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Cultural Factors Affecting Consumer Behavior

Consumers have largely contributed to the growth of various businesses. This is because every successful business venture requires potential buyers. As a result, the role of the consumer on business prosperity can never be neglected. It is sad to mention that many businesses have closed due to lack of consumption of their products. However, other businesses have prospered due to the availability of more consumer of their products than they can even contain. Therefore, this paper attempts to define consumer behaviour. Although there are other factors such as personal, psychological and social factors that affect consumer behaviour, this paper will concentrate on cultural factors only.

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Consumer behaviour can be defined as, “the behavior that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs” (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007: 13). However, there is another description of consumer behaviour as the mental and physical activities undertaken by households and organizational consumers that results in decisions and actions to pay for, purchase and the use of the product and service (Sheth, Mittal & Newman1999).

There are two levels of consumer behaviour; the personal consumer and organizational consumer. The personal consumer is usually the one that buys products for personal use (Schiffman & Kanuk 2004). On the contrary, organizational consumers are described as the consumers who buy good and service to run their organization, for instance, the government organizations (Hawkins et al. 2001).

Culture is defined as a way of life. Therefore culture contributes much to the behaviour of the individual (in this case, consumer) even though people rarely understand their own culture. The characteristics of culture are adaptive, dynamic and patterned blueprints which can be interpreted to help the individual behave in a manner that is acceptable to the rest of the members of that culture. The myths, values, symbols and ritual have helped in defining the culture and using them may help in determining the consumer behaviour (Arnould et al. 2004).

Consumer behaviours are studied mainly because the behavior of the consumer can never be predicted by the marketing theory. Therefore many consumers have unique requirements on the product and service and it is of important value that consumer behaviours are clearly understood.

Some of the cultural factors that affect consumer behaviour are outlined as follows; culture, subculture and social class.

Culture, as it has been indicated earlier has a significant effect on the behaviour of the consumer. There are different cultures among countries of the world therefore the marketers have to study the culture of the potential consumer before they offer the goods and services for sell. For instance, various studies have indicated that culture affects the behaviour of the consumer in buying of the good and service i.e. it has affected the decision of the consumer on buying, culture has greatly influenced diverse age group of the consumer in buying of the cosmetic and skincare product and finally the decision of the consumer in buying of the cosmetic and product is affected by the lifestyle factors (Chouten & Alexander 1995).

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Subculture arises from the culture since all the cultures found in the world have got different subcultures such as nationality, religion, racial, gender or geographical region. For example, recent studies have established that men are increasingly using skincare products. Due to this fact, it was reported that sales of male grooming products went up by 18% in the whole world during the period 2006 to 2011 while the market was estimated to be of value $25 billion (Mermelstein & Fielding, 2007).

Religion can never be underestimated in understanding consumer behaviour since it is considered a long time phenomenon (Kim et al., 2004). It is an important cultural factor that influences values, attitude and behaviour of the consumer. For example, religion can provide restrictions about the use of cosmetic and skin care product.

Another example is that countries found in Asia have a large market of the cosmetic and skincare product therefore the manufacturer should study the culture of these countries to meet the needs of the consumer.

The last example on subculture is based on the gender. According to various studies that have been carried out, it has been established that more women are a potential consumer of cosmetics and skincare product as compared to the number of men who use the same products.

Social class is defined as, “the status hierarchy by which groups and individuals are classified based on esteem and prestige” (Webster 1992: 23). According to Warner, he defined the social class as “a group of individuals who other members of the community see as equal in social prestige and whom others believe to be superior or inferior to other groups that constitute the social classes below them or above them”.

Generally, there are three different types of social class. First, there is an upper class which is subdivided into upper-upper and lower-upper. Second, there is the middle class which is subdivided into upper-middle and lower-middle. Finally, there is a lower class which is subdivided into upper-lower and lower-lower.

It follows that members in the same social class have similar status and therefore the buying habit in a particular social class is similar (Wilkie 1994). The members in the same social class share common belief, behaviour and value. For example, the lower-class women are the most influential in the buying of cosmetic products while the upper-lower class women tend to respond more on the promotion of the cosmetic and skincare products (Hawkins, Best & Coney 2001).

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In conclusion, consumer behaviour is vital for the prosperity of the business. Therefore it is of significant value to study the trends in the behaviour of the consumer towards the buying of the product and service. Also, it is worth to analyze the factors which affect the behaviour of the consumer since the consumer has a large contribution to the business. Given the diversity in the cultural backgrounds, it is important that marketers understand the differences in the cultural outfits and how these differences impact on their decision making.

As a result, it is a challenge to various policymakers to design methods that will help in studying consumer behaviour to establish their buying trends. Without understanding the cultural factors that impact on their buying behaviour, the marketers may not understand the needs of the customers and hence fail to provide quality. Therefore, understanding of cultural factors affecting consumer behaviour will help the business in fulfilling the desires of the consumer and consequently turn the business into a successful venture.

List of References

Arnould, E. and Price, L., 2004. River Magic: Extraordinary Experience and the Extended Service Encounter, Journal of Consumer Research, 20(1), pp. 24-45.

Schouten, J.W. & Alexander, J.H., 1995. Subcultures of Consumption: Ethnography of the New Bikers. Journal of Consumer Research 22 (June), pp. 43-61.

Hawkins, D. I., Best, R. J., and Coney, K. A., 2001. Consumer Behavior: Building Marketing Strategy. 6th edition. Published by Irwin McGraw-Hill.

Kim, S. F., David, S. W., and Zafer, B. E., 2004. The influence of religion on attitudes towards the advertising of controversial products. European Journal of Marketing 38(5/6), pp. 537-555.

Mermelstein, E & Fielding, M., 2007. Evolution of man…again’, Marketing Management, 16(4), 6.

Sheth, N., Banwari, M. and Bruce I., 1999. Customer Behavior: Consumer Behavior and Beyond, Fort Worth, TX: The Dryden Press.

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Schiffman, L.G. & Kanuk, L.L., 2004. Consumer Behavior. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Warner et al., 1949. A Manual of Procedure for the Measurement of Social Status, Chicago: Science Research Associates.

Webster, F.E., 1992. The Changing Role of Marketing in theCorporation, Journal of Marketing, 56, 1-17.

Wilkie, W.L., 1994. Consumer Behavior, 3rd ed. New York: Wiley.

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