value to them (Jansson-Boyd 2010, p. 123). Another technique aiming to enhance the expectancy rather than the valence is the use of positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement occurs when the reinforcers are accepted by the individuals (Foxall, Goldsmith & Brown 1998, p. 93). According to Foxall (1990) a thirsty person’s drinking is positively reinforcing because the probability of such behavior being repeated in similar circumstance thereafter is increased. Such positive reinforcement is because of the effect on the rate of response rather than any of the intrinsic qualities and much consumer choice is explicable in these terms including brand choice and store patronage.

 

2.3    Product features

 

2.3.1            Fast or food (nutrition)

 

Based on Tsang-sing Chan (1999, p. 85), in the fast food industry marketers have the opportunity to use marketing mix to persuade the neutrals towards “fast” or towards “food”, and/or satisfy both “fast” and the “food”. And because nutrition is a cognitive variable, the western multinationals (fast food giants) need to know the impacts of the culture and the environment on the perception of the nutrition and based on which marketing mix could be used more effectively. And because culture and society environment vary from country to country, it is necessary that we research into the preference of the customers in Malaysia.

 

2.3.2            Taste

 

Similar to nutrition, according to Laura Lake (2009) claims that culture plays a powerful role in perception of fast food, especially when determining taste. For instance, European food tastes very different from Korean food; the two types carry different flavors, different appearances and even different textures. Therefore, for marketers who depend on the taste to sell their products, it would be critical to provide food welcome by the mass of the target customers. One key problem in our study to be answered is that “since the Subway food is generally considered as nutritious (compared to other western fast food), how important still the taste of these food is?” This issue will be focused in our later survey and analysis.

 

2.3.3            Localization or standardization

 

According to Andrew C. Inkpen and Kannan Ramaswamy (2006), product localization approaches center on the potential for customizing offering to address local market variations. Such variations range from difference in customer needs and tastes to dissimilarities in local technology. Typically, these local markets are lucrative enough for the firm to forgo the benefits of scale economies and still remain profitable on the basis of customized adaption. And these markets are often the product of distinct differences in local cultures and traditions; and however they can just as easily be created by protective local regulations. Therefore we can see that there are advantages and disadvantages of approaching a localization strategy or a standardization strategy, and obviously among the initiatives to apply a product localization strategy, the strong demand from a specific local market is very necessary.

 

2.4    Purchasing behaviors: Usage-rate segmentation

 

As suggested by Charles W. Lamb, Joseph F. Hair and Carl McDaniel (2011, p. 129), in the fast food industry, the heavy user accounts for only one of five fast food patrons but makes about 60 percent of all visits to the fast food restaurants. And also the need of the heavy users differs from the needs of other usage-rate groups. They have intense needs for product and service selection and a variety of types of information as well as an emotional attachment to the product category. Also individuals in this group spend 4 to 14 times as much in their favored products category than the light users. Because of this finding, it would meaningful that we evaluate the differences in the consumption habits between the heavy users and the light users in the fast food in Malaysia which has significant impacts on the marketing strategy choices.

 

3.        Research methodology

 

3.1    Source of data

 

Primary data refers to information collected for the first time specifically for a research study (Boone & Kurtz 2010, p. 246). The primary data used in this study is an original survey using the form of questionnaire will be done on 50 persons; it would be executed over the Subway consumers to investigate their consumption trends and purchasing decision making mode. On the other hand, secondary data are information from previously published or compiled sources. Secondary data offer two important advantages: (1) such data are almost always less expensive to gather than the primary data and (2) researchers usually spend less time to locate and use secondary data (Boone & Kurtz 2010, p. 246). Secondary data used in this study is analyzing the industrial reports and surveys done by other researchers, books reading, journals and other documentations.

 

3.2    Research design

 

The questionnaire will be structured by three parts: basic information of the customers (gender, race, age, how many times and how much they will spend and so on); customers’ attitude toward the Subway fast food such as the taste, nutrition, the service of the Subway food, evaluation of the marketing strategies such as pricing and image of Subway compared with the major competitors; and also the examination of the consumer decision making process for the consumers.

