Consumer Decision-Making Styles: Comparison between United States and Korean Young Consumers

Article excerpt

The purpose is to identify decision-making styles of young consumers

in Korea and to find if these styles are similar to those of U.S.

young consumers. An instrument, based on previous research in the

United States, was administered to 310 college students in Korea. Data

are factor analyzed and alpha coefficients are computed for scale

reliability. Findings indicate the generality of some consumer

decision-making styles. Similarities and differences between cultures

are discussed, and implications are provided.

Decision making is more complex and even more important for consumers today than in the past. Consumers are besieged by advertising, news articles, and direct mailings that provide an abundance of information, much of it with mixed messages. In addition, increases in the number and variety of goods, stores, and shopping malls, and the availability of multicomponent products and electronic purchasing capabilities have broadened the sphere for consumer choice and have complicated decision making.

Although it might be expected that the quantity of research in decision making would increase with expansion in the quantity of information and the number of consumer choices, this has not been the situation. Israelsen examined the history of family resource management as reported in "five major journals utilized by resource management scholars" (1990, 5).(1) He identified only five research articles related to decision making in the 60-year chronology. Clearly, more research effort associated with decision making is needed to provide professionals in consumer education and financial management with knowledge.

Sproles (1985) and Sproles and Kendall (1986) have been instrumental in developing and testing a Consumer Styles Inventory (CSI) that could point a new direction in decision-making research. Characteristics of decision-making styles, used in the CSI, can be useful in profiling an individual's consumer style, in educating consumers, and in counseling families on financial management (Sproles and Kendall 1986). A consumer decision-making style may be "defined as a mental orientation characterizing a consumer's approach to making choices" (267). It is "a basic consumer personality, analogous to the concept of personality in psychology" (Sproles and Kendall 1986, 268). They believe that decision-making styles can be identified by measuring general orientations of young consumers toward shopping and buying.

The role of the young especially in consumer decision making should be defined and examined for several reasons. Young consumers are recognized as a specialized market segment for a variety of goods and services (Moschis and Moore 1979). The young within the family often influence family purchasing decisions (Turk and Bell 1972). Consumer socialization is defined as "processes by which young people acquire skills, knowledge, and attitudes relevant to their functioning as consumers in the marketplace" (Ward 1974, 2). Socialization usually takes place within the family and may shape consumption patterns. In this way, it may affect not only present but also future consumer well-being. In addition, the interrelationships between specific consumer decision-making styles and individual learning styles, documented by Sproles and Sproles (1990), has important applications for consumer education.

Sproles (1985) and Sproles and Kendall (1986) used data from samples of young consumers in the United States to measure basic characteristics of consumer decision-making styles. They developed and validated a Consumer Styles Inventory (CSI) for this purpose. Sproles and Kendall recommended that the CSI be administered to different populations in order to establish generality. Generality can be established by identifying and testing decision-making traits for other youth and adult groups as well.

A sample of Korean young people was used in the research reported in this paper. …