SBE alumni Emma Wijnen and Simon Dereje present thesis results at Customer-Oriented Enterprise event

SBE alumni Emma Wijnen and Simon Dereje were recently invited to present the results of their theses in front of a professional audience during a special event organised by the Dutch platform for Customer-Oriented Enterprise .

Emma Wijnen’s thesis focused on the reasons why elderly people are (still) reluctant to use Internet banking services. Simon Dereje investigated how to market healthier food products to children.

The audience and the organising committee were enthusiastic about the content of both theses, the alumni’s professional presentation styles as well as their ability to mingle with the audience.

In the following interviews, Emma and Simon tell us about their respective study and how it felt like to present their findings in front of a wide public.


Interview with Emma Wijnen

1. Who is Emma Wijnen?

I am 22 years old and I come from a small village called Voerendaal, close to Heerlen. After my bachelor in International Business at SBE, I studied Strategic Marketing, from which I graduated last August. Because it is quite hard for a graduate to find a good job right away, I decided to do an internship first. So, at the moment, I am doing a six-month-internship of  at Banenrijklimburg, a regional job platform. At Banenrijklimburg, I am responsible for online and offline marketing, both strategic and tactical. Later, I will try to find a permanent position, preferably at a fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company.

2. What triggered your choice for the topic for your thesis? 

During my bachelor, I had a Consumer Behaviour course and learned from my tutor Prof. Kasper about his research on consumer behaviour of the elderly. I thought that was a very interesting area of research, mostly because elderly are highly under researched in general. I kept it in the back of my mind as a possible topic for my master thesis. During my master, I decided to pursue this topic, most specifically in the context of Internet banking. The reason for this is actually pretty simple. My grandmother and I were talking about banking and Internet banking and I noticed that she was quite resistant towards it. That triggered me to research why elderly people are so resistant to Internet banking, and possibly other new technologies as well.

 3. How did you conduct your research?

The first step I took was to research the existing literature on the topic of consumer behaviour, elderly consumers and Internet banking. I quickly came across the Technology Acceptance Model, which became the theoretical basis for my research. After defining my hypotheses, based on the literature, I designed my questionnaire. It became an offline questionnaire, so I collected my respondents through convenience sampling. I found 160 people willing to fill in the questionnaire. After collecting the data, I put the data in SPSS and PLS and analysed it.

4. What were the outcomes of your research? 

The main finding of my research is that elderly consumers just do not know how to use a computer, and therefore are also less likely to use Internet banking. Their computer self-efficacy levels are extremely low. In addition, cognitive age proved to be an important factor explaining why elderly consumers still lag behind in Internet banking usage. This means that people often perceive themselves to be at a different age from their true, chronological age. In turn, they are also more likely to behave according to their perceived age, rather than to their chronological age. Lastly, vitality is an important influencer, meaning that as elderly consumers are still vital enough to visit a brick-and-mortar bank, they will continue to do so and therefore are less likely to adopt Internet banking.

The biggest challenge for me was time management. I had to write my master thesis while taking another course at the same time. The courses were quite demanding, leaving little time to work on my master thesis. In addition, I could not perform the analyses with SPSS, I had to use PLS, which I was completely unfamiliar with. It took quite some time to understand the theory and the statistical programme. All in all, I believe that working on my thesis taught me that I was able to manage my time properly, especially in the later stages of the process. I think that this is a valuable competence, that could be very useful in my later (business) life.

5. How was it like to present your findings in front of a professional audience?

The audience of the session was quite mixed. All attendants were professionals from various industries and companies, ranging from banks, such as the SNS bank, to the National Post. The knowledge session was set up to provide the professionals insights in the newest research. That was the exact expectation of the audience and I think it was fulfilled. The professionals seemed to find the topics highly interesting and quite applicable to real business. There was a lively discussion about my topic, on how to market this segment of the market, which is very difficult to approach.


