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ISSN : 1598-7248 (Print)
ISSN : 2234-6473 (Online)
Industrial Engineering & Management Systems Vol.16 No.4 pp.549-561
DOI : https://doi.org/10.7232/iems.2017.16.4.549

Identification and Ranking of Factors Influencing International Market Segmentations for Direct Exports Study Case: Iran Nuts and Dried Fruits Industry

Mohammad Reza Karimi Alavijeh*, Farzaneh Naseri
Business Management, Allameh Tabatabai University, Tehran, Iran
Business Management International Marketing, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran
Corresponding Author, MR.karimia12@gmail.com
20170919 20170925 20170928

ABSTRACT

The purpose of the present research was to identify and rank those factors which influence international markets segmentation in Iranian nuts and dried fruits industry. The present applied research was carried out in descriptive survey design, given the data collection methodology. The population consisted of members of Iranian Nuts and Dried Fruits Exporters Union (120 individuals representing 120 member companies). The sample size equaled the population through a head counting sampling procedure. To carry out this research, first 64 factors influencing international market segmentation were identified by systematic literature review and a questionnaire was prepared based on the research background to measure the factors influencing international market segmentation. The items of the questionnaire were rated using a 5-point Likert scale. Out of the 120 distributed questionnaires, 103 questionnaires were achieved and used in data analysis. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and decision tree in SPSS software program. The results revealed that among the 6 dimensions under study, market potential, legal environment, and infrastructure ranked first to third respectively while cultural outlook had the smallest effect on international market segmentation. Out of the 18 components considered, market cycle, customers’ demand, and specific competitors were of highest significance and stability and instability were found to be the least important. At the end, suggestions were made for exporters and future studies.


초록


    1.INTRODUCTION

    Proper market segmentation is a major success factor in entering overseas markets (Papadopoulos and Martin, 2011) and one of the most critical strategic decisions as the core of exports market strategy (Mullen, 2009). Market segmentation process identifies and specifies homogenous subsets of customers in terms of common characteristics playing an essential role in firms’ successful and appropriate positioning and creating appeal in each market sector by breaking markets down into smaller segments. Market segmentation also leads to optimal re- sources allocation and more effective product development through bringing about an understanding and comparing each market segment opportunities (Hollensen, 2010). Nevertheless, some scholars (e.g. Raynor and Weinberg, 2004) have suggested that due to the descriptive nature of market segmentation, there is quite a chance to specify inappropriate market segments ignoring some major and potential customers. Thus, market segmentation requires using sufficient information, identifying and considering various factors in the market.

    The existing literature on exports markets have identified various indicators for market segmentation given the cultural, political, legal and economic conditions. Based on the literature, a number of cultural factors have been identified which influence exports markets (Rahman, 2013). Further, communication and transportation infrastructures in the target country must play a part in exports market segmentation (Robertston and Wood, 2014). Another group of studies have proposed quantitative and economic factors to be important in exports market segmentation (Albaum and Hawkins, 2008). The factors in the legal environment of the target country are also among the major factors which influence export market segmentation. The works by scholars Kotler and Armstrong (2014) and Babaiezakilaki (2014) have shown that the factors in the target country’s political environment as well as the political relationships between the exporting and importing countries play a significant role in market segmentation.

    To increase profits and take advantage of sales opportunities in overseas markets, firs segment their markets into homogenous segments. The declining trend of population growth rate, exports markets maturity, increased competition over international market share, tendency towards one-to-one marketing, micro-segmentation of markets through information and communication technologies, and more varied needs and life style caused by the improved human development in global markets, have all caused further complexity and difficulty in defining market segments (Jonk et al., 2008).

    On the other hand, inappropriate segmentation of overseas markets imposes costs on organizations and leads to vague understanding of exports markets. Furthermore, identifying various cultural, economic and political factors is necessary for successfully entering exports markets (Walker et al., 2009). However, the diversity and complexity of the factors in the market creates confusion among marketing managers when identifying and segmenting target markets (Czinkota and Ronkainenm, 2010).