 

3.3    Sampling

 

In statistics and survey methodology, sampling is concerned with the selection of a subset of individuals from within a population to estimate characteristics of the whole population. Researchers rarely survey the entire population because the cost of a census is too high. The three main advantages of sampling which are that the cost is lower, data collection is faster, and since the data set is smaller it is possible to ensure homogeneity and to improve the accuracy and quality of the data (Groves, Fowler & Couper 2011). As in our study regarding the customer behaviors of Subway (Malaysia), we will apply a simple random sampling (SRS) method which is the most basic sample selection procedure and it is the method of selecting the units from the population where all possible samples are equally likely to get selected (Singh & Mangat 1996), we randomly surveyed 100 customers regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender and ages in several outlets of Subway in Kuala Lumpur.

4.        Findings and analysis

 

4.1    Situational analysis – environmental factors influencing the consumer decision making

 

4.1.1            Macro environmental analysis with PESTEL analysis

 

PESTLE is an acronym for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors. Originally designed as a business environmental scan, the PEST or PESTLE analysis is an analysis of the external macro environment (big picture) in which a business operates. These are often factors which are beyond the control or influence of a business, however are important to be aware of when doing product development, business or strategy planning (rapidbi.com 2008).

 

4.1.1.1      Political factors

 

Malaysia as a whole is a federation of 13 states, divided by the Pacific Ocean into the two portions of “West Malaysia” (11 states) and East Malaysia (the states of Sabah and Sarawak), with West Malaysia also being variously referred as “Peninsular Malaysia”. The country was formed in 1963 through the union of 11 Peninsula states with what up to then had been the British colonies of Borneo and Sarawak. Each state has substantial powers over land and religious matters, but is subject in most other aspects to the federal government in the capital, Kuala Lumpur which is located within a special federal territory (Barlow 2001, p. 3). Malaysia had its internal political problems because of the differences and existence of various races, in particular between the three major races, that is the Malay, Chinese and Indian community. The biggest incident was way back in May 1969 when racial tension between the Malay and Chinese caused riots and fights which resulted in hundreds of deaths. Since then, the races have learned to live rather amicably with each other and want to avoid such a serious conflict from happening again. It is normal now to see the various races working together although they do not necessary live in the same area (malaysia-trulyasia.com 2010). The high degree of political stability is always a piece of good news to the business sector.

 

4.1.1.2      Economic factors

 

Malaysia, a middle-income country, has transformed itself since the 1970s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Under current Prime Minister NAJIB, Malaysia is attempting to achieve high-income status by 2020 and to move farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in Islamic finance, high technology industries, biotechnology, and services. The NAJIB administration also is continuing efforts to boost domestic demand and reduce the economy’s dependence on exports. Nevertheless, exports – particularly of electronics, oil and gas, palm oil and rubber – remain a significant driver of the economy (cia.gov 2012). According to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in its recent “Economic Insight: South East Asia”, a quarterly publication, Malaysia’s per capita income is expected to increase by one third by 2020 on the back of its strong growth rates, Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2013 and 2014 is expected to be healthy, with rising output supported by a thriving service sector and strong export earnings though the economy of Malaysia which is largely export-dependent, will likely be affected by continual weakness in the global economy through 2012 (my.news.yahoo.com 2012).

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.1.1.3      Social factors

 

 

Chart 1 The population growth trend in Malaysia from 1970 to 2020

Source: cwsc2011.gov.in 2011

 

Social factors mainly refer to demographic factors, which comprise factors like population growth rate, cultural aspects, age distribution and health consciousness (marketingminefield.co.uk 2008). Malaysia’s population has increased almost three folds over the past four decades (1970-2010), growing from 10.4 million to 28.3 million with an average growth rate of 2.5 per cent. For the period of 1970 to 2010, Bumiputera was the main ethnic that contributed on the average of 58.2 per cent of the total population. This is followed by the Chinese and Indians who contributing about 27.7 and 7.8 per cent respectively. Bumiputera experienced an increasing trend due to high fertility rates while Chinese and Indians showed a decreasing trend due to low fertility rates. There is also a significant increase from 1.5 (1970) to 10.0 (2010) in term of others which was due to the demand of foreign workers (cwsc2011.gov.in 2011).

 

Chart 2 Ethnic composition in Malaysia in 1970, 1991 and 2010

Source: cwsc2011.gov.in 2011

 

Also in term of the age structure, according to the CIA World Factbook (2011), people aged from 0 to14 account for 29.6% (male 4,374,495/female 4,132,009), people aged from 15 to 64 years account for 65.4% (male 9,539,972/female 9,253,574) and the elders who are 65 years and over account for only 5% (male 672,581/female 755,976). And because of the relatively large young population, the median age for people is 26.8 years (26.7 years for male and 27 years for female).

