The Effect of National Culture on the Consumer Buying Behavior: Evaluation of Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Framework in the Case of Middle East.

Posted: October 28, 2016

Introduction

Modern business environment has become largely consumer oriented where the businesses have to supply consumers with exclusive and trendy products and services in order to remain competitive in a highly challenging market condition and selective behavior of consumers (Lai, He, Chou, and Zhou, 2013, 110). Many factors affect consumers purchase decisions including national culture. The study of national culture is highly effective in identifying consumers’ behavior and responding appropriately. Therefore, the future research aims to reveal the link between the purchasing decisions made by consumer and national culture of the country in terms of vehicle purchase. The research questions to be answered are:

  1. How does the national culture of UAE affect the vehicle purchase decision of a consumer?
  2. How does the vehicle purchase decision of consumers vary based on gender as an effect of UAE national culture?
  3. What impact does UAE national culture have on the buying behavior of consumers, representatives of different age when purchasing a vehicle?

The research questions are significant for their narrow-specific orientation and focus on a particular setting. Also, the gap in the literature regarding the link between high-purchase decisions and the national culture represents a unique opportunity to explore this topic and reveal the relationship between these variables. Also, it is believed that the results of the research may help the marketers to target the consumers more effectively by taking their cultural characteristics into account.

Theoretical Framework

As the satisfaction of customer has become the most important goal of the company, marketing has to function effectively to meet the goal. Nowadays, the experts in this field target consumers on the basis of various factors, including the cultural characteristics of an individual (Alvi, Hafeez, and Munawar, 2014, 105).

In 1980s, Geert Hofstede introduced his model of cultural dimensions that were modeled into the practical tools designed for the experts in business and marketing in particular (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohayv, and Sanders, 1990, 287). Hofstede has divided each culture into six dimensions, namely power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long/short term orientation, and indulgence/restraint (Hofstede. 1998, 17). According to this framework, each national culture complies with the dimensions presented by Hofstede and determines the behavior patterns of the citizens.

Several studies were dedicated to the exploration of the connection between the national culture and consumer decisions. For instance, one of such studies conducted as a comparison of several national cultures, revealed that the consumers in Trinidad and Tobago display different purchase decision pattern than the Jamaican buyers; particularly, Jamaican buyers purchase locally made goods more often than the participants from Trinidad and Tobago, due to their high devotion to the home country (Spiers, Gundala, and Singh, 2014, 93). A similar study conducted in Pakistan exhibits that culture has a significant impact on how consumers make their buying decisions; it was recognized that Pakistani respondents named security and gender roles to be important in their decisions to make a purchase, which the researchers relate to the cultural specificities of this region (Bashir, Zeeshan, Sabbar, Hussain, and Sarki, 2013, 195). A study conducted in Chile revealed that the local consumers tend to choose the products according to their national culture (Rojas-Mendez, Chaubey, and Spillan, 2013, 122). All these researches were conducted in general; not any specific product or service has been taken into consideration to find the relationships.  

Research involving consumer decisions and culture was criticized at some instances, as several scholars agreed that culture is a complex construct and it is difficult to measure it with the framework proposed by Hofstede (Firat, Kutucuoglu, Saltik, and Tunçel, 2013, 183). They believe, Hofstede framework may be used to compare consumer’s purchase trends among different cultures but not to measure them. Sometimes, the consumers tend to rely on their lifestyle and advertisement rather than national culture and the constructs identified by Hofstede tend to be ambiguous regarding the purchasing decisions (Aziz, Bahadur, Sarwar, Farooq, and Arshad, 2014, 886). At the same time, it is impossible to disregard the impact of national culture on the consumer behavior, as the previous research shows a strong connection between these variables. For example, by thorough examination of Indian families, it was identified that the consumers in this country tend to choose the product which was advertized in culturally-appropriate way (Virmani, 2013, 384). There are more examples of such studies; however, they all have a similar approach to the matter. There are no inquiries assessing the consumer decisions regarding a specific product, which grants a great opportunity for the current research to explore this area. Neither low- nor high-involvement decisions were evaluated by the previous studies in relation to the national culture.

Justification of Hofstede’s Model as the Research Framework

From the perspective of global marketing, the efficiency of sales promotion and marketing campaign depends largely on how effectively a brand can respond to consumers’ trend and preferences; learning consumers’ behavior and purchase pattern is highly essential in this regard (de Mooij and Hofstede, 2010, 85). Adapting to local consumers’ habit and motives significantly increase the likelihood of the success of a business in international market than remaining general (Dow, 2006).

Hofstede dimensional model of national culture has been proposed here for determining consumers’ behaviour based on their national culture because it takes personality, self, identity, as well as differences in perceptions and categorization into account while dissecting individual’s behavioural pattern as a reflection of national culture. All the cultural dimensions of a person or a consumer can be explained by Hofstede model, which is why it finds its extensive use in global branding, advertising and theories. Today’s market is highly influenced by culture, styles and traditions of the locality; it has been seen that some nations are highly driven by the fashion trend of neighbouring countries, whilst some value their own cultural fashions. How the consumer of a particular nation behave is largely determined by their personality, identity, self-consciousness, perceptions and conceptions. All these elements of individual are largely influenced by national culture and studied in Hofstede model.

