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Global Consumer Culture and Behaviour


Knowing the different roles that family members play in decision-making concerning purchases is not enough. In addition, it is important to understand why certain family members directly influence decisions of the household, while others do so indirectly. At the same time, being familiar with the latest trends in role assignment in the different cultures is essential too. Cultural impact on people is rarely noted in ordinary behaviour because it is so natural and ingrained in people and household’s beliefs, values, and customs.

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Advertising and other marketing practices by businesses rely on this fact to enhance formal learning, informal learning, and technical learning of the targeted consumers. Businesses reinforce desired behaviour and expectations through marketing. For them to realize these objectives, they have to consider the learning modes and the predominant cultural and consumer behaviour attributes, thus the need to understand the phenomena around family decision making on purchases. A family is an important unit to businesses because it is one of the three pervasive social situations for cultural influences, the others being church/religion and school.

Marketers need to know the information search process of wives, husbands and children, and then alter their strategies on production and distribution, as well as advertising corresponding with their objectives and expectations of the targets. As the essay explains, it is important to realize the decision-making influence that all family members exert on each other. Issues such, as where to shop and product features to consider when buying would be important to consider for businesses to look into in relation to decision making.

The discussion part of the essay brings out the basic assumptions of households’ consumer behaviour and then presents global changes in the ordinary household. These lay the foundation for bringing out the implications for marketers, especially when tackling their global supply chains. The paper concludes that marketers can shape emerging trends to their advantage by using external socialization agents to influence children as future consumers and influencers of decision making within households.


According to research by Kozak and Karadag (2012), the parent holds immense power in making decisions for the family concerning the purchase of costly products, such as holidays. However, within the findings of the research, Kozak and Karadag (2012) also acknowledge the growing role of children’s influence in sub-decisions. The researchers acknowledge that the findings on children’s influence confirm previous research done by other scholars.

Koc (2004) finds out, women hold a high level of convincing power in families when it comes to purchasing decision-making. Koc (2004) conducted research on the role of family members in deciding what to buy in the domestic tourism market of Turkey. Therefore, the research findings would reflect part of the underlying trend in much of Europe due to the interrelatedness of European country cultures. Actually, women were influential because they also played an active role in gathering information and playing the gatekeeper’s role to determine the information that the family receives and uses to make decisions on holiday destinations purchase.

While marketers would readily jump to the opportunity to market to the most influential member of the family, it is worth pointing out how such persons end up being influential in the family (Chang, 2009). In essence, joint decisions in household units lead to conflict because of the small number of members in the household and involuntary nature of the members. The final decision will always be a contest because conflict is the norm, which calls for marketers to appeal to all members of the family as a way of influencing consensus of purchase decisions in their favour (Koc 2004).

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As information gatherers and gatekeepers, influential family members succumb to effects of external factors in their decision-making process. In China, research by Flurry and Veeck (2009) showed that strict population policy and unprecedented economic growth had effects on family consumption behaviour. China’s One-Child policy compels parents to devote all attention, sometimes in exorbitant amounts, to the child, spending more and more, sometimes in irrational ways. One explanation could be the sudden increase in middle-class incomes in the country, but the fact that households only have three members, with one who is needy, is also a factor influencing household expenditure patterns in China.

Chinese teenagers are less materialistic. Compared to Japan and America (Flurry & Veeck 2009). The reason for the observation could be attributed to long hours of learning and working on school-related assignments, as well as restricted access to television and other media platforms such as the Internet. Therefore, going with the argument above about influencers having a great amount of information compared to other household members, Chinese children would still enjoy little influencing power, despite their single status in the household. Even with all parental attention, they still lack considerable access to information about products and materialistic lifestyles to influence household consumption significantly (Noel 2009). The situation, however, is not as simple as it looks.

Beyond nuclear family size being an influence, Chinese families used to stay in multigenerational homes until the last decade when economic prosperity influenced many young families to consider buying apartments. Today, parents are also treating children democratically, seeing them as equal decision-makers in the family as elaborated by Flurry and Veeck (2009). Therefore, it would be expected that children are taking a bigger role in influencing households decision-making in the country, at least among urban families.