 

Another aspect of social factors is the national culture. One of the most famous theories describing the cultural system is Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory which describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis. According to the theory, Malaysia, with a score of 26 is a collectivistic society. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the “member” group, be that a family, extended family or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount and overrides most other societal rules and regulations. Such a society fosters strong relationships, where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. In collectivistic societies, offence leads to shame and loss of face. Employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link), hiring and promotion take account of the employee’s in-group. Management is the management of groups (geert-hofstede.com 2012).

 

4.1.1.4      Technological factors

 

Technological factors refer to automation, incentives, the rate of technological change and R&D activity. These factors greatly influence other areas or aspects, including the minimum efficient production level, quality, costs and even outsourcing decisions (marketingminefield.co.uk 2008). From the colonial era, Malaysia inherited relatively well-developed but unevenly distributed infrastructure and transportation networks. After achieving independence, the Malaysian government made considerable efforts and large investments in expanding its highways, railroads, seaports, and airports. The country has 32 airports with paved runways, and 83 airports with unpaved runways. The largest of them, the US$3.2 billion state-of-the-art Kuala Lumpur International Airport, was opened in 1998. It is capable of handling 25 million passengers and 1.2 million tons of cargo annually. U.S. firms, including Harris, FMC, Adtranz, and Honeywell, have been awarded contracts to supply passenger trams, jetways, and information systems for the airport (nationsencyclopedia.com 2007).

4.1.1.5      Legal factors

 

Legal factors refer to all the laws directly connected to a business/company and its area of activity, including consumer law, antitrust law, discrimination law and health and safety law (marketingminefield.co.uk 2008). The foundation of the Malaysia legal system is a legacy of British colonial history and is based on a set of written and unwritten laws. The Malaysia or Federal Constitution, together with the constitutions of the states, acts of parliament, and delegated legislation made by statutory bodies under powers conferred on them by acts of parliament, from the integral part of the written law. The unwritten laws are comparised of the principles of English common law, case law and local customary law. Islamic law is another important source of law but applies only to the Muslim population and is hence governed by a separate system of courts (Black & Gary 2011, p. 239).

 

4.1.1.6      Environmental factors

 

Malaysian society is increasingly urbanized, more populous and more complex.  As a consequence, air, water and soil contamination has increased and persistent chemical pollutants have become widespread. In addition, global climate change presents new environmental health hazards. These factors contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, physiological and neurological disorders, and increased incidences of a range of cancers. With these situations it is necessary for Malaysia to formulate and established the environmental health policy for planning, control and mitigation of the emerging health impacts from new environmental health hazards. Sustainable development and its relationship to promoting good quality of life are high on the Government development agenda (environment-health.asia 2003). As a result of the increasing awareness of environment protection, it would be a good chance for any companies to pay attention to the impact of the business activities over the environment.

 

 

 

4.1.2            Competitive environment analysis – Porter’s five forces analysis

 

Figure 3 Porter’s Five Forces Model

Source: tutor2u.net 2010

 

The most influential analytical model for assessing the nature of competition in an industry is Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model, which is described below. Porter explains that there are five forces that determine industry attractiveness and long-run industry profitability. These five “competitive forces” are The threat of entry of new competitors (new entrants), The threat of substitutes, The bargaining power of buyers, The bargaining power of suppliers and The degree of rivalry between existing competitors.

 

4.1.2.1      The threat of entry of new competitors (new entrants)

 

The seriousness of the threat of entry depends on the barriers present and on the reaction from existing competitors that entrants can expect. If barriers to entry are high and newcomers can expect sharp retaliation from the entrenched competitors, obviously the newcomers will not pose a serious threat of entering. Michael E. Porter (1998, p.24) in his famous book, On competition, listed out six major sources of barriers to entry which include: economies of scale, product differentiation, capital requirement, cost disadvantages independent of size, access to distribution channel, government policy. The threat of new competitors is medium because of two major reasons: on one hand, the economies of scale in the fast food industry in Malaysia are obvious and new competitors could not easily ignore this issue; on the other hand, the initial investment is not large and it would attract more new competitors into trials of the business.

