A Study on the Consumer Purchase Decisions of Chinese Students in the UK

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Abstract

This study aims to examine the effects and influences of culture on consumer behaviour particularly in university students. The study will be focused on students of Chinese ethnicity living in the UK and whether their cultural values and upbringing in a collectivist society motivates and influences the way in which they purchase their product [for the purpose of this study, ‘Chinese’ and ‘China’ will refer exclusively the People’s Republic of China and its people]. The study’s participants consist mainly of university students studying at the University of Glasgow and will focus on fashion and what motivates the participants to purchase. The study will also be implementing Hofstede’s (1980) theoretical concept on culture’s influences and whether or not his theories are applicable to this group. The objective of this study is to determine how much influence culture has on consumer behaviour and how important it is to adhere to these cultural values when making a purchasing decision. The choice of Chinese students was made to differentiate those from a collectivistic culture to those (British) from an individualistic culture. The study will also give an insight into the role marketers play and how effective marketing styles in the UK are in appealing to a wider non-British population.

Contents

Abstract

1. Introduction

1.1 Research Objectives

2. Critical Literature Review

2.1 Consumer Value, Needs and Loyalty

2.2 Individualism and Collectivism

2.3 Chinese Cultural Specific Influences

2.4 Shopping Styles

2.5 Acculturation and Individualistic Values

3. Research Methodology

3.1 Research Design

3.2 Population

3.3 Sampling Method & Sample Size

3.4 Hypotheses

3.5 Data Collection

3.5.1 Primary Data

3.5.2 Secondary Data

3.6 Software Employed

3.7 Data Analysis

4. Research Findings

4.1 Reliability Analysis

4.2 Demographic Analysis

4.3 Descriptive Analysis

4.4 Cross-tabulation Analysis

4.5 Correlation Analysis

5. Discussion and Analysis

6. Conclusions

6.1 Recommendations

6.2 Areas of Further Research

7. References

1.    Introduction

Over the years, research in consumer behaviour has looked towards understanding a consumer’s motivations to purchase, much of these focusing on the needs as a main driver of consumer decision making. Psychologists such as Ernest Dichter and Abraham Maslow, developed theories which categorised human needs into distinct groups in order to gain a better understanding of the motives behind their behaviour. These have been applied in marketing and promotion strategies to better understand the needs and desires of consumers. However, since these theories were developed in Western Europe or North America, some critics felt that theories such as Maslow’s needs theory (Maslow, 1943), are not applicable to Asians due to the differences in eastern and western cultural values, which can affect an individual in the way they think, act and behave (Gambrel & Cianci, 2003). Sojka and Tansuhaj (1995, p. 471) propose culture to be defined as “a dynamic set of socially acquired behaviour patterns and meanings common to the members of a particular society or human group, including the key elements of language, artefacts, beliefs, and values.” From this definition, it can be said that a person’s cultural values can be an importance influence on an individual’s motivation, thus leading researchers to explore culture as a motive behind decision making, especially concerning consumerism.  Kim et al., (2002) as well as Tse et al. (1988), notes that an individual’s needs and desires are shaped by their values which in turn, are influenced by the society they live in and is evidently seen in a person’s general tendencies of specific preferences for certain social processes, selective attention, understanding of environmental cues and responses. To further understand the influences of culture, this research will be looking at Chinese consumers in the UK. The choice to study Chinese consumers from China was made based on several factors. Firstly, China is a country which represents a rapidly growing consumer market in Asia, with a distinctly different economic and retail market development as well as cultural values (Kim et al., 2002). Cui (1998, p.67) states that the People’s Republic of China is “the largest untapped consumer market in the world.” Furthermore, China is second next to the United States in economic growth, with a phenomenal growth that is projected to reach $6.5 trillion in annual private consumption by the year 2020 (Zheng, 2015). However, despite the steady progression and development forward, the Chinese still uphold traditions and cultural values which are not considered as barriers to industrialisation and economic development (Yau, 1988). Indeed, if anything, the Chinese hold even more firmly to their centuries-old values and beliefs which are significant to them, effortlessly integrating tradition with modernity.