However, that is not truly the case because national cultural values are still at play in China, as well as in many other countries. For example, the individualistic tendencies of the United States citizens appear in children’s overstating of their influence compared to what the parents say. On the other hand, Chinese households have fewer disagreements and children seem to respect parents’ decisions even after the parents treat the children as equal decision-makers. A reason for the observation would be the collectivism cultural value of China being an influencing factor for conformity within households (Deresky & Christopher 2011).

Other family changes relate to the changing role of family decision-makers due to negative or positive effects caused by past marriages. This arises when family members go through different families due to divorce or deceased members. Children may gain or lose their influencing powers. The same is applicable to the wife’s and husbands. Much of that depends on the cultural influences of the partners in the previous and present marriages, where members could come from diverse backgrounds. Middle-class citizens around the world are also embracing diverse household arrangement where they are living with same-sex partners or with pets. Other than altering the general consumption of those households, the arrangement also brings in new motives on information searching for purchases.

Based on the above discussion about culture and state, as well as economic influences on changing family structures and income status as influences on decision-making at the household level, it is also worth looking at broad social factors. According to Bronner and de Hogg (2011), the social context is more important than the individual context of the decision-maker when selecting and using information sources.

When household members differ on a particular purchase, especially a costly one, each member involved in the decision-making process is likely to proceed with a search for further information with the aim of discrediting the reservation of the other member in the family. Consumers will rely more on personal information sources when the qualities on the product are difficult to evaluate before the purchase (Bronner & de Hoog 2011).

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For marketers, appropriate strategies to influence household purchasing behaviour come using several marketing instruments that fit into the consumer information-search process (Petzer et al. 2006; Fahy & Jobber 2012). Each choice of channel will depend on the targeted audience and the ability of the target to influence other household members. It is worth noting that the primary beneficiary of the purchase holds considerable attachment to the decision-making process and would likely commit more energy to the attainment of a favourable resolution (Hulbert, Capon & Piercy 2005).

Even though the discussion so far points at increasing social influences, it is important not to divert away from the fact that influence of one another among family members is significant than the influence by non-family groups, who would be friends, colleagues, or even neighbours (Mustafa & Shah 2014). A ‘child dominant’ decision-making model emerges due to the new influence of children. Reasons for increased influence of children would be the increased autonomy and the immersion of adults into the consumerist society.

Just as adults rely on other adults to validate various purchases, they are also increasingly looking at their children for validation, even when the products in questions are not children related (Mustafa & Shah 2014). Other models of household decision-making are husband dominant and wife dominant. At the same time, there could be autonomic decision-making and syncretic decision-making. In the first case, husband and wife or child periodically exchange the decision maker’s role. In the second case, both individuals share input in the decision making process.

In a typical household, people make decisions based on the marketplace value and their purchasing power, the power earned by the individual making the decision, the power taken by individuals making or influencing decisions, the power given to the individual and the social norm, or ‘what the society says’. Earning power to make decisions comes from successfully showing that one can make very good decisions on behalf of the household. Taking power is an aggressive behaviour where a household member refuses to recognize authority or input of other members and forces them in any way to accept his or her dominant decision.

Giving power occurs by asking other members to make decisions on one’s behalf. Finally, what ‘society says’ refers to culture in general and its predominant structure on family shopping. Culture influence could be that the highest earner in the family makes the major purchasing decisions, or the household shopping days are on a particular day and the person available on that day would go shopping. It could also be that a particular gender does ordinary shopping of household items, while the other gender only participates when purchasing experiences (Sirgy et al. 2014).

According to Sirgy et al. (2014), product and service purchases such as vacations, schools, living-room furniture, and outside entertainment or housing result mostly from syncretic decisions. Household members play a huge part in influencing the overall purchasing decision. Some things like, where to dine out, cloth brands to buy, and where to shop are majorly decisions made by the female members of the family, even when they lack adequate purchasing power in the family.

For technical items, husbands on average take the leading role, which would cater for things like vehicles, computers, and household machinery. As for information choices, the television is mainly a point of contention in urban families in many developed countries. However, most families settle on particular time segments to allocate viewing to members of the households based on their gender and age.

Implications for marketers

In addition to looking at husband dominant and wife dominant purchasing models for households, marketers need to pay attention to changing household structures and the factors influencing the distribution of decision-making powers within the family. Research findings showing that, “mothers who contribute to the provision of their families have significant influence” (Lee & Beatty 2002, p. 24).