 

4.1.2.2      The threat of substitutes

 

In the Porter’s Five Forces model, substitute goods refer to the products manufactured in other industries that may substitute the consumption of the original product. The fast food’s substitutes are limited because of three major reasons: first of all, fast food are usually priced in a low level which means that high priced restaurants services are actually targeting at different group of people; secondly, fast food are served in a fast speed which traditional food service can not compete; thirdly, one more reason is that the fast food is made under highly standardization restrictions and is served to a huge number of customers which local family business could not achieve.

 

4.1.2.3      The bargaining power of buyers

Bargaining power is the ability to influence the setting of prices. As for the buyers in the fast food industry, they do not have obvious bargaining over the companies. First of all, the majority of the customers are individual customers and they do not have large purchasing volume; secondly, individual customers can not directly negotiate with the companies and the only thing that they can do is to leave for the competitors.

 

 

4.1.2.4      The bargaining power of suppliers

 

The term ‘suppliers’ comprises all sources for inputs that are needed in order to provide goods or services. Supplier bargaining power is likely to be high when: The market is dominated by a few large suppliers rather than a fragmented source of supply, There are no substitutes for the particular input, The suppliers customers are fragmented, so their bargaining power is low, The switching costs from one supplier to another are high (themanager.org 2010). The bargaining power of the suppliers in the Malaysia fast food industry is low because of the small number of large brands and also the switching cost is also considered as low.

 

4.1.2.5      The degree of rivalry between existing competitors

 

The degree of rivalry between the existing competitors is in a medium level. First of all, products are differentiated especially for Subway which is targeting in the freshness of the healthy fast food; secondly, there are only a few rather than a large number of large scale brands.

 

4.1.3            Customer analysis

 

4.1.3.1      Section A: Respondents Profile

 

Chart 4 Gender percentage

 

Base on the results of our survey, percentage of female customers is 53 while the male counterparts account for 47 percentages and also because of the small volume of sample, there are no significant gender differences among the surveyed Subway consumers. And regarding the age groups of the respondents, as concluded in the following chart, with 23 people falling into the age group of “20 years and below”, 27 falling into the age group of “21 to 25” and 24 being classified as “26 to 30”, we can see that young people who are below 30 account for nearly 3 quarters (74 per cent) of the consumers. And also because as said above, Malaysia has a relatively large young population as the median age for the whole population is 26.8 and those who are aged from 0 to 14 make up nearly 30 per cent of the total population, this would means that the age structure is relatively favorable in the Malaysia market for fast food industry which is more focusing on the young people as reflected in our survey.

 

 

Chart 5 Age groups of consumers

 

Chart 6 Race of consumers

 

Among our surveyed respondents, 57 out of the respondents are Malay, 27 are Chinese while 10 of them are Indian, the three races make up 94 of the consumers that we had located. This is basically in correspondence with the early data that in 2010, the Malays were 60.3%, Chinese 22.9%, and the Indians 7.1% of the total population (wn.com 2011) as mentioned earlier.

 

Chart 7 Income levels of consumers

And in term of the income level of the consumers, middle to high income customers dominate the surveyed sample and the two largest income groups are RM 1,001 to RM 2,000 (26 per cent) and RM 2,001 to RM 2,500 (20 per cent). And as said previously, under current Prime Minister NAJIB, Malaysia is attempting to achieve high-income status by 2020 and to move farther up the value-added production chain by attracting investments in Islamic finance, high technology industries, biotechnology, and services; therefore we can anticipate that the middle income class would be expanded largely and even dominate the society since it is international practice that the middle class would dominate the income earning and expense in a typical high income and developed nation. Because of this possible trend which is fully supported by the government’s ambition and policy, the expanding and raising middle income class in the Malaysia society would create one of the world’s best markets for growth in term of income level of the customers for any businesses which are focusing on and targeting at the middle income class.

 

4.1.3.2      Section B: Consumer attitude toward Subway fast food

 

 

Chart 8 Preference of the natural and healthy food to traditional fried fast food

 

In this part of the survey we investigate the customers’ attitude toward the Subway fast food in term of their ideas about the environmental protection in the shopping behaviors. When asked “do you prefer the natural and healthy food to those traditional fried fast food”, 72 out of the 100 respondents provided positive answer while another 12 people’s answers are “not sure”. This suggest that the majority of the customers are more favoring the food that is more natural and healthier food compared to the other traditional fast food such as fried chicken and French fries. And 46 of the surveyed customers agree with the point that they are paying deliberate attention to the environmental performance (such as using recyclable packaging) of the product that they buy and in addition, 28 per cent of the whole respondents suggest that they are knowledgeable enough to distinguish which kind of product and materials that is more environmentally friendly.