    Firms operating in nuts and dried fruits exports, which amounts to around 21.3% of Iran’s non-petroleum exports, are no exception and their success is particularly limited due to insufficient understanding of international market segmentation factors and their respective significance (Iranian Nuts and Dried Fruits Association, 2016). Failure in identifying and properly segmenting markets has caused Iranian nuts and dried fruit exporting companies fail to gain the international market share they deserve despite the high potential of the country to produce high-quality nuts and dried fruits. Based on the statistics in published reports, Iran’s rank in terms of exports volume of various types of nuts and dried fruits has fallen from first to fifth in 2010 to ninth and the lowest rank in 2016 ranking only second, third, and third in exporting pistachio, dates, and raisins, respectively among the top 10 world exporters (INC, 2016). Throughout the past 16 years, Iran has lost a considerable global market shares in nuts and dried fruits to Turkey, China, Middle East, and even Afghanistan. Even for pistachio which places Iran in the second global rank in 2016, the market share has substantially decreased from 68% in 1980 to lower than 45% (Iranian Nuts and Dried Fruits Exporters Association, 2016).

    Notwithstanding the need to identify exports market segmentation factors, the existing literature on nuts and dried fruits market segmentation still fail to provide sufficient knowledge on the variables and factors of international market analysis and segmentation. As a consequence, there is no adequate understanding and a framework for identifying and ranking international market segmentation factors and firms often face confusion paying high prices as a result of adopting the same strategy in all their foreign markets (Moeini et al., 2012).

    To worsen the situation, extant contributions towards identifying exports market segmentation factors, are sporadic reports which lack integration. Further, various studies have reported different levels of significance for the effects of market segmentation factors with often contrasting results. Also, identification and significance level of these factors may vary widely across countries and industries. Extensive search through the available literature by the researcher yielded no results in finding a study specifically dealing with the identification of international market segmentation factors for nuts and dried fruits. This knowledge gap in the literature has posed a barrier to sufficiently understanding on the part of both researchers and exporters alike, of the factors that influence nuts and dried fruits market segmentation, a major sector in non-petroleum and agricultural exports. Consequently, Iranian nuts and dried fruits, despite the country’s high quality and substantial production volume, do not enjoy their much deserved presence in export markets. Among other reasons, improper segmentation of nuts and dried fruits exports markets, resulting from poor awareness of international market segmentation for the products is salient. Therefore, the present study is an attempt towards identifying and ranking the factors which influence international markets segmentation in nuts and dried fruits industry.

    2.RESEARCH QUESTIONS

    The present study seeks to answer the following questions:

    • 1. What are the factors influencing international markets segmentation in nuts and dried fruits industry?

    • 2. How are the factors influencing international markets segmentation classified in nuts and dried fruits industry?

    • 3. What is the ranking of the factors influencing international markets segmentation in nuts and dried fruit industry?

    3.THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND EMPIRICAL BACKGROUND

    Market segmentation is more often defined as the process of dividing a market into distinct groups of buyers with similar requirements and needs. Market segmentation has had increasing importance in developing marketing strategies. The reason behind this importance, in addition to the advantages gained from market segmentation, is because of the necessities arising from transformations in market conditions. The most successful business strategies are based on market segmentation and concentration of resources on more attractive segments. It is also suggested that market segmentation should focus on areas where investing can accrue long-term competitive advantage (Kim, 2016).

    Market segmentation creates a myriad of advantages to the success of strategy and business resources allocation. It contributes to designing successful and effective marketing plans for a homogenous group of customers and the seller could implement separate marketing plans for each aiming at meeting the needs of various buyers which will in turn, creates competitive advantage (Ashton et al., 2003). Allocating advertisement budgets for each market segment, making necessary customer-satisfying changes to product development, and precise understanding of gaps in each segment and adjusting the appropriate marketing plans accordingly are among other benefits of market segmentation (Babaiezakilaki, 2014). Despite the market segmentation benefits, a number of factors at times stop companies from segmenting their markets. The firs negative aspect is the descriptive and predictive limitation of market segmentation. Also, market segmentation assumes each market segment to be homogenous. The assumption is that a market as a whole is varied and heterogeneous to the extent which should be relatively or on average, divided into smaller segments. However, the customers in each segments are assumed to have no differences (Hollensen, 2010). Some scholars have criticized that it is likely to specify inappropriate segments in market segmentation. They argue the selected segments may ultimately fail to take important potential customers into account. Another natural pitfall of market segmentation is that when selecting a segment as the target, potential customers in other segments may be ignored (Raynor and Weinberg, 2004).