Interview with Simon Dereje

1. Who is Simon Dereje?

My father is from Ethiopia and my mother is from Germany. I was born in Germany and lived there the first 19 years of my life, but I was raised in an international surrounding. My family is scattered all around the world and, therefore, I have travelled and seen different places and countries. My international background was one of the main reasons to study at the SBE. A friend of mine once invited me to the open days of Maastricht University. I enjoyed the PBL system and being around different nationalities, and thereby learning through a wider perspective. I studied IBE with a major in Marketing, and continued my Master studies in Strategic Marketing. At the moment I am planning to go to the US to help my uncle with his work, but also to take some time off to travel and visit my family overseas. I haven’t set specific goals yet, though I would like to see as much of the world as I can, and I hope to find a work that is fulfilling and fun.

2. What triggered your choice for the topic for your thesis? 

My motivation to write my thesis was triggered by an article I read during the course of Customer Analysis in my first period in the Strategic Marketing track. It was the article by Raghunathan et al. (2006) which investigated the “unhealthy=tasty” belief. The authors state that people are trapped in this intuition that everything unhealthy tastes better than healthy food. As I try to live a healthy lifestyle I know that it is not true that healthy food doesn’t taste good, so I wanted to prove it wrong. Moreover, I was very concerned with the rising “globesity” worldwide, so I wanted to investigate something to change this. Therefore, it seemed plausible to dig deeper into the learning process of food beliefs and preferences. My goal was to find out how to change beliefs such as “unhealthy=tasty”, and how to change people’s preferences for food.

3. How did you conduct your research?

I conducted my research in a German elementary school. I chose to investigate children as beliefs are formed early in childhood and thereby may cause problems in adulthood. I did a qualitative study to investigate the learning process of food beliefs and preferences. So I stayed in the school for three weeks to conduct interviews and use focus group techniques to gain as many insights into the children’s learning process through discussions and stories they told me.

4. What were the outcomes of your research? 

I set up five hypotheses regarding external and internal influences in the development of food beliefs and preferences, as well as the superiority of the service-dominant logic in the case of food marketing. All of the hypotheses were supported, and the main findings were that experience plays a fundamental role in developing food preferences, and therefore, food marketing may better adopt a more service-centric view and use concepts such as co-working and value-in-use, as these are major elements to promote the intangibility around the core food product.

The main challenge I encountered was the fact that children are not the easiest participants in a research. They have to feel comfortable around you, and be relaxed in talking and opening up to you. But I learned that I can be pretty good with kids! The first week I just stayed in the school to get acquainted to them and the system. And it also helped that I have worked in the school before as a summer job.

Writing my thesis taught me to work individually on a bigger project. And not rely on other people. During my studies at UM we had a lot of group work, and there is always a team that helps to finish a job. But during the research and the writing of the Master thesis I had to rely on myself and my ideas. Sure I had a great supervisor, Dr. Nikos Kalogeras, who helped whenever I needed help. But he also stressed out that it is my thesis, and I am responsible for the outcome. This really pushed me to give it my best. Therefore, I am really thankful, because I have learned to do a research on my own, and individually enhance my skill-set. 

5. How was it like to present your findings in front of a professional audience?

My professor asked me if he could forward my thesis to a small conference in Amsterdam because he saw value in my topic.  I couldn’t imagine being one of the lucky students to be selected. One day I received an email saying that I was picked to represent Maastricht University at the event!

Over the next days I was called by the organiser of the event Mr van der Steen who told me everything about it, as the website was in Dutch and I cannot speak Dutch. Unfortunately, that was one of the biggest problems during the event. The presentation and the evening were very well organised and nicely done in a relaxed atmosphere. The audience was eager to hear about our topics, and I was interested in their questions. However, I had the feeling that my discussion was not as lively as it could have been. And I think it was due to the fact that the whole event was in Dutch, and only my part was in English. I don’t know if the audience didn’t feel comfortable in speaking English, but I could see that some people wanted to say more but didn’t.  Nevertheless, it was a great experience for myself to present my thesis in front of employees of different companies, and hear what the business world had to say to it. I am very proud and honored that I had the chance to represent UM and specifically the department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management.


Talkin’Business thanks to Emma and Simon for their contributions!

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