The world of today may have become a global hub of industries and businesses, but one thing that all these businesses have been striving for is the need to satisfy the consumer. The consumer is the primary and main person that a business aims to satisfy. Certain factors play a pivotal role in capturing the attention of global customers. Culture is just one of these many factors. Culture plays a vital role in shaping and affecting consumer behavior.

When planning to execute a marketing strategy, it is important to consider the cultural background, cultural identity, and purchase patterns of a country. Although a marketing strategy that is successful in one nation can also succeed in another, that’s not always the case.

So how does culture actually impact consumer behavior? What should a company do to achieve consumer appeal in a market? Let us find out.

Table of Content

  1. A Brief Look at Culture
  2. A Brief Look at Consumer Behavior
  3. How does Culture Affect Consumer Behavior?
    1. Individualistic Vs. Collectivistic Culture
    2. The Value of Family
    3. Diversity Vs Uniformity
    4. The Element of Clothing
    5. Cultural Taboos
  4. How does Culture Influence Consumer Behavior?
  5. Key Takeaway

A Brief Look at Culture

Before defining the culture of a nation, it is imperative to first examine the belief system and the values of the people living there. Culture is the total average of beliefs, values, and traditions which are prevalent in a society or nation. Both beliefs and values are mental images that influence the particular attitudes of people, and these consequently, affect how a person makes choices.

Take the example of “Audi vs. Volvo”. Given the choice, a product category like this will involve customers choosing from amongst these alternatives. The preference for one brand over the other will, however, be affected by his beliefs and values. These beliefs and values are the pillars on which the culture of a nation stands. And this culture has a direct impact on consumer choices and buying behavior.

Culture is also seen as a stable model of behavior, particularly in the form of consumption. For example, in American culture, turkey is considered a traditional food for Thanksgiving. This consumption allows poultry companies and retailers to increase their production near the Thanksgiving season, but that only happens in America, not in other parts of the world.

A Brief Look at Consumer Behavior

Consumer behavior is the way consumers purchase or display patterns of purchase. It basically relies upon cultural elements which involve equal operating systems, tools, norms, assumptions, and values. It also involves standards of believing, communicating, and perceiving. Likewise, culture in consumer behavior also affects sales and purchases greatly. Take the example of migrants who find it particularly difficult to alter their purchase behavior according to the current market. The reason is that they are exposed to a large variety of cultural groups which influences their purchasing behavior.

In addition, reference groups may also contain conflicting beliefs about products which affect their purchase patterns and behavior. When formulating a marketing strategy, companies should strive to enhance their marketing communication channels that address these reference groups.

Moreover, they should engage in micro-marketing as well as market segmentation in order to provide tailored marketing messages for each region. This will entice and motivate the buyers to purchase the advertised product or service. A professional translation agency and localization service can aid in tailoring these marketing messages.

How Does Culture Affect Consumer Behavior?

Culture affects and determines a consumer’s experiences, beliefs, and values, which are directly linked to emotions, social norms, attitudes, intentions, and behaviors. Similarly, the impact of culture on consumer behavior is also evident and cannot be denied. It is important that every market consider these cultural factors and business norms coming with a foreign consumer. It is common knowledge that people residing in the same area or location share the same values and belief systems and can be categorized as having the same culture. On the other hand, religious differences and similarities are backed by common values, personalities, and customary practices.

1. Individualistic Vs. Collectivistic Culture

Individualism and collectivism are two elements that are found in different cultures across the world. In Western countries, individualism is a core cultural value. It is a norm in these Western countries to focus on an individual’s needs and interests and it is all right to put himself first. In fact, an individual is even rewarded for his own hard work as an individual.

On the other hand, in many Asian countries, collectivism is a core cultural value. The collectivist culture considers the needs of the family members and communities when making a purchase decision.

