Though the behaviour of consumers is dependent on different factors, the cultural dimensions appear to have considerable impact on the decision making process of people. As the beliefs, values, perceptions, morals, principles, customs, etc are derived from culture, the consumer behaviour or buying patterns are expected to have strong influences on the different dimensions of culture. According to Marsiglia (2010, p. 1) the “cultural value systems” seems to substantially influence the activities of individuals and so people from different cultural backgrounds or nationalities show variations in their buying behaviour. Consumers from similar cultural background seem to display comparable traits especially with regard to buying. So marketers need to identify the exactness of the influence of culture on consumer behaviour in order to devise appropriate tactics for capturing diverse markets. A study on the relationships and complexities associated with this issue seems to be relevant in today’s world where lot of cultural integration, interferences and consolidations occur as a result of globalization. The influence of culture on consumer behaviour has been recognized since a long time and the extent of impact would be evaluated and discussed.
Definition of consumer behaviour
Schiffman & Kanuk (2007, p. 3) has described consumer behaviour as “the behaviour that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs”. Definitions like this clearly indicates that consumer behaviour is all about behavioural patterns adopted or followed by people when making decisions related to purchasing a product or a service. This behaviour is dependent on a host of other factors like the needs, interests, values, perceptions, motivation, purpose, availability, pricing, etc and most of these aspects have direct or indirect linkages to the cultural, financial, social and mental state of a consumer. So understanding consumer behaviour is key to the success of product marketing.
Role of culture on buying behaviour: The influence of culture on individuals is phenomenal. The values, ideas, perceptions, attitudes, etc of the consumers that has been acquired and developed through cultural interactions at various levels would ultimately have major influences on the buying behaviour of consumers. In short, cultural influences are found to be predominant in generating likes or dislikes in people and hence the buying habits and behaviour of consumers appear to be largely linked to various cultural dimensions (Luo, 2009). This association between culture and consumer choices has been recognized by marketers across the world and they strategize their product or service marketing strategies in accordance with these specific preferences. Consumers’ preferences for a particular product or service depend a lot on the features or the offers provided. Factors like beliefs, values, attitudes, etc of individuals that is basically derived from culture form integral in developing interests or preferences for specific quality or qualities in the product or the service, which in turn influences the buying behaviour to considerable degrees. Samarasinghe (2012, p. 88) opines that “understanding and predicting the influence of culture is central to consumer purchasing behaviour”. Even the consumer’s perception about a product or a service depends on their cultural background and as a result of which people from different countries perceive products or services differently. So the buying patterns would be largely affected by these perceptions and so marketing people need to even alter product designs and strategies based on specific consumer preferences and priorities. Researches on the relationship between culture and buying behaviour have substantiated the role of culture in the purchase decisions of consumers and the buying habits were found to vary with consumers from different cultural background (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007).
Important features of some foreign cultures
Cultural differences exist between people from different countries or regions and these distinct variations in culture in fact reveal the possibility for diversity in the buying behaviour of individuals as well. The cultural dimensions appear to be dissimilar in different foreign cultures. Assessments on the distinct features of foreign cultures based on the various cultural dimensions showed that United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Australia appear to be more individualistic countries while China, India, Sri Lanka are among the collectivist oriented countries (Nayeem, 2012). Individualist oriented countries are more self directed while collectivist oriented countries give greater priority to groups, society, etc. When considering the dimension of power distance, US is found to be promoting equality and encourages informal approaches. While on the other hand, countries like India, it is relatively hierarchal and has rigid, formalized approaches and such characteristics influence their buying behaviours. American people are more open to change and hence would receive new products and services (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007). Hispanics seems to prefer national brands and seldom have an eye for private brands (Kara & Kara, 2005).
Impact of these cultures on buying behaviour: Kacen & Lee (2002) has opined that studies reveal that consumers from American culture appear to be more impulsive buyers in comparison to consumers from European and African cultures. Consumers from individualists’ countries like US, UK, Australia, etc appear to be more concerned about the product, its features, its performances, etc. While consumers from collectivist oriented countries like India, China, Sri Lanka, etc focus more on status, social causes, “symbolism”, etc (Nayeem, 2012, p. 82). Consumers from individualistic oriented countries in fact make mostly self oriented purchases, while people from collectivist societies give importance to societal, familial ties, etc even when making purchasing decisions. So in consumers of collectivist societies, the decisions could be easily influenced by family members or the opinion of like minded groups. The purchasing decisions of consumers from US, UK, Australia and other individualist oriented nation seems to be dependent on the information collected from multiple sources. This is in contrast with the buying behaviour followed by consumers of collectivist oriented nations like India, China, etc where the purchasing decisions are reliant on the opinions of family and friends. This pattern would mostly be followed by the individualists and collectivists cultures for products that require high involvement like in the purchase of a vehicle, mobile phone, etc.
Cultural background also seems to influence how people associate with brands and even the perceptions about the brands are dependent on these cultural factors. The colour or design of a product which is liked by consumers in the US would not perhaps be liked by the Chinese consumers. This could attribute to the differences in the buying behaviour and habits displayed by people from different cultural backgrounds. The features that might appear attractive to some might not even capture the attention of others and so marketers need to specifically identify the preferences of the region prior to introducing a product or service in to a new territory (Kara & Kara, 2005). In fact Americans prefer to experiment more on new products in comparison to the Chinese people. This is perhaps American consumers are more open while the Chinese people are more conventional (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007). On the other hand, there are considerations that increased cross border people movements have reduced the cultural differences due to frequent cross cultural interactions.
Based on the assessments it is seen that consumer behaviour is closely linked to various dimensions of culture. It is seen that the beliefs, values, perceptions, etc of the consumer influences their buying patterns and behaviour and these parameters seems to have been derived from culture. People from similar cultural backgrounds show comparable buying patterns and this association between culture and consumer behaviour has been recognized by marketers and the strategies are planned accordingly.
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