Since the beginning of Chinese civilization, Confucian ideology has had a profound impact on the Chinese psyche. According to Zhou et al., (2010), China’s “common high culture” is a philosophy deeply embedded in the minds of all Chinese, shaping their ideals, values, and core beliefs which is still relevant today. These values are intertwined with their daily lives, shaping their decisions, beliefs and even social interactions with more traditional values still upheld by Chinese youth (Yang, 1978). Despite a growing majority of Chinese consumers adopting Western-oriented, individualistic values (Ralston et al., 1993), this is by no means an abandonment of their Confucian ideals. Rather, both traditional and newly adopted Western values have been merged together creating a unique perspective of the facets of Eastern and Western culture (Zhou et al., 2010).

Unlike Western needs, the Chinese have a strong need for social interactions and acceptance within a group which is likely due to their collectivistic nature. Individualism-collectivism pertains to people’s behaviour in groups, how they perceive themselves in relation to others and their relationship with others around them (Jung & Kau, 2004). Hofstede (1984) who is most known for his research on culture’s influence on workplace values, notes that Asians in comparison to Westerners are relatively collectivistic in their social values. The collectivistic nature of the Chinese is reflected in the Chinese family and kinship system, which emphasises group oriented social units established through interactions, the importance of which lies at the forefront of social interactions for the Chinese (Yau, 1988). This may in part, result in a need for acceptance in a social group, causing the individual to express loyalty through following social norms thus deviating from this would be viewed unfavourably by society. It has been found that consumers in a collectivistic market (markets with low self-actualization or inward directional values) view products as a means of fulfilling social or functional needs that is, to reinforce group membership and affiliation to reduce the risk of unacceptance. In contrast, consumers in highly individualistic market, value products that appeal to their experiential needs (Roth, 1995). Childers and Rao (1992) state that because of the more kinship-based culture of a collectivistic society, extended families are known to be of great importance to an individual. Compared to their counterparts in an individualistic society where there are more nuclear families rather than extended families, individuals from a collectivistic society identify more with their relatives. As an example, social groups and family play an important role in Chinese society, often influencing the way an individual might act or think as well as influencing their buying behaviour. The strong sense of respect for authoritative figures in the family leads the younger generation of Chinese consumers to be indirectly influenced or seek advice from family members when making purchase decisions (Childers & Rao, 1992). Homer and Kahle (1988) also found that a consumer’s attitude and behaviour is highly determinant of an individual’s personal values.

There are several key elements that help form the basis of this research. Firstly, this research aims to look at Chinese consumers living outside of China, namely in the United Kingdom as most of the previous research focused on Chinese consumers in China or other Asian countries such as Singapore (cf. O’Cass & Lim, 2002; Teo & Liu, 2007). By looking at Chinese consumers in a non-collectivist society and environment that is different from their own, cultural influences and values inherent in the average Chinese consumer may be observed more clearly as opposed to simply comparing research results in a multinational research. This leads to the second aim of this research, which is to focus primarily on university students from the People’s Republic of China who have come to the UK to pursue higher education. A lot of the past research has looked at comparisons of adolescent consumers from different countries or adult consumers in a demographic of varied ages (cf. Schaefer, Hermans & Parker, 2004). This will be a study on Chinese university students, aged 18-24 years old, thus a specific demographic that has not been widely researched.

Thirdly, the chosen product in this study will be apparel products which has not been studied in the context of the Chinese student consumer. It is important that the chosen product was not one that is exclusive to a particular culture or country, hence the choice for apparel products seemed like the most appropriate choice. Miles (1998) regards fashion as a way for people to adapt to the various complexities of modern life and used as a means of defining an individual’s social life, aspirations, fantasies and affiliations. Thus, from this standpoint it can be said that particularly in young and urban consumers, fashion is more of a social demand through which social needs are fulfilled (Miles, 1998). Particular to female Chinese consumers, they have found to have relatively high social needs where clothing is often regarded as a symbolic medium used to express one’s social image or social status (Kim et al., 2002). Social desirability or social acceptance is also crucial in Chinese society. In a collectivistic society where acceptance in a group is of great importance, individuals have a strong need for social desirability as they match their purchase choices to those of their friends (Doran, 1994).

In 2015/16, the number of Chinese students enrolled in Great Britain was 12,500 more than in 2011/12. In 2011/12, there were 78,715 student enrolments from China, and 29,900 from India. (HESA, 2017; Else, 2017). With a large, annual increase in the number of Chinese students coming to study in the UK, it has become increasingly important to understand how these consumers make purchase decisions particularly when purchasing apparel products, an industry worth £26 billion in 2014 and rising each year (Pithers, 2014). By capturing the purchases of the young, well-educated, cosmopolitan individuals who travel, studies or works in more than one country, marketers may, on a broader scale, indirectly influence the purchases of other consumers who view this group as opinion leaders and trendsetters (Dawar, Parker & Price, 1995).

