German Consumer Decision-Making Styles

By Walsh, Gianfranco; Mitchell, Vincent-Wayne et al. | The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

German Consumer Decision-Making Styles


Walsh, Gianfranco, Mitchell, Vincent-Wayne, Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten, The Journal of Consumer Affairs


The lack of previous relevant consumer research in Germany, together with the need to test the generalizability of consumer decision-making styles in different countries and with non-student samples, prompted an investigation of German shoppers. The original U.S. eight-factor model could not he confirmed completely, but support was round for six factors: Brand Consciousness, Perfectionism, Recreational/Hedonism, Confused by Overchoice, Impulsiveness, and Novelty-Fashion Consciousness. Variety Seeking was novel to Germany and replaced brand loyalty and price-value consciousness factors round in previous countries. Explanations for the differences are discussed as well as the marketing implications.

The advent of global markets has resulted in a plethora of product choice, retail channels (e.g., mail catalogues, television, Internet, and stores) and promotional activity, which make consumers' decision making increasingly complex. In the extant consumer behavior literature, most studies assume that all consumers approach shopping with certain decision-making traits that combine to form a consumer's decision-making style. Some of these traits, such as brand/store loyalty (Moschis 1976), quality consciousness (Darden and Ashton 1974) or value consciousness (McDonald 1993), have been identified by other authors, but a more comprehensive instrument that measures these and other traits is provided by Sproles and Kendall's (1986) Consumer Styles Inventory (CSI). This instrument measures eight mental characteristics of consumer's decision making: Perfectionism, Brand Consciousness, Novelty-Fashion Consciousness, Recreational, Price-Value Consciousness, Impulsiveness, Confused by Overchoice, and Brand-Loyal/Habi tual. Sproles (1985) defines consumer decision-making styles as "a patterned, mental, cognitive orientation towards shopping and purchasing, which constantly dominates the consumer's choices resulting in a relatively-enduring consumer personality" (79). [1] Although some concerns about the generalizability of the inventory have been expressed, the CSI represents the most-tested instrument currently available to assist marketers in examining cross-cultural decision-making styles. Marketers intending to enter or to expand into new overseas markets are more likely to succeed if they gain a good understanding of different cultures. With such knowledge, retailers can differentiate and target their offerings, locations, and promotional efforts according to the varying patronage responses of the basic shopper types. From an international marketing point of view, a single instrument to measure decision-making styles that is applicable to many different countries would be desirable because such an instrument could be used to identify similarities and differences in consumer decision making between countries and could enhance comparability. To date, however, there is no single accepted decision-making typology (Mitchell and Bates 1998). There is evidence that decision-making styles can vary across cultures (Sproles and Kendall 1986; Hafstrom, Chae, and Chung 1992; Durvasula, Lysonski, and Andrews 1993; Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos 1996; Mitchell and Bates 1998; Fan and Xiao 1998), but it is not known how they vary across all cultures, not even those markets that can represent major export opportunities. Thus far, the CSI has been applied to seven countries: the U.S., Korea, New Zealand, Greece, India, the United Kingdom, and China. However, Rosenthal and Rosnow (1984) suggest that a study needs to be replicated at least fifteen times before results can be generalized, indicating that additional work on the CSI is necessary.

Unfortunately, one major issue with Sproles and Kendall's CSI (1986) relates to its generalizability, as the original study used U.S. high school students to establish the reliability and validity of the instrument. The original authors acknowledged that their results could not be generalized to all consumers, particularly to adults, as student samples are not representative of the general population (Gordon et al. …

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