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A CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARATIVE STUDY OF FEMALE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR WITH REGARDS TO THE PURCHASE OF COSMETICS BY FEMALES IN THE UK AND BANGLADESH Shahina Pervin, Southampton Business School, Southampton Solent Univ., UK Abstract Understanding consumer behaviour in a cross-cultural environment is an essential part of marketing activities in a world that is becoming more consumer-centric. This paper attempts to explain how consumer behaviour is influenced by cultural factors in Bangladesh. It is conceptual in nature and attempts to uncover the key facets of culture involved in shaping decisions on cosmetics purchase by female consumers in the Bangladeshi cross-cultural environment. Introduction The body of work considers the role of culture and its impact on consumer behaviour. As markets are becoming increasingly globalised, the need for understanding consumers in different cultures is a priority in marketing activities. This study attempts to provide an in-depth analysis into the way cultural factors influence consumers‟ decision-making processes. The basic premise of the study of cross-cultural marketing is to understand consumers‟ behaviour in their own cultural environments and to tailor a favourable marketing culture. The study intends to explore the understanding of consumer behaviour and how it is influenced by cultural factors in Bangladesh. To the best of my knowledge no research has to date been undertaken on the influence of cultural norms on purchasing behaviour in the cosmetics industry in Bangladesh. Currently both locally produced toiletries and cosmetics and international brands play a significant role in the Bangladesh cosmetics market. Many international companies are attracted to Bangladesh because of the potentially huge consumer market. The research focuses on the Bangladeshi cosmetics market and the buying behaviour of the Bengali women. Traditional values are dominant in Bengali culture; however modernisation touches its cities and suburbs. During the 1990s significant steps were taken to liberalise Bangladesh‟s trade policy. The adoption of an open market policy has created a considerable sized middle class group, which has substantial purchasing power. The purpose here is to identify Bengalis‟ attitudes to spending on cosmetics. To understand the present trend of consumers with relation to the purchase of cosmetics products a number of hypotheses will be formulated to test the cultural influence on making purchase decisions. As this is a comparative study between the United Kingdom and Bangladesh, the western/international manufacturers who are interested in the Bangladeshi market may well obtain results that will be useful to them. It is anticipated that this study will certainly contribute towards a better understanding of the perception and the behaviour of not just the Bengali consumers, but also the consumers in other South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) countries. More importantly there is an ambition to reveal whether and to what extent the concept of „face‟ (this concept is described in the main body of the literature review) identifies Bengalis‟ social standing. Analysis of fashion-consciousness, colour perceptions, shopping attitudes, and the social recognition of gift-giving and its importance on social prestige will provide a benchmark against which to interpret the Bengalis‟ buying attitudes. Bangladesh has been predicted by the economists to become one of the „Next Eleven‟ fast growth nations following the „BRIC‟ (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations as mentioned in the Goldman Sachs Report (2006). An understanding of the essence and significance of Bengali culture is necessary for those international investors who have little or no idea about Bangladesh, its people and culture. A comparative study will be undertaken between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom, which will provide a cross-cultural comparison within the context of cosmetics purchase. Key research issue The body of work on this area attempts to understand how consumer perceptions and behaviour are being influenced by the culture within which they exist. The fundamental research question on this issue is: What are the key facets of culture involved in shaping consumers’ decisions in the purchase of cosmetics? In order to understand how consumer perceptions vary in different cultural environments in terms of cosmetics purchase, the main body of the work is divided into the following groups: a. The preliminary research undertaken will be to develop a conceptual framework mapping out a model for consumer behaviour within a cross-cultural environment. b. Methodologies: Questionnaire survey: Primary data will be collected from300 Bangladeshi females between the ages of 18-30 and 30-45. Interviews: Interviews will be conducted with experts, beauticians, professors, and brand managers during the pilot stage. From the initial survey focus groups will also be selected for undertaking a detailed analysis. Case study: Clusters which will be selected from the analysis of the data and questionnaires; five to ten case studies will be selected for in-depth investigation during the PhD stage. c. The next stage of the research is empirical where propositions from preliminary stages are tested and the range of methodologies is utilised. d. The final stage of the research explores a suitable communication model as a platform for developing innovative strategies in Bangladesh and for third world countries. Development of key concepts (literature review) An understating of Bengalis‟ attitudes to cosmetics products allows a better understanding of motivating factors, leading to a better positioning of products and more effective marketing communication. Consumers form an „attitude‟ towards the advertising of a product as well as in the act of buying the product (Schutte and Ciarlante 1998). This attitude leads to the intention of whether to purchase the product or not. According to the ABC model (Solomon, 1996), attitude is divided into three components: affect, behaviour and cognition (see Figure 1). Affect Behaviour Cognition Feeling Intention Beliefs Attitudes Figure-1 ABC model of attitudes (Solomon, 1996) Each component has relative importance depending on the level of involvement of consumers in the purchase decision. There are different hierarchies of