As previously mentioned, cultural values are of great importance and have been inculcated in the Chinese from a very young age as centuries-old traditions are still upheld by highly impressionable youths (Yang, 1978). While Chinese youths in coastal cities like Shanghai and Beijing are more susceptible to Western influences and thus, more familiar with Western culture, they have not abandoned their collectivist values entirely even when in a different environment. Kahle (1983) states that a person’s values help them adapt to their circumstances by directing resources and effort to achieve a desirable goal. However, young adults living in a non-collectivist society (i.e. Chinese international students studying in the UK), may find that their needs as well as their preferences change as they adapt themselves to a new purchasing environment away from primary influencers such as friends and family. Furthermore, in a study on acculturation among Chinese immigrants in Canada, Doran (1994) found that there were varying degrees of acculturation which strongly correlated to the length of stay in the West, adding an element of multiculturalism.  Therefore, the longer the consumers live in a different society, the more their purchase decisions are influenced by the local culture.

1.1  Research Objectives

To summarise, the objectives of this report are:

  • To understand the influence of culture on consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK.
  • To determine whether acculturation takes place on Chinese students the longer they’ve lived in the UK.
  • Determine how Western marketing has influenced the purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK.

This research will first critically review existing literature, looking to further understand and elucidate Chinese consumer values and needs, specific cultural influences, shopping behaviours and the differences between collectivism and individualism. This will then be followed by a brief explanation of the methodology in this research. The results will then be discussed and analysed before being concluded with final remarks from the researcher and suggestions for further research.

2.    Critical Literature Review

The Chinese consumer has been the focal research topic of many researchers throughout the decades. The differences in social and cultural values, lifestyle, mentality, priorities and needs give researchers a different dimension to explore in terms of motivation and, in particular, consumer behaviour. While some researchers such as Segall (1983, 1984) argue against using culture as an independent variable, others view and measure culture from an individual and psychological perspective that is appropriate in predicting behaviour (Earley, 1997). This study concurs with the latter view and views cultural values as a system of widely shared beliefs regarding an individual’s expected conduct and behaviour by their culture (Yau, 1994). This literature review will be looking at the Chinese consumer from the context of their values, needs and loyalty, cultural influences and shopping styles, as well as the differences between individualism and collectivism.

2.1 Consumer Value, Needs and Loyalty

Consumer behaviour (defined as the study of understanding the purchase and utilization patterns of individuals and groups) has been in focus for ages, with marketers in pursuing to comprehend the right formulation of offering to attract consumers. The literature has been subjective on the topic and numerous factors that influence the consumer on making a purchase decision have been defined. According to Calogero (2009), values shape our lives and certainly are influential when we are confronted with choices. A step forward, according to Schwartz (1992), values shape our attitudes as well as perceptions, as has been evident over time. These values originate and are outcomes of our social culture and environment, defining the individual and personal behaviour of a consumer and reserves central importance for marketers to understand the behaviour of the consumer (Phinney, 1992). Values transform the lifestyle of an individual and defines the parameters of evaluation while selecting a product. According to Cronin (2000), consumers evaluate the products depending on their defined values, whereas repeated purchases are also centrally influenced by these evaluations. Difference in purchase patterns over the globe are also considered as the outcome of holding different cultural values and differences in perception and attitudes (Yau, 1988). The researchers consider the decision making of the management to be a process influenced by the set of values they possess, whereas a number of models have also been formulated to define the impact (Lowe, 1998). These include research of lifestyle, value survey of Rokeach (Beaty et al., 1985) and framework of value orientation. Kahle (1983) has also been able to define nine set of values such as accomplishment, fulfilment and excitement, whereas others such as belonging and being respected to be affiliated with the social environment. Previous research have used this list of values to evaluate the cross-cultural impact on the decision making of the consumer.

Similarly, the needs transform the attitude of an individual while they try to satisfy those needs with the available choices (MacInnis, 1989). These needs are identified and present an opportunity to the marketers to best satisfy the need to gain share in the market place (Bettman, 1979). According to Fennel (1978), the marketers should work on identifying the needs and present ways and products to effectively manipulate the opportunity while accepting it as the first law rather than trying to sell a product which is not an outcome of need identification. Hence, consumer orientation is considered as the most important factor and the involvement of customer in marketing serves as the basis (Sheth, 1995).