2. The Value of Family

Some cultures, particularly the Asian culture places more emphasis on family bonds than others. Studies have revealed that in countries like Mexico, adolescents seek parental advice or respond positively to advertisements depicting parental figures. On the other hand, in countries such as America, ads do not emphasize family bondage and the concept of parental care. This difference in consumer behavior is basically due to the fact that the concept of family is defined narrowly in the US and is less important than in many other cultures. Contrary to this, Asian countries like India value family bondage more than individualistic societies. This is evident in the buying patterns of Indians, who decide on what to purchase considering the family requirements and may even go to the extent of pooling the resources among family members before purchase.

3. Diversity Vs Uniformity

The level of diversity and uniformity also affects consumer buying patterns in culture. A culture that values diversity not only accepts a wide range of personal behavior and attitudes, but is also much more likely to welcome a variety of items, such as food, dress, and other products and services. Individualistic societies and cultures place a high value on diversity, whereas collectivist cultures tend to value uniformity. For example, people in China and Japan tend to consume products and services that everyone else purchases. Contrary to this, people in the United States tend to make more individual decisions based on personal preferences and choices.

4. The Element of Clothing

Clothing is the primary factor that affects how an individual feels. This is the reason why the choice of clothing is the foremost offer that many businesses make when entering a new market. The choice of clothing can be regarded as one of the cultural “sensitivities” that affect the sentiments and feelings of individuals of that culture. These sensitivities affect consumer behavior and how customers perceive a product/service as well as how they process information.

Understanding cultural sensitivities and differences is vital for a business seeking to enter a new market. An E commerce company operating globally needs to learn about the cultural sensitivity of each nation before marketing its product in that country. Even within the same country, there are profound differences between the cultures as well as psychological factors, be it social class, age, gender, etc. Clothing is just one of the many of these products whose choice varies across cultures.

For example, if you are addressing a group of people for a serious talk at a conference, you need to wear a proper suit and tie. In such a case, showing up with a T-shirt and loose jeans may not be appropriate. Likewise, if you are planning to hike with your friends, dressing up in a formal dress instead of casual wear may not be a good idea.

Clothing is regarded as one of the most culturally sensitive elements in marketing campaigns. For instance, it is considered rude to bare the neck and shoulders in some cultures, while doing so is considered normal in many others. Likewise, it is considered inappropriate for women to show their knees in countries like the Middle East. Such factors should be considered when marketing apparel and clothing in the global market.

5. Cultural Taboos

Cultural taboos are a part of the culture and are one of the things that most marketers overlook. Although some taboos are obvious, others are quite subtle and vary from culture to culture. What’s acceptable in one culture may be considered highly offensive in another. For example, dressing up in revealing clothes is taboo in many countries.

Marketers should be careful before placing ads in new markets as hitting a cultural taboo may cause them more harm than good. For example, the color white is associated with piety and innocence in the US culture, while it is considered a sign of death in some Asian countries. Before marketing a product in another market, therefore, it is important to keep cultural taboos in perspective.

Take the example of watches as a gift. In some countries such as China, it is considered highly offensive to gift a watch to someone. This is because giving a watch as a gift represents running out of time. On the other hand, giving a watch in Western countries as a gift is appreciated.

How does Culture Influence Consumer Behavior?

As discussed above cultural implication on a consumer’s behavior can not be ignored and has great significance. This influence is long-lasting and can not be tamed easily. Hence, it is important to consider this factor while working in the foreign market. 

Some other cultural factors that affect consumer behavior are:

  • The age when people start using social media
  • The tone and language people prefer for the ads they view
  • How often are customers likely to purchase through websites
  • The trend of E-commerce shopping versus physical retail shopping
  • Religious factors and tendencies
  • The concept of gender roles and norms
  • Work-life balance and family structure

Key Takeaway

Culture affects and influences the way consumers think and behave in a particular society. A community’s culture depicts its values and beliefs which shape the way consumers make buying decisions. This is the reason why it is important for businesses to do their cultural research thoroughly before entering a new market so as not to cause any offense to the people. Likewise, it is vital to consider the cultural differences that exist between countries. Recognizing these differences can pave the way for marketing products/services appropriately in a market, without causing any cultural offense to the people.

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