    Two common approaches to market segmentation are top-down and bottom-up. In the former, segmentation process begins with all the consumers in an attempt to identify meaningful variables for the whole market. In contrast, the bottom-up approach, the process starts with a potential customer and other customers with similar characteristics are added (Hollensen, 2010). Regardless of the approach adopted, there are various criteria to segment a market often used as a single basic variable, per case, or as in combination to better achieve the goal (Zaribaf and Hosseinikia, 2013).

    Mehrabiboshrabadi and Poormoghaddam (2012) have studied Iran’s comparative advantage in raisins exports and the influencing factors using time series data in the period of 1975 to 2010 and have also calculated and compared the comparative advantage of various countries. The results of their study indicates high fluctuations in Iran’s comparative advantage in raisins exports and the change from an ascending trend to a descending one. The cross-country comparisons of comparative advantage index for major exporters and producers revealed that high production and exports of the product does not necessarily translate into comparative advantage in exports. Their study of the information in 191 to 2008 shows that foreign exchange rates, domestic production level, competitors’ production level, and global exports prices positively influence Iran’s raisins while Iran’s export prices and production fluctuations have a negative effect. Based on the results, the authors emphasize the necessity to protect domestic production to reduce production fluctuations, increase production level, and facilitate the exports of this product.

    Koochakzadeh and Mehrabiboshrabadi (2014) have suggested foreign exchange rate fluctuations as an influential and ambiguous factor for agricultural products exports in their study and with an emphasis on the importance of the exports of agricultural products for liberation from single-product economy, explore the effect of uncertainty in foreign exchange rate on agricultural products foreign trade by studying 4 products (pistachio, dates, raisins, walnuts) in the period 1990 to 2011. According to their results showing the negative effect of foreign exchange rate uncertainty on the exports of the products, particularly pistachio, the researchers argue that crating certainty in foreign exchange markets can lead to development in exporting the aforesaid products.

    Pishbahar et al. (2014) state in a study that for years Iran has ranked first in world pistachio exports and recently the country’s market share, being next to the U.S. has fallen. Their results indicate that despite the increase in Iran’s pistachio exports, the country’s global value share has fallen from 58% in 2000 to 301% in 2008. Based on this results, the scholars identify factors influencing exports demands of pistachio to promote Iran’s place in world markets by studying economic factors on pistachio exports demand during 1997 to 2007 and using panel data, estimate the products exports demand function. The results shows that factors such as Iran’s exports price and the shock caused by finding aflatoxins—poisonous chemicals producing chronic toxicity in humans—in the products in 2004 have had negative significant effect, and global pistachio prices and per capita income have had positive significant effects. Foreign exchange rate was also shown to have no significant effect.

    Jin and Koo (2003) published a paper titled “The U.S. Wheat Market Share in East Asian Countries” where they report a study on the factors affecting the U.S. wheat market share in 10 Asian markets (i.e. China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand) and show that the country’s Asian market share has declined compared to the 1980s. These researchers see the effects of U.S. dollar valuation on the country’s exports performance to be major cause. Their result is based on studying four major determinants of the U.S. share in Asian countries market namely, American wheat rice instability, U.S. dollar value instability, trade and agricultural policies, and competition among wheat exporting countries (e.g. Australia and Canada). The results indicate the determining role of relative foreign exchange value and exports prices while instability in prices and foreign exchange value were not statistically significant. In addition, increase in US. Dollar price and wheat export prices were reported to have a negative effect on the country’s market share.