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Other than the income contribution, marketers must also pay attention to the changing role of adolescents, whose exposure to the purchasing process in the household level began when they were children. Here, cultural influences to sex-role orientation and mother’s occupational status are influencing factors. In this regard, it would be enough for a marketer to pick a particular strategy that worked in one country and blindly apply it in another. Gender roles and status influence could be homogenised in a particular society, but they always vary among societies.

The problem with relying much on past research on consumer household decision-making process was that most of that research relied on self-reports, which would be subject to bias. Changes in women’s role in society and at the household level have been due to population increases globally, the advent of the ‘career woman’, and increased urbanization (Kozak & Karadag 2012). In addition to being able to contribute more to the upkeep of their families, women also benefit from cultural freedoms of expression and participation mainly fuelled by the globalization tendencies across the world (Lee & Beatty 2002).

Some traditionally closed societies in the Middle East and in Asia, as well as parts of Africa are opening up to cultural influences from the West (Nash, 2010). As major importers of these influences, the societies are increasingly recognizing women as equals at the household level. In addition, economic stimulus packages at various countries meant to sustain household purchasing power are empowering women to become leading contributors to household incomes (Mooney & Evans 2007). Issues like single parenthood, older parents, delayed marriages, postponed child breading, stepfamilies, move from extended family living to nuclear family living, economic prosperity, and societal cultural values are all important features to look out for when interpreting household purchasing reports (Flurry 2007; Blythe, 201).


Beyond relying on child, husband, or wife dominant models of household marketing and consumerism, it is beneficial to look at significant trends affecting households in a particular society. A constant in the decision making process is that product type will always influence the role played by each family member in the purchase decision. Marketers can shape emerging trends to their advantage by using external socialization agents to influence children as future consumers and influencers of decision making within households.

Reference List

Blythe, J 2013, Essentials of marketing communications, 4th edn, Pearson Education, London.

Bronner, F, & de Hoog, R 2011, ‘A new perspective on tourist information search: Discussion in couples as the context’, International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 128-143.

Chang, C 2009, ‘Effectiveness of promotional premiums: The moderating role of affective state in different contexts’, Psychology & Marketing, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 175-194.

Deresky, H & Christopher, EM 2011, International management: Managing cultural diversity, Pearson Education Australia, Melbourne.

Fahy, J, & Jobber, D 2012, Foundations of marketing, McGraw Hill, Berkshire.

Flurry, LA 2007, ‘Children’s influence in family decision-making: Examining the impact of the changing American family’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 322–330.

Flurry, LA, & Veeck, A 2009, ‘Children’s relative influence in family decision making in urban China’, Journal of Micromarketing, vol. 29, no. 2, pp.145-159.

Hulbert, JM, Capon, N, & Piercy, N 2005, Total integrated marketing: Breaking the bounds of the function, Free Press, New York, NY.

Koc, E 2004, ‘The role of family members in the family holiday purchase decision-making process’, International Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Administration, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 85-102.

Kozak, M, & Karadag, L 2012, ‘Who influences aspects of family decision making?’, International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 8-20.

Lee, CK, & Beatty, SE 2002, ‘Family structure and influence in family decision making’, The Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 19, no. 1, p. 24.

Mooney, A, & Evans, B eds. 2007, Globalization: The key concepts, Routledge, Oxon, OX.

Mustafa, Z, & Shah, FA 2014, ‘Family purchase decision making: a conceptual framework’, Asian Journal of Research in Business Economics and Management, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 370-385.

Nash, K 2010, Contemporary political sociology: Globalization, politics and power, John Wiley & Sons, West Sussex.

Noel, H 2009, Basics marketing 01: Consumer behaviour, 2nd edn, AVA Publishing, Lausanne.

Petzer, D, Ismail, Z, Roberts-Lombard, M, Hern L, & Klopper, H et al. 2006, Marketing: Fresh perspectives, 3rd edn, Pearson Education South Africa, Cape Town.

Sirgy, JM, Rahtz, DR, & Dias, PL 2014, ‘Roles of household members in the consumer-decision process’, Consumer Behavior Today, vol. 1, Web.

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