Customer loyalty, according to Basu (1994), has been defined as another factor used to predict consumer behaviour and is related to the commitment and repetitive purchases made by the customer. It is also considered as an attachment to a certain product or service and can be perfectly identified by the consumer’s behaviour and attitude towards a certain product (Oliver, 1999). For the Chinese, customer loyalty for a particular product or service is given when trust is built. Participants in Doran’s (1994) study were found to borrow a specific desired item from a friend or relative who was an early adopter in order to develop an informed opinion and decision, as they still felt the need to generate a sense of trust and loyalty with the manufacturer and the product. Chinese consumers are more brand loyal than their western counterparts, as they tend to conform to group norms and therefore tend to purchase the same brand or product as other members of the group according to their recommendations (Yau, 1988).

According to Jacoby (1978), customer loyalty is evaluated through a process based on three stages. On the other hand, expectancy theory of value has also been used to identify the close links of behaviour and the loyalty. In the literature, loyalty has been assessed using the behavioural measures, such as the repurchase, and many studies have been used to identify the relation between customer values and loyalty (Kasper, 1995). Certainly, the relationship has been different with respect to the geographical areas under the study.

2.2 Individualism and Collectivism

Values held by an individual guide them in their purchase decision and are rather influenced by the social system in which they reside. In his comprehensive study on cultural dimensions, Hofstede (1984) states that there are several dimensions representing preferences for a desired state of affairs over the other that uniquely distinguishes a country from another; power distance, individualism/collectivism (I/C), masculinity/femininity, and uncertainty avoidance. Out of these four dimensions, the I/C dimension is the most widely used when researching fundamental differences in consumer behaviour between Eastern and Western cultures (e.g. Watkins and Liu, 1996).

The social system, as defined by Hofstede (1991),  is based on individualism, where the individual has weak relation with the people around him or collectivism, where the choices are similar as a result of cohesiveness among the members of the group. In other words, people in collectivistic societies find themselves as part of the bigger picture rather than just being concerned for their immediate family members (Triandis, 1995). Yang (2005) found that the concept of individualism and collectivism better define the Chinese society than any other values. Research considers Chinese society to be more collectivist depending on the close relationship among the individuals, but has also evidenced the change in structure and the transition towards individualism, with extensive economic growth and shift towards materialism (Cui, 2001). Along with the transition in attitude, behaviour and the purchase pattern have been considered as the part and parcel of enhanced income of the middle class, the purchasing power shift and the increase in purchase of foreign brands (Farrell, 2006). Some of the researchers believe that values best define a person’s attitudes, while others argue they have less impact due to mediating factors; they are rather more influenced by consumer values, shaped by the outcome of a purchase decision and are more dependent on an individual’s personal experience (Coney, 2004). These consumer values are transformed by the perceived importance of a good or service and result in the desire or the purchase of a certain product. These set perceived values define the importance of a good and motivate one to purchase a particular product.

Values such as functionality are related to the performance, efficiency and reliability of the product in relation to the price being charged (Sheth, 1991). Whereas an emotional value is referred to be linked to the affective response of a consumer towards the purchase of the product, likewise customers also associate epistemic value to the good, related to the desire of satisfying curiosity or openness to experiment the outcome. Research has explained these values to be the determining factors of the decision, including the innate social values acquired. Similarly, further studies have used the consumption values to define an individual’s purchase attitude and his behaviour. Long (2000) has used this theory to identify the particular values that motivates a purchase.

2.3 Chinese Cultural Specific Influences

Chinese culture has its own importance in understating the choices of a native, as has been defined in the literature. This culture is primarily based on the doctrine of Confucius, best explained and formulated by Strodbeck (1961). The values have been given specific names according to the attributes or responses they can generate. One of the values is derived from orientation of man-nature,according to which the Chinese believe that man should live in harmony with nature as it is not possible to be overcome (Chan, 1963). Hence, such a belief would result in less dissatisfaction from an unexpected outcome of the product, as the consumer would not relate the outcome directly to the product but rather to nature. According to the orientation of man-himself,Chinese children are brought up with the idea of accepting that one is no match to his/her teacher and parent and should consider themselves of lower rank in front of them, even when being praised. Similarly, they are also taught and taken care by a number of family members and close ones, giving them a better idea of life and accepting the situational outcomes of a particular decision by having greater tolerance levels and better adjