Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

An Investigation of Decision-Making Styles of Consumers in China

Academic journal article The Journal of Consumer Affairs

An Investigation of Decision-Making Styles of Consumers in China

Article excerpt

This study investigates Chinese consumers' decision-making styles. The Consumer Style Inventory (CSI) is administered to 387 adult consumers in China. Both an exploratory factor analysis and a confirmatory factor analysis are adopted to validate the CSI inventory. This results in an eighteen-item and seven-factor solution. Findings indicate that five decision-making styles are valid and reliable in Chinese culture: perfectionistic, novelty-fashion conscious, recreational, price conscious, and confused by overchoice. Cluster analysis is employed to identify prominent market segments. Based on the findings, three segments are formed: trendy and perfectionistic consumer, traditional and pragmatic consumer, as well as confused by overchoice consumer. Marketing and management implications are discussed.

The consumer decision-making process is a complex phenomenon. The purchase of goods or services includes a number of factors that could affect each decision. According to Sproles and Kendall (1986), the consumer literature suggests three ways to characterize consumer decision-making styles, namely, psychographic/lifestyle approach, the consumer typology approach, and the consumer characteristics approach. Sproles and Kendall (1986) developed the Consumer Style Inventory (CSI) to measure consumer decision-making styles.

The CSI has been investigated across cultures, such as New Zealand, South Korea, Greece, India, and China (Durvasula, Lysonski, and Andrews 1993; Fan and Xiao 1998; Hafstrom, Chae, and Chung 1992; Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos 1996). Some researchers (Lysonski et al. 1996) have commented that the inventory is appropriate for applying to developed countries rather than to developing countries. However, the recent retail environment of the People's Republic of China has shown that the decision-making styles of Chinese consumers, especially in major cities, may be getting more similar to their western counterparts when compared with the past market and consumption situations. In the last two decades, China has experienced rapid economic growth and the development of a market economy. There has been a decrease of government intervention in the consumer market since the consumer reforms in 1979. The Chinese government has established policies to encourage foreign enterprises to invest in retail business in China. For instance, in 1992, all economic zones (Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, Xiamen, and Hainan Province) and six major cities (Beijing, Tinjin, Dailian, Qingdao, Shanghai, and Guangzhou) were permitted to launch selectively joint-venture retail business with foreign investors. Six more cities (Shenyang, Harbin, Nanjing, Wuhan, Congqing, and Xian) have been allowed to open business in joint-venture form from 1994. In addition, the government started launching permitted chain stores in several testing areas (Jian 1994). The results for implementing these policies are encouraging. According to statistics in China, the retail sales of consumer goods increased from 725.3 billion RMB in 1990 to 2062.00 billion RMB in 1995 (State Statistical Bureau 1997). This evidence indicates that consumerism has been increasing and domestic competition has been growing rapidly in this emerging market (Shell 1993).

This study attempts to test and purify the CSI in China. While previous research (Fan and Xiao 1998) has explored the utility of the CSI with college student samples in China by employing exploratory factory analysis, the scale needs to be further purified by adopting confirmatory factor analysis with more heterogeneous consumer samples. Specifically, the objectives of this study are to purify and validate the CSI in Chinese culture and to profile the decision-making styles of the Chinese consumers.

CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES ON DECISION-MAKING STYLES

Consumer-interest researchers have long been interested in identifying the underlying decision styles of shoppers. For example, consumers are identified as economic shoppers (Bellenger and Korgaonkar 1980; Darden and Reynolds 1971; Stone 1954), personalizing shoppers (Darden and Reynolds 1971; Stone 1954), ethical shoppers (Darden and Reynolds 1971; Stone 1954), apathetic shoppers (Darden and Ashton 1974-75; Darden and Reynolds 1971; Stone 1954; Williams, Painter, and Nicholas 1978), store-loyal shoppers (Moschis 1976; Stephenson and Willett 1969), recreational shoppers (Bellenger and Korgaonkar 1980; Stephenson and Willett 1969), convenience shoppers (Korgaonkar 1984; Stephenson and Willett 1969; Williams et al. …

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