effects in attitude which will reflect thinking and emotion on the part of the consumer in terms of what is less common among Asian than among western consumers and visa versa. In Hofstede‟s collectivistic cultures Maslow‟s social needs of belonging and prestige can be seen as affiliation, admiration and status which tend to be the main driving forces of consumer behaviour. As a collectivistic culture the high level of interdependence among Bengali individuals corresponds with lesser personal attachment to material objects and a greater attachment to human beings. Schiffman and Kanuk‟s (1994) trio needs- achievement, affiliation and power which are related to Maslow‟s hierarchy needs have been considered that these needs can often be personally directed in the case of the westerner and socially directed among Asian. In Asia the purchase decision is typically based on the utilitarian feature of the product such as its physical characteristics and price to quality ratio (Schutte and Ciarlante, 1998). Bengalis are price conscious in terms of purchasing items for personal use. As Bengalis regard their own identity in the context of their society, they do not want to stray from socially acceptable norms, even in private, which thus encourages conformist consumption. For example Bengali people living in the same area tend to use the same brand of detergent, beauty soap, and hair oil because of a strong group-oriented conformist consumption pattern, which is influenced by the interdependent self. Asia is regarded as an area of importance for luxury goods companies. As the conspicuous consumption may seem to clash with such traditional characteristics of Asian culture as pragmatism, collectivism and modesty in self-presentation, the explanation lies in the fact that the luxury products symbolise status and face-giving in the Asian culture (Schutte and Ciarlante, 1998). Face-giving in Bengali society secures social recognition and conforms to the social norms of reciprocity where gift-giving is important. As a collectivistic society, it is imperative for Bengalis to project the right image as being classy, up-market and prestigious by securing the term „face-saving‟ where Bengalis rank high in power distance society. According to Hofstede (1984), in high power distance societies, differences in power are expected to translate into visible differences in status. Price sensitivity and the importance of the status of buyers differ significantly between Asian and Western cultures (Ackerman and Tellis, 2001). This study examines whether there are differences in Bengali‟s shopping behaviour and product prices in purchasing cosmetics brands due to cultural orientation. The concept of „self‟ is important in forming an understanding of consumer behaviour (Schutte and Ciarlante, 1998). Self-concept in consumer behaviour is a psychological process. Selfconcept consists of whatever individuals consider to be theirs, including their body, family, possessions, moods, emotions, conscience, attitudes, values, traits and social positioning (Rolando, 1998). Both Eastern and Western cultures perceive the „self‟ concept from the point of inner private self and outer public self. According to Mooij (2004), the concept of self is „independent‟ in individualistic cultures whereas in collectivistic cultures self is regarded as interdependence. The „self‟ concept in Bengali culture is interdependent in nature and focuses more on the public, which is the „outer‟ self than the Western „independent‟ self. Bengali groups‟ norms and goals frequently place emphasis on public and visible possessions. A „brand‟ has been described in many ways by different authors. According to Palmer (2000), a brand is a means of imparting to a product a unique identity that differentiates it from its near competitors. In the context of globalisation, it is imperative for international companies to practise their brand strategies in different countries and culture. Kotler (1997) points out that a brand is able to convey up to six levels of meanings: it can attribute benefits, value, culture, personality and user. According to Kotler, (1997) and Usunier, (2000), brand names must be meaningful and pronounceable in all relevant languages; otherwise firms will find that they are unable to use well-known local names as they expand abroad. Branding is therefore of prime importance to the marketers and represents more than simply giving a product a name (Schutte and Ciarlante 1998). Western companies have become successful in Asia by building and exploiting brands as the consumers in Asia are encouraged by power to achieve social recognition by owning prestige brands. The country of origin of a brand is also an influential factor for consumers choosing a product in both Asia and in Western countries. „Colour‟ is one of the important attributes which acts as a driving force in cosmetics use from a cross-cultural perspective. Use of colour cosmetics (right colour) satisfies the need to look young which leads to confidence for the consumer in an individualistic society. Use of colour cosmetics involves PDI (power distance), UAI (uncertainty avoidance) and IDV (individualism/collectivism) where the approach to scientific brands is variable. In terms of using cosmetics „social acceptance‟ and „social recognition‟ can create a „sense of security‟. The sense of security generates in terms of the attributes of a particular product is high in high uncertainty avoidance culture and low in low uncertainty avoidance cultures. National cultural dimensions The model of national culture developed by Hofstede (1980) is reviewed in this paper. Although Hofstede‟s five dimensions have been criticised on methodological issues and conceptual matters, his work has been conducted extensively in the field of business culture. According to Mooij (2004), dimensions of national culture provide excellent variables that can be employed to analyse cross-cultural consumer behaviour. Mooij further suggested that together with national wealth Hofstede‟s cultural dimensions can explain more than half of the differences in consumption and consumer behaviour. There are many definitions that have been formulated for culture by a number of anthropologists. Hofsteede (1980) defines culture as the “interactive aggregate of common characteristics that influence a group‟s response to its environment.” Hofestede empirically identified five key criteria by which national culture differed, which are power distance, individualism versus collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity versus femininity, and long-term orientation. Although Hofstede (1980, 1984) proposes five cultural dimensions, this paper focuses on three dimensions: individualism versus collectivism, power distance and uncertainty avoidance in order to identify the relevance of cultural dimensions to consumer purchase behaviour in a crossnational environment. 