    Ghallagar and Welrath (2014) studied the U.S. share in agricultural products global markets in a study titled “The U.S. Exports Performance in Agricultural Products.” Their attempt was to explore the correlation between the U.S. agricultural market share reduction and the substitution of competing countries’ offerings. They used a model known as the trade share accounting which expresses the relationship between trade structure and market share. Their results show that two types of agricultural policies namely, loans incremental values and target price in the early 2010s, are responsible for the decrease in the U.S. market share. These policies effectively make the prices of U.S. exported agricultural products to surge compared to those in globalized markets, consequently motivating competitors to increase production and gain larger shares of the markets.

    Hooper and Kohlhagen (2013) in their paper “The Effect of Foreign Exchange Value Uncertainty on International Trade Volume and Prices” have studied the effects of foreign exchange rate instability on trade flow and export prices in the period 2001 to 2011. Their regression analysis involves bilateral trade of Germany and the U.S. with other industrialized countries. The results revealed that foreign exchange rate instability has no significant effect on trade volume; although it seems that this factor is affected by exports and imports prices.

    Dat et al. (2015) in a paper titled “Integrated Fuzzy QFD Method to Evaluate and Select market Segments” adopted expert panel and QFD to answer the Whats question regarding the company’s power in the market and the Hows question regarding the importance of Whats-related factors and finally ranked the factors based on Fuzzy TOPSIS.

    The theoretical framework of the present research was constructed by the researcher and through classifying nuts and dried fruits export market segmentation factors which were found in the relevant literature. Table 1 presents dimensions, components and indicators as identified in the li terature.

    Based on the search in the literature and identifying factors which influence market segmentation combined with academic experts’ opinion, finally the theoretical framework of this study (Figure 1) was constructed and used in the present research.

    4.RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

    The present research is applied in terms of goal and in terms of data collection procedure the data are collected using a questionnaire in a descriptive design.

    The population comprises 120 nuts and dried fruits exporting companies which were member in Iran Dried Fruits Exporters Association (120 individuals representing 120 companies) whose information was gathered through the Iran Dried Fruits Exporters Association portal at www.idfea.ir. Since contact information for all population members was available at the portal and all members were accessible, the researcher distributed the questionnaire among all the 120 companies (one individual representing each company) through a headcount sampling procedure. Finally, having collected the completed questionnaires, 103 usable questionnaires were collected for data analysis.

    It should be noted that to collect the data in from the literature and design the theoretical framework, systematic review of the literature (including books, papers, periodicals, information hubs and websites) was used and the primary data were collected using a questionnaire constructed by the researcher based on the theoretical framework. The questionnaire consisted of two parts, general questions (regarding demographics) of the respondents and technical with 42 items. The first version of the questionnaire included 64 items which was given to 40 experts in exports as well as to IDFA members in a pretest. Once the export market segmentation factors were identified and the validity of the questionnaire was approved, 21 less relevant items were eliminated. The items were scored based on a 5-point Likert scale. The reliability of the questionnaire was determined and confirmed using Cronbach’s Alpha (Table 2).

    Analyzing the data from the questionnaire, a Kolmogorov- Smirnov test was used to ensure the normal distribution of the data and respondents inter-subjective congruence. Decision tree was used to rank the dimensions, components and indicators which influence segmentation of international markets for nuts and dried fruits. Decision tree is a decision making support tool which utilizes tree graphs to model phenomena. The method is commonly used to identify a strategy which achieves the goal with the highest possible likelihood (Moshkani and Nazemi, 2013).

    Decision tree is a robust and popular tool for classifying and predicting data with the supervised learning approach. The flowchart-like structure of the tree helps the user gain a better understanding if the classification and prediction results for problems in machine learning and statistics. In this structure, each internal note, tests a feature. The leaf nodes represent classes or class distributions. The top node in the tree is called the root node. Decision trees provide a method for representing a series of rules which end up at a category or value. The principal constituents of a decision tree are the decision node, trunks, and leaves where each path on the tree to a leave is recognizable. The major advantage of decision trees is that they can explain the predictions. Decision trees only pass a few times through the data (at each level on the tree once at most) and work well with large numbers of predicting variables. As a result, model construction is fast making decision trees quite suitable for data sets (Hand et al., 2001).

