23 February 2016

That’s the question that students in the course “Marketing and Consumer Behaviour” asked consumers who had just bought a tractor. At a seminar at the Vreta Kluster business and research park near Linköping, some thirty representatives from the tractor industry and various interest groups gained some valuable insights.

A tractor is a big investment – one can cost between SEK 800,000 and SEK 4,000,000. Students taking the course phoned people who had recently purchased a tractor, with the aim of pinpointing decisive factors in the purchasing process.

They identified a total of 60 case studies from around the world.

“We've only spoken to a few buyers, and we can already see certain patterns. Some things we thought were unimportant turned out to be important,” says Maggie O'Neill, one of the course participants, who researched the markets in France and Peru.

Together with fellow students Sabrina Layachi, Alexia Creancier, Ireney Tung and Jaime Huivin she identified a few factors related to customer behaviour, the most crucial being brand loyalty and the relationship with the dealer. But product maintenance was also a factor, with some respondents shunning high-tech options in favour of mechanical ones, as the latter are easier to maintain oneself.

By listening to the customers, how they make their decisions, but also about how the products work, they hope that businesses will be better at standing out in the competition.

“If you work out in the field every day, eventually you’re going to come up with some really good ideas,” says Maggie O'Neill.

Although none of them were previously interested in tractors they gained important insights.

“This method can actually be used in any industry, and even on a personal level. Some products I buy just because my mum buys them. But just because she buys something doesn’t always mean it’s the best option,” says Sabrina Layachi.

One of the main driving forces behind the event is Per Frankelius, senior lecturer in business studies at Linköping University’s Department of Management and Engineering. He emphasises the importance of letting students get in touch with the business sector, and engaging representatives from that sector. And he hopes that the students will learn and be inspired by this.

“Some people feel the university's engagement with society is about spreading the university's results, but it’s equally important that we learn from the business sector and society as a whole,” he says.

“This is an experiment about integrating research, education and collaboration. What happens when you connect students with the real world, when they step out of the classroom and out in a real-life situation?”

At the seminar “Why did you buy your tractor”, students from the Department of Management and Engineering met business and interest groups. The event is a collaboration between the collaboration project Grönovation, the development arena Vreta Kluster and an interest group, Lantmännen Maskin. Approximately 50 per cent of the students are international.