Hofstede’s model may be used as a roadmap to see the effect of cultural differences over customers’ preferences. National culture as seen from five dimensional model of Hofstede largely influence customers’ trend indirectly. In order to determine the link between national culture and consumer behaviour, the model can provide the best framework. Despite it has been proposed long time ago, the theory has proven its appropriateness in defining individual’s behavioural pattern from cultural perspective, which can be used to explain their purchase behaviour and buying pattern.

Proposed Methods

Research Design

In order to fulfil all research goals, it was decided to apply qualitative research design. Qualitative research aims to determine specific audience’s array of behaviour and the factors affecting it. As the main purpose of this research is to reveal how the cultural patterns affect the consumer behaviour, qualitative design is believed to be the best framework for this purpose.

Data Collection

The future study will generate both primary and secondary data. Primary data will be gathered with the help of the in-depth interviews conducted among a small number of participants from UAE. This interview will produce the experience of the UAE consumers regarding their consumer behaviour. The secondary data will be collected with the help of literature review, where the research aims to provide the analysis of the previous studies analyzing the consumer behaviour and cultural patterns.

Participants

It is believed that 10 participants will be enough for the future research, as the study aims to perform in-depth analysis of the small target group. The respondents will be recruited among both men and women of different age groups starting from 20 years old; they should have a stable occupation, and have experience in purchasing a vehicle. The participants will be chosen among men and women. It is crucial for the research to recruit the interviewees among the residents who were originally born in the UAE and live there now, as the research aims to analyze this culture. All participants will be invited to participate through the e-mail or platforms like SurveyMonkey. The interviews will be held through the electronic means of communications, like Skype, and will last no more than 20 minutes. The interview will be recorded and transcribed.

Data Analysis

Both the primary and secondary data will be analyzed with the help of Hofstede’s framework on national culture. In-depth interviews will contain the questions connected to the Hofstede’s framework analyzing the consumer behavior according to the characteristic features existing in the UAE culture. The dissection of the secondary data will be made with the help of analytical methods analyzing the findings of the previous scholars and the Hofstede’s characteristics of the UAE.

Ethical Considerations

The study plans to safeguard the ethical principles of the research conduct when working with the information and participants. The interviews will be tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Any data that can reveal the identity of the participants will not be mentioned in the study. After the transcription, the original recordings will be destroyed. The access to the research data will be protected digitally and physically by the researcher of the future project.

Limitations

It is important to admit that the findings of qualitative research are more descriptive rather than empirical, which contains a certain limitation. The future research will not produce statistical data and will not reveal the relationship between variables. The size of the participants is quite small, which affects the generalizability of the data. Yet, it is believed that small in-depth qualitative research benefits the purposes of the study the most.

Reflections

Empirical Obstacles

It is believed that the future study will encounter with certain obstacles in accessing the potential participants. First of all, the respondents will be contacted through the online methods of communication and there will be no possibility to interact with the respondents face to face, where it would be possible to widen the area of study or implement semi-structured interviews. Also, the topic of national culture is considered quite conflicted and vague due to the globalization and the personal approach of the potential participants to the cultural values. The sample size is quite small, which presents an opportunity to conduct in-depth research, but fails to produce generalizable results.

Theoretical Problems

There are a lot of studies dedicated to consumer behavior and its link to national culture. However, these studies are criticized due to ambiguity and incorrect procedures as well as misunderstanding of the concept of culture. There are a lot of inquiries that have different procedures and employ distinctive techniques in exploring the link between consumers and national culture, yet a lot of them do not evaluate particular product. While the study will employ the Hofstede theory, the other frameworks will not be taken into account. Yet, the studies that utilized Hofstede framework in the similar context are scarce.

Ethics

It is essential to execute exemplary ethical conduct during the research. As the current study will explore the national culture, it is possible to suggest that the topic will encounter with certain obstacles. It will be difficult for participants to self-evaluate their perception of cultural specificity in their purchase decisions and they may perceive guiding questions regarding culture as the attempt to offend or disrespect. Therefore, it is particularly important to investigate all sensitive issues in the cultural field I am exploring and take them into account during the interview. In addition, the data provided by the participants has to be secured, as any external attempts to access the information will jeopardize the study and me as the researcher. If there are conflicts regarding the questions, it will be important to let the respondents to withdraw the data even if it will cost time and effort. Any personal judgments of the participants and their answers have to be avoided to validate the results of the research. Overall, it is believed that the countermeasures will be implemented to avoid ethical conundrums.

Political views

I consider myself an open-minded person and I do not judge people regarding the political views or any other characteristics. Therefore, I consider that my political preferences will not affect the quality of the research. I support liberal ideas and democratic principles where all people are entitled to their opinion. I also believe in the cultural diversity and its importance in the world; it is one of the reasons why I conduct this study. Consequently, I think that my beliefs will assist me in the future inquiry rather than become an obstacle. If the respondents have different political views, it does not concern me and it will not affect the study either. 

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