1. Power distance (PDI) - which is related to the different solutions to the basic problem of human inequality. 2. Individualism versus collectivism- which is related to the integration of individuals into the primary group. 3. Uncertainty avoidance- which is related to the level of stress in a society in the face of an unknown future. Williams et al (1998) state that of the five criteria, individualism versus collectivism seems to be the most pervasive difference associated with the cultures of various countries. Kale and Barnes (1992) explain how each of Hofstede‟s five dimensions could shape aspects of the content and style of participants from different countries in a buying and selling situation. Laura et al (2000) argue that Hofstede‟s dimensions have become key variables or explanatory features in a wide variety of research. As most of the dimensions are independent, these have been used widely in cross-cultural studies which have led to useful explanations of cross-cultural differences in consumer behaviour (Mooij, 2004). Conceptual model and hypotheses In this model cross-cultural dimensions are proposed to capture the variation in attitudes to achievement, power and affiliation in terms of buying cosmetics. This cross-cultural model tends to explain how self-concept, product attributes and group conformity are measured in two different cultural environments (Bangladesh and the United Kingdom) in terms of purchasing cosmetics. The conceptual model in Figure 2 depicts two culture clusters such as Bangladesh and the UK for cosmetics involving power distance, uncertainty avoidance and individualism/collectivism. Power Distance (PDI) Achievement Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) Attitude Power Self Brand/ Branding Product attribute Group conformity Affiliation Individualism/Col lectivism (IDV) Face Figure 2. A cross-cultural model of attitudes towards purchase Initially three general hypotheses are formulated to be tested. These are: H1. Bengali consumers are more influenced in their purchase of cosmetics by an authority figure compared to British consumers. In a collectivistic society „self‟ seems to interdependent whereas self is independent in an individualistic society. Achievement and power are assumed to be strong driving forces in purchase behaviour as prestige matters in a collectivistic society with a high power distance culture. The influence of achievement and power on purchase behaviour in terms of prestige and social matter is expected to be negative in an individualistic society as this society generally exists within a low power distance culture. H2. The greater the PDI (Power Distance) the more brand orientated is the buying behaviour. The ultimate need for recognition and conspicuous consumption to project the right image to save face in Asia may be highly important in most Asian cultures on the power distance dimension where brands could play an important role. In a Western context in a low power distance culture the desire to assert the independent self may serve as the stimulus for conspicuous consumption. H3. The degree of brand loyalty is higher among Bengali consumers than British consumers in terms of buying colour cosmetics. Brand loyalty in terms of using colour cosmetics may be weak in an individualistic society with low uncertainty avoidance culture as the variety-seeking motive is strong. The need to conform and strong negative attitudes to losing face make consumers brand-loyal in a collectivistic society with a high power distance culture. These are the key hypotheses that will be tested in addition to a number of sub hypotheses. Conclusion The proposed model in this paper has been developed to capture the issues related to the attitudes of Bengalis and British consumers to cosmetics within different cultural perspectives. It is a challenge for marketers to gain deep insights into the complexity of cultural norms in a new cultural environment. The body of the literature explains the areas of dimensions in consumer behaviour within the context of different cultural settings. The proposed model portrays the cultural variables in terms of purchasing cosmetics which could assist marketers operating within a global consumer market. References Ackerman, D. and Gerard J. Tellis, (2001) “Can culture affect price? A cross-cultural study of shopping and retail prices,” Journal of Retailing, 77, 57-82. Hofstede, G. (1980) Culture‟s Consequences. CA: Sage Publications. Hofstede, Geert, (1984) “Cultural dimensions in management and planning,” Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 1 (2), 81-99. Kale, Sudhir and Jawn Barnes, (1992) “Understanding the domain of cross-national buyer-seller interactions,” Journal of International Business Studies, 23, 101-132. Kotler, P. (1997) Marketing management: analysis, planning, implementation, and control, London: Prentice Hall. Laura, Milner, Fodness Dale and Speece, Mark W. (1993) “Hofstede‟s research on cross-cultural work-related values: Implications for consumer behaviour,” European Advances in Consumer Research, 1, 70-76. Mooij, D. (2004) Consumer Behaviour and Culture: Consequences for Global Marketing and Advertising, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Palmer, A. (2000) Principle of Marketing, Oxford: Oxford University press. Rolando, Diaz-Loving, (1998) “Contribution of Mexican ethno psychology to the resolution of the etic-emic dilemma in personality,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, l (29), 104-118. Schiffman, L. G and Kanuk, L. Leslie. (1994) Consumer behaviour, NJ: Prentice Hall. Schutte, H. and Ciarlante, D. (1998) Consumer Behaviour in Asia, Macmillan Press Limited. Solomon, M. R. (1996) Consumer Behaviour, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Usunier, J. C. (2000) Marketing across cultures, London: Prentice Hall. Williams D. Jerome, Sang-Lin Han and William J. Qualls, (1998) “A Conceptual Model of Study of Cross-Cultural Business Relationships,” Journal of Business Research. 42, 135-143.
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