 

4.1.3.3      Section C: Consumer perception towards Subway fast food

 

 

Chart 9 Consumer perception towards Subway fast food and service

 

From the above chart we can see that though the efficiency of service is quite best from the perspective of the customers and which is the one of the fundamental core value in the fast food industry and also the taste of the food is quite satisfactory, but the price seems to be quite expensive to the majority of the respondents and also the invisible factors, the environment of the restaurant and the quality of the service are not well received among the customers.

 

4.1.3.4      Section D: Consumer decision making process towards fast food

 

Chart 10 Plan for meals

 

In the stage of need recognition, we have investigated how customers would usually come to become aware of the need to have meals and how often they will have a plan for their meals, when questioned “Do you usually have a plan for your eating, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner?”, more than a half of the respondents (52 out of 100) do not usually plan for their meals which means that their eating place could also be quite random and their choice could be suject to quite a lot of internal and external factors. In another question, regarding how the customers could become aware of the need to eat, about 20 per cent of the respondents suggest that they would be attracted to have the desire to eat by the stimulation appeared in the ads. And about 70 per cent of them suggest that they would become aware of the need to eat when there is a hunger, this indicates that during certain period of time in the day (e.g. around lunch lunch) the needs for eating would become frequent and obvious.

 

 

Chart 11 Importance of different sources of information in the information search stage[1]

 

In term of the information search, as we have mentioned above, According to William M. Pride and O. C. Ferrell (2011, p. 132), an individual’s personal contacts such as friends, relatives and associates often are influential sources of information because these are usually considered as reliable persons; the above chart that summarizes the degree of importance of different sources of information in the information search stage for the Subway customers indicates that not only the traditional sources of information such as families and friends are still widely accepted but also another popular source of information belongs to the social media which refers to a category of online media or platforms that facilitate discussions, participation, and sharing of various forms of content in a very convenient way (businessmodelalchemist.com 2010).

 

Chart 12 Importance of different evaluating criteria

 

In the stage of evaluating the alternatives, we have investigate several key and usual factors that would have impacts over the customers’ evaluation process, they include: personal taste, price, location, payment methods, nutrition, time consumed, quality of service and the environment of the restaurant. As the above chart shows, there are several important considerations and criteria by which people evaluate the alternative ways to meet their needs: first of all, location is the most important factor when people consider where to address the tension of hunger. This is the true reflection of the age old adage of “location, location, location” which holds true in selecting a location for a successful restaurant in the perspective of the customers. Secondly, the traditional important factors such as price and taste of the food are still important though they are not as important as the location; Thirdly, the nutrition and health performance of the food also play important role in affecting customers’ evaluation process of the alternative ways and restaurants of addressing the tension of hunger; Fourthly, the product alone is not enough as customer also quite care about the environment of having meals as well as the quality of service that they receive from the restaurant and the staffs.

 

 

Chart 13 Eat alone or with other people

 

 

Chart 14 Eating in the restaurant or take away

 

In the stage of purchasing, 36 per cent of the respondents are eating with other people though this percentage seems to be small, but considering the large customer flow each day it will means a large number of customers. This suggests that Subway in many cases provides a place for social activities such as chatting with friends or meeting with clients. In answering another question about eating in the restaurant or take away, only 26 per cent of them will eat in the restaurant while the rest will take away the well packaged food.

 

 

Chart 15 Willingness to recommend Subway to friends and families

 

And in the stage of post purchasing behaviors, we investigate whether the customers would recommend their friends and families to eat in Subway, with 16 percent of the respondents would “definitely” recommend the brand, 26 per cent very likely to do so and 27 of them will possibly make recommendations to their friends, we can see that people are quite supportive of the brand and are willing promote the brand within their social networks which is a good new to the company.

 

 

 

4.2    Company objectives and marketing goals

 

The SUBWAY franchise is the world’s largest submarine sandwich franchise and the second largest restaurant franchise in the world. The company’s goal is to be ranked the number one Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) worldwide while maintaining the great-tasting freshness of the products which is company’s trademark (subway.com 2010).

 

5.        Conclusions

 

Customers in searching for information regarding which restaurant to eat not only will look for assistance from the traditional sources of information such as families and friends but also another popular source of information such as the social media. It would be that the company takes care of this new customer trend.

 

With the increasing awareness of environment protection which could be seen from the results of the survey among which 72 per cent of the respondents prefer the natural food and 46 of the surveyed customers pay deliberate attention to the environmental performance of the product that they buy and 28 per cent of the whole respondents suggest that they are knowledgeable enough to distinguish which kind of product and materials that is more environmentally friendly, the company should adopt the relevant business and marketing strategy to promote green food culture and technology which is favorable to the Malaysia customers.

 

As 36 per cent of the respondents are eating with company but only 26 per cent of them will eat in the restaurant while the rest will take away the well packaged food, this suggest that there are people who would like to eat in the restaurant could not make it or the environment or their situation is not suitable for them to do so.

 

With 16 percent of the respondents would “definitely” recommend the brand, 26 per cent very likely to do so and 27 of them will possibly make recommendations to their friends, the branding is quite well received among the customers.

 

As price is quite not well received by the majority of the customers, reflections on the current pricing strategy and also the business strategy could be necessary.

 

6.        Recommendations: Implications to the company’s future marketing strategies

 

6.1    Product strategies

 

To cope with the increasing awareness of environment protection among the consumer products, one key product strategy is to use a sustainable product strategy to help the company to go further in the green game which has become a corporate imperative. There are usually two major aspects that companies need to focus on in adopting a sustainable product strategy. The first is developing internal know-how and organizational structures for identifying, evaluating and managing the sustainability issues surrounding the company and its operations. The second is formulating strategies to develop new green product offerings suited to their market space (environmentalleader.com 2010).

 

6.2    Price strategies

 

As we have concluded, the majority of the customers are not satisfactory with the pricing of the products offered by the restaurants; therefore, it would be recommended that the company should adopt ways to control its production, operating and marketing cost to provide better prices to the customers.

 

 

6.3    Promotion strategies

 

With the finding that 23 people falling into the age group of “20 years and below”, 27 falling into the age group of “21 to 25” and 24 being classified as “26 to 30”, we can see that young people who are below 30 account for nearly 3 quarters (74 per cent) of the consumers. Therefore, the company could adopt strategies to target the younger market. In term of promotion strategies which are applied to stimulate and crate consumer demand for the company product, appealing to beauty, longevity of life and therefore quality of life in youth in advertising is something that the marketers of Subway should know to grab the attention of their young market (businessknowledgesource.com 2010).

 

On the other hand, with the raise of the social media, it would be necessary that social media and social networking (SN) becomes an important the company’s promotion strategy. As we know, there are a number of social network platforms which include Twitter, Social Bookmarking, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Blog and so on, the company could spread its promotion information as well as company brand stories in these platforms. While the company is looking for its set of social networking strategy, it would be important that the company check with the competitors’ choices. In addition, the company should work hard in monitoring the success of the social networking strategy. The performance and success of social networking (SN) efforts could be measured and evaluated using two major indicators. The first indicator is monitoring of the daily, weekly or monthly visiting as well as the number of fans following the companies in the various social networks. The frequent and large visiting volume to the company’s homepages in the different social networks are the most direct reflection of the success of the social networking (SN) efforts; the second measurement is the penetration rate of the company’s social networks over the current employees, employees’ participation will come with a number of benefits such as the social learning effect and enhanced employee morale.

 

With 20 per cent of the respondents suggest that they would be attracted to have the desire to eat by the stimulation appeared in the ads and about 70 per cent of them suggest that they would become aware of the need to eat when there is a hunger, we can deduce that it would be of great importance that the company could intensify the promotion activities during the breakfast time, lunch time and dinner time to use ads and sale promotion to attract the hungry customers into purchasing behaviors. In another word, the timing of the promotional activities is influential over the effectiveness of these activities.

 

6.4    Place strategies

 

As we have found out, location is the most important factor when people consider where to address the tension of hunger and our survey is the true reflection of the age old adage of “location, location, location” which holds true in selecting a location for a successful restaurant in the perspective of the customers, it would be recommended that the company should increase the number of the outlets in Malaysia market. Only when people could easily locate an outlet of the restaurant, the network of the brand could be well established in the market.

 

6.5     

Appendix 1. The Subway consumer behavior questionnaire

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

You are invited to participate in our survey. In this survey, we are examining the consumer trends and behaviors in the fast food industry and your ideas about the products and services of Subway. It will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete the questionnaire. Thank you for your participation.

 

Section A: Respondents Profile

 

What is your gender?

 

A) Male                  B) Female

 

Which age group are you in?

 

A) 20 years or below              B) 21-25 years

C) 26 – 30 years                  D) 31 – 35 years

E) 36 – 40 years                  F) 40 – 50 years

G) 51 and above

 

Question three: What is your race?

 

A) Malay                       B) Chinese

C) Indian                       D) Foreigners

 

What is your salary or income per month?

 

A) Below RM 500                B) RM 501 – RM 1,000

C) RM 1,001 – RM 2,000          D) RM 2,001 to RM 2,500

E) RM 2,501 to RM 3,000          F) RM 3,001 to RM 4,000

G) RM 4,001 to RM 5,000         H) RM 5,001 and above

I) Not applicable (not in the working status)

 

Section B: Consumer attitude toward Subway fast food

 

Subway provides foods and drinks that are a better alternative to traditional greasy and fatty fast food, do you prefer the natural and healthy food to those traditional fried fast food?

 

A) Yes                 

B) No

C) Not sure

 

Will you pay attention to the environmental performance (such as using recyclable packaging) of the product that you buy?

 

A) Yes                 

B) No

C) Not sure

 

Do you think you are knowledgeable enough to distinguish which kind of product and materials that is more environmentally friendly?

 

A) Yes                 

B) No

C) Not sure

 

Section C: Consumer perception towards Subway fast food

 

How do you rate the taste of the food?

A) Excellent [ ] B) Very Good [ ] C) Good [ ] D) Fair [ ] E) Poor [ ]

 

How do you rate the environment of the restaurant?

A) Excellent [ ] B) Very Good [ ] C) Good [ ] D) Fair [ ] E) Poor [ ]

 

How do you rate the quality of service?

A) Excellent [ ] B) Very Good [ ] C) Good [ ] D) Fair [ ] E) Poor [ ]

 

How do you rate the speed of service?

A) Excellent [ ] B) Very Good [ ] C) Good [ ] D) Fair [ ] E) Poor [ ]

 

How do you rate the price?

A) Excellent [ ] B) Very Good [ ] C) Good [ ] D) Fair [ ] E) Poor [ ]

 

Section D: Consumer decision making process towards Subway fast food

 

Need recognition

 

Do you usually have a plan for your eating, such as breakfast, lunch and dinner?

 

A) Yes, quite often

B) Sometimes                 

C) No

D) Not sure

 

How would you become aware of the need to have something to eat?

 

A) Other people’s reminding (friends, families & colleagues)

B) Stimulation in the Ads                 

C) When there is a hunger

D) Not sure

 

Information search

 

Who or what kind of source would you refers to, to obtain enough of information in making a decision regarding which restaurant to eat or where to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, and how important would you consider the suggestions from these sources?

 

Families

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Relatives

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Friends

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Colleagues

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Internet information

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Advertisements

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Media

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Sale persons

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Point of sale material

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Evaluation of alternatives

 

How would you rank the alternative restaurants?

 

By personal taste

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By price

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By location

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By payment methods (e.g. whether it is supportive of credit card)

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By nutrition and health of the products

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By time consumption (how much time you need to spend for waiting and eating)

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By the environment of the restaurant

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

By the quality of the service

 

A) Extremely important [  ] B) Very important [  ]

C) Moderately important [  ] D) Not important [  ]

 

Purchase            

 

Do you eat in Subway alone or with other people?

 

A) Eat alone

B) With other people

 

Do you often eat in the restaurant or take away?

 

A) In the restaurant

B) Take away

 

How do you describe your self in term of buying frequencies in Subway?

 

A) Heavy buyer (I eat at least once every day)

B) Normal buyer (I eat several times a week)

C) Light buyer (Several times a month)

D) Non-regular buyer (Happen to eat there it is convenient)

                           

Post purchase behavior

 

Would you recommend your friend to eat in Subway?

 

A) Definitely

B) Very likely

C) Possibly

D) It depends

E) Not possible

F) Not sure

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[1] Marking scale: Extremely important [ 4 ] Very important [ 3 ] Moderately important [ 2 ] Not important [ 1 ]

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