    5.RESULTS AND FINDINGS

    5.1.Demographic Findings

    In demographic analysis phase, respondents’ education level, number of export markets, records of the company’s activities in exports, major exports markets, and exports shares of total sales were analyzed using descriptive statistics and frequency percentages were calculated. Based on the results, most respondents (40%) had a B.A./B.S., followed by associate degree (31%) with M.A./M.S. comprising 20% of the population. Respondents with a high school diploma or lower represented the lowest percentage of the population (9%).

    Out of the nuts and dried fruits exporting companies, a portion slightly over half of the total number (58%) exported dried fruits to 9 countries with 29% exporting to 7 to 9 countries. Export markets of another 8% of the companies consisted of 4 to 6 countries and the remaining 5% were limited to 1 to 3 countries. In terms of the operation background of the companies, most companies (77%) had worked in exports over 10 years and another 15% had 60 to 10 years of exports activity records. Only 8% of all companies had been operating in dried fruits exports for less than 5 years.

    Major exports markets of the companies under study included East Asia (37% of companies) and the Middle East (34%). Further, 19% of all companies export to South and Southeastern Asia with 7% exporting to countries in the Caspian Sea region. Only 3% of the companies export to the U.S. and Europe. The small percentage of dried fruits exporters to the U.S. and Europe can be associate with high quality standards levels, packaging requirements and sanitary consideration in these markets. As a result, lack of appropriate market segmentation and needs identification on the part of most exporters poses serious difficulties in exporting to these markets. Although other factors such as customs tariffs, the status of Iran not being a WTO member and deprived of member states privileges, distance and transportation costs play a part in lack of access to the U.S. and Europe markets, inappropriate quality level and product features can be considered major reason why a small percentage of the companies operate in the U.S. and Europe markets.

    Exports share of total sales of the companies also shows that 32% of the companies gain 80 to 100% of their sales revenues from exports. However, exports share of sales in most companies (35%) is between 60 to 80%. Companies with 41 to 60% exports share of sales rank third representing 24% of all the companies. In 6% of companies the exports share of sales falls between 21 to 40% and only 30% gain less than 2-% of their sales revenues from exports. Thus, the companies under study are exports-centered and have recognized the importance of focusing on exports markets. Therefore, analyzing the responses by their employees provides valuable information for market segmentation factors.

    Ranking the factors which influence international markets for dried fruits was carried out using the decision tree. Before running the decision tree, using a Kolmogorov- Smirnov the normal distribution of the responses was assessed. Table 3 shows the results of normal distribution.Figure 2Figure 3Figure 4

    Given the significance level and the Kolmogorov- Smirnov test values (Table 2) no significant difference is observed among the sample and the responses are normally distributed.

    Ranking of international market segmentation factors was performed using the decision tree. Optimal numbers of decision trees were used for ranking market segmentation factors and their components (Figures 2 and 3). The importance of each factor in segmenting international markets of dried fruits are provided in Table 4.

    Given the importance coefficient values, 10 factors were identified as influencing dried fruits international market segmentation and other factors were classified as playing low-important role in market segmentation.

    Ranking of the components (a group of factors) which influence exports market segmentation using decision tree are presented in Table 5.

    As seen in the above table, components (1) market cycle, customers and specific competitors’ demands, (2) standards and regulations of product and marketing and (3) desirable and undesirable trade policies rank first, second, and third respectively whereas stability/instability are of the lowest importance.

    6.DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

    In order to identify the factors which influence exported dried fruits market segmentation, first 64 factors were extracted through a systematic review of the related literature. In the first classification based on the literature, the factors were put into 4 classes namely, environmental, economic, cultural, and communication infrastructure factor. Out of all the factors, 10 were ranked as having an effect on Iran’s dried fruits export market segmentation. 32 other factors, based on their importance from the questionnaire and decision tree ranking had very small effect on international l market segmentation. The results showed that environmental factors play the major part in international market segmentation, a finding which is in line with previous studies such as Papadopoulos and Martin (2011) who emphasized political and social environment in their non-economic segmentation. Out findings also confirm Walker et al. (2009) who suggested factors in cultural, economic and legal environment are important besides political factors. Furthermore, environmental factor have been suggested as effective and important in international market segmentation in several studies (e.g. Mullen, 2009; Hollensen, 2010; Gibson, 2001).

    On the basis of the classification in the present study, the environmental dimension comprises political, competitive, market and legal environmental factors. Considering political environment factors in studies is also suggested by Robertston and Wood (2014) and Koch (2011) and is emphasized by Kotler and Armstrong (2014). This classification is also consistent with studies carried out in Iran such as Babaiezakilaki (2014) and Farasooyi (2015) who believe political factors are effective in exports market segmentation. The factors constituting competitive and market dimension are also mentioned in a number of studies as effective environmental factors (Robertston and Wood, 2014). Legal environment plays an important role in exports market segmentation which has been presented along with factors in previous studies such as Kegan (1993) and more Koch (2011).

    Another dimension of exports market segmentation factors is economic dimension which influences the type of exported good exerting varying effects across countries on market segmentation. Economic factors are presented among others in works by Albaum and Hawkins (2008), Pomeranz (2002) and Farasooyi (2015).

    Cultural dimensions, another class in the classification scheme of the present research is also consistent with researchers such as Kumar et al. (2012), Kotler and Armstrong (2014), Farasooyi (2015) who have recommended exporters to consider cultural elements in the target markets. Additionally Mullen (2009) among a number of other studies emphasize market segmentation based on cultural similarities.

    Communication and transportation infrastructure includes such factors as suitable distribution and transportation networks and the availability of communication and transportation infrastructure in international markets has a determining effect on market segmentation. Studies carried out in Iran such as Rahmanseresht and Karimi (2008) as well as those carried out outside Iran such as Lotayif (2016) confirm this effect.

    To rank the factors which influence exports market segmentation, a questionnaire consisting of the classified factors was presented to the experts and the results were ranked using the decision tree. The result was identifying the most important effects which influence exports markets segmentation. On this basis, the most important dimensions were market potential, legal environment, and infrastructure. This finding corroborates Mullen and Sheng (2006) who measured market potential using the education level and suggested it can be effective in market segmentation. Further, Xu and Shenkar (2002) finding which indicates that the potential available in the market is one of the most important segmentation factors, was confirmed.

    The fact that legal environment dimension ranked second, is a finding which confirms Walker et al. (2009). Walker et al. (2009), stressing the importance of the environments where an organization needs to operate in to enter exports markets, see it necessary to understand and consider the legal environment for successfully segmenting international markets. Similarly, Kumar et al. (2012) report legal environment factors to be among the most effective factors in market segmentation. In addition, high significance of legal environment in works by Zaribaf and Hosseinikia (2013), Koch (2011), Farasooyi (2015) and a number of others is echoed, a repetition indicating the importance of the factor.

    The infrastructure dimension in the present research rank third as an effective factor in market segmentation. The importance of infrastructure is suggested in a seminal work on exports markets segmentation. This seminal work by Kavvusgil (cited in Moeini et al., 2012) considers infrastructure as one of the major market segmentation factors. Our finding also confirms those reported by Walker et al. (2009). They use infrastructure as one the most important factors in the gravity model for market segmentation. Communications and transportation infrastructure as well as physical infrastructure are identified as important factors in making market segmentation decisions by Moeini et al. (2012).

    Based on the rankings and presented the respective importance coefficients for the factors in each component, factors influencing market segmentation were classified into three classes of high importance (coefficients higher than 0.2), low importance (coefficients between 0 and 0.1), and no importance (coefficients lower smaller than 0.1). Among the three classes, high and low importance factors have an effect on market segmentation. The difference between high and low importance factors is that high importance factors have greater effect on market segmentation and are more likely to be considered in segmenting dried fruits exports markets. After ranking the factors, a total number of 27 factors which influence market segmentation were identified comprising 10 high importance and 17 low importance factors. Among the high importance factors, competing products price level in the dimension market and competition conditions have the highest coefficient (0.237) followed by tariffs, taxes on the products by the destination country, ranks as the second high importance factor. The latter falls within the environmental dimension, legal environment component. The third high importance factor, standards required for products by the foreign country again falls within the environmental dimension.

    These results corroborate those reported by Moghadasi and Alishahi (2012) who reported the significant effect of the market share held by each competitor and their market coverage on gaining exports market share by Iran in non-petroleum export markets of agricultural products. Along the same line, findings by Mehrabiboshrabadi (2012) are confirmed who report factors such as trade policies of the target country, trade indicators and consumer market prices to be effective on export market share. The importance of inflation rate on segmentation also corroborates Ghallagar and Welrath’s (2014) finding that increased loan rate and price can both contribute to inflation and thus are important n market segmentation. Out findings are also consistent with Hooper and Kohlhagen’s (2013) findings on the effect of foreign exchange rate on international markets.

    7.SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Based on the findings of the present research, factors which influence market segmentation are competing products prices, tariffs, and tax in the target market. Therefore, given the differences in local and regional regulations, exporters are recommended to segment markets not only at the country, but also at regional level. The findings also indicate that environmental factors, market potential, communications and transportation infrastructure, and legal environment in the target country are of highest importance. Gaining sufficient information regarding laws, pricing policies, customs tariffs, and cultural and economic context of the target market should be taken into account for successful market segmentation. As factors in market potential are highly important, exporting managers are suggested to consider the effect of competitors, market trends and conditions in segmenting and po sitioning their markets.

    Another finding of the present study was the high importance of environmental factors on dried fruits international market segmentation/based on this finding, policy makers are recommended to set forth policies consistent with major dried fruit markets of Iran and facilitate financial and cash transactions, as well as tax reduction through such measures as customs tariffs, agreements on letters of credit to held dried fruits exporters. Policy makers and government officials are also recommended to hold conferences and publish information on market conditions, legal environment, and infrastructure of Iran’s major markets to improve market segmentation on the part of exporters. The legal environment ranking first is another important finding which implies policy maker should make laws to require dried fruits exporters to have a comprehensive marketing plan which includes market segmentation based on major identified factors.

    The present research suffered a number of limitations in terms of demographic features of the sample which should be considered in generalizing the results. First, the variety among the markets of the companies under the study may involve legal, political, cultural, and economic differences. As most companies in this research had Eastern and Southeastern Asian countries as their major exports markets, the findings may not be applicable to other markets. In addition, the difference of number of markets served by the exporters studied, may mean diverse marketing and segmentation strategies. As a result, generalizing the findings to companies with different market numbers or market homogeneity may not hold true. The present study is limited to Iran’s dried fruits export markets which might the ranking and identified factors inapplicable to other countries.

    Given the limitations of the present study, future research is suggested to adopt the framework of the present study, combining both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, study and cross-check the findings within the context of other companies, export sectors, and countries improving the framework resulting from the present study by comparing the results. If undertaken, such a study could provide a more profound understanding of exports market segmentation factors. Future studies are also suggested to predict and rank factors that influence international market segmentation using alternative techniques to decision tree. Using qualitative techniques such as interviewing informants and experts, case studies, and focus groups could also enrich the knowledge available on the factors influencing exports market segmentation. Thus, future studies are suggested to combine qualitative and quantitative methods to contribute to the understanding of application contexts of the findings in this research. Undertaking a meta-analysis to sum up and accommodate all exports market segmentation factors reported in the available literature, including the present one, could improve predictability of the findings.

    Figure

    IEMS-16-549_F1.gif

    Theoretical Framework of the Study (Based on the research background).

    IEMS-16-549_F2.gif

    Selecting optimal tree number to identify factors on dried fruits export market segmentation.

    IEMS-16-549_F3.gif

    Selecting the number of optimal decision trees on 18 components.

    IEMS-16-549_F4.gif

    The most important components influencing export market segmentation.

    Table

    Dimension, components and indicators of market segmentation

    the literature.

    Reliability Test results (cronbach’s alpha)

    Kolmogorov-Smirnov test results

    Ranking of important factors

    Exports market segmentation components rankings

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