The Impact of Culture on Buying Behaviour

The Impact of Culture on Buying Behaviour

Language is not the only factor you need to take into account when expanding your business into overseas markets. As we all know, culture has a huge influence on our thought processes, but recent research has shown that it also affects our buying behaviour.

Our culture shapes how we perceive the world around us, our place in it and how we make decisions. Add all that together and it’s sure to play a big role in how we consume goods and services. In some cases, that could manifest in an obvious way. For example, some cultures are prohibited from consuming certain products such as alcohol and meat, while cultural preferences may determine styles of clothing and the household products we buy.

However, in other cases, it’s much more subtle. Inherent cultural biases influence elements of shopping, such as trust, social interaction and time orientation (whether a culture tends to focus on the past, present or future), and this can alter our buying behaviour.

Which cultural elements influence buying behaviour?

Culture is something that consumers are rarely aware of, but it influences what feels right, normal and desirable to them. To be successful overseas, retailers must be aware when they are asking consumers to swim against their cultural tide and understand the changes they can make to bring their product or service back within their consumers’ comfort zones.

The following cultural elements may impact buying behaviour:

  • Masculinity vs. femininity – Masculine cultures are more competitive, and material rewards for success are expected. Feminine cultures have a preference for cooperation, modesty and quality of life.
  • The power distance index (PDI) – How does a society handle inequalities among people? People in societies with a large degree of power distance accept a hierarchical order, while those with low power distance strive to equalise the distribution of power.
  • Individualism vs. collectivism – Cultures that exhibit individualism are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families. Collectivism represents a preference for a tightly knit society where relatives or members of particular groups look after each other.
  • Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) – This is the degree to which a society feels uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. Cultures with a strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour, while weak-UAI societies have a more relaxed attitude to new ideas.
  • Long-term vs. short-term orientation – Societies that score low prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms, while those with higher scores welcome modern education to prepare for the future.
  • Indulgence vs. restraint – Indulgent societies allow the free gratification of basic human drives related to enjoyment and having fun. Restrained societies suppress the gratification of needs and regulate it with strict social norms.

You can read more about the six dimensions of national culture here.

How does culture impact buying behaviour?

Researchers have conducted some intriguing studies on how cultural elements impact the buying decisions of consumers. For example, a study by the University of Hong Kong found that the Asian cultural emphasis on saving face meant that even low-income consumers buy luxury brands.

Another study explored the tendency of consumers in Western and Asian markets to make impulse purchases. It found that ageing was a factor that was likely to reduce the propensity to make impulse purchases in Asian consumers, but it had no effect on Western consumers. Instead, it was cultural elements such as risk avoidance that were more likely to reduce impulse buying in Western markets.

What impact does culture have on your marketing campaigns?

It’s extremely difficult to adopt the mindset of a completely different culture, particularly if the goal of a brand manager is to persuade a new audience to change its buying behaviour. For that reason, really making the effort to understand the cultural frameworks that are at play is imperative before launching a product or service into a new market.

While academic research can play its part, it can be hugely challenging to translate academic research into actionable insights for your brand. Instead, working with a professional localisation and translation team can help. As natives of the overseas markets you’re trying to target, they will instinctively know the right and wrong ways to get your brand’s message across.

Localised marketing with a global impact

At Linguistica International, our native translation and transcreation experts will help you create marketing messages that appeal to the cultural sensitivities of customers in your target markets. Call 02392 987 765 or email to discuss your project with our team.