Call for papers: Qualitative Market Research


 The future of interpretivist research methodology is phygital: towards smart data to address marketplace dynamics and consumer paradoxes in hybrid (physical & digital) settings

Submission deadline: 30 June, 2023

Most scholars across different disciplines approach interpretivism in opposition to positivism, which values objectivity (Hunt, 1991). In contrast to positivism, interpretivism promotes the idea that reality is subjective, includes multiple perspectives, and is socially constructed (Beckmann and Elliott, 2000). Drawing on interpretivism, research is intrinsically molded by the researchers, who convey their own personal interpretation of spotted phenomena based on their backgrounds and experiences in the field (Goulding, 1999). In consumer research, the two approaches are considered complementary while integrating multiple methodologies, philosophical perspectives, theoretical frameworks, and paradigms (Batat, 2019; Cova and Elliott, 2008; Gummesson, 2003; Szimigin and Foxall, 2000). Thus, there are numerous interpretive approaches, and the implementation of interpretivist research methodology depends on the researchers’ perspective, the nature of the studied phenomenon, and the context in which it takes place. Regarding the latter, this special issue seeks to expand the research conducted to date by investigating the implementation process of interpretivist research methodologies in a new hybrid setting named phygital. Phygital combines the features of physical places and digital spaces, a consumption context in which new-age immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality are integral to consumers’ behaviours and purchase experiences occurring both online and offline (Batat and Hammedi, 2022). Accordingly, there is a need for marketing scholars, especially qualitative researchers, to develop a better understanding of the phygital as a new consumption and marketplace context. Besides, there is a need to examine how interpretivist research methodologies can be applied in this new setting to gain smart insights into consumers’ behaviours, their purchase and consumption experiences as well as the emerging marketplace dynamics in this third hybrid environment, which is nor digital, neither physical, but combines the characteristics of both spheres.

Nevertheless, while existing academic works approach phygital from the channel perspective that defines it in relation to omnichannel, crosschannel, and multichannel customer experiences, in a recent article, Batat (2022) distinguishes phygital from the channel strategy approach, often used by marketing scholars (Akter et al., 2021). According to Batat, phygital refers to: “a holistic and integrative ecosystem that adopts a consumer standpoint as a starting point and then integrates a combination of physical, human, digital and media content elements, platforms, technologies, and extended realities, among others; the goal of phygital is to offer unique and compelling customer experiences that should guarantee a coherent continuum in the delivery process of consumer value (intrinsic/ extrinsic) provided from digital to physical and vice versa” (2022, p. 10). In this sense, adopting a phygital approach leads scholars to shift the focus from the dominant channel logic and e-commerce, which objective is to connect touchpoints by integrating digital devices and platforms centred on utility and economic values (Berman and Thelen, 2004) to a more holistic ecosystem that is multidimensional and multilevel, and adopts an experiential perspective on consumers’ behaviours and consumption practices through the incorporation of not only utility and economic values, but also symbolic, emotional, and social ones.

Considering the relationship between phygital and interpretivist research methodology, this special issue originates from simple but hard-to-tackle questions: how and to what extent does the focus on phygital as a new marketplace and consumption setting modify the research agenda of scholars investigating the role of interpretivist research methodologies in exploring consumers’ behaviours and experiences in a new hybrid setting? How interpretivist methodologies can be implemented in the phygital context to examine brands’ marketing strategies connecting online and offline settings? What are the opportunities and challenges the phygital setting represents for scholars using interpretivist research methodologies? A preliminary answer is detectable in interpretivism which approaches consumers from a personal perspective where their behaviours are embedded and shaped by the context, in this case, phygital, in which their consumption and purchase experiences occur. The phygital is an essential but often neglected setting in making consumption experiences and marketplace dynamics that needs to be explored using adapted interpretivist methodologies. Yet although interpretivist research methodologies are becoming popular among scholars in the marketing community (e.g., Tadajewski, 2006; Shankar and Goulding, 2001) and are well-established in consumer behaviour studies — where they are used to collect insights across different consumption fields in the physical context such as conducting exploratory and ethnographic research in stores (Debenedetti, 2021), restaurants (Batat, 2020), or hotels (Lugosi, 2009) as well as in the digital environment through the use of netnography to investigate consumers’ online behaviors and communities (Kozinets, 2002),— to our knowledge, no research has focused on the use of interpretivist research methodologies in the phygital setting to examine the continuum in consumer behaviours and marketing strategies from online to offline and vice versa.

In this special issue, we call for papers drawn from a wide range of disciplines, which all share an interest in implementing interpretivist research methodologies to examine consumer behaviours and marketing strategies in phygital settings. Aligned with the focus of QMR, we welcome papers with qualitative methodologies or other alternative qualitative techniques used to examine consumer behaviours in phygital settings, along with investigating brands’ managerial practices and marketing strategies to connect online and offline offerings. All disciplinary and theoretical lenses (e.g., cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, psychology, critical studies, design studies) and qualitative and interpretivist methodological perspectives are welcomed. We aim to stimulate research in three key areas. First, shedding new perspectives on phygital consumption as a new field of research where current and new interpretivist methodological perspectives can be considered, phygital interpretivist research, and the challenges and opportunities associated with qualitative data collection, analysis, and validation. Second, examining constraints and obstacles related to rethinking qualitative interpretivist research in the phygital. Finally, we also welcome novel empirical and conceptual research that challenges our understanding of phygital interpretivist research methodology and its contribution to the qualitative market research literature.

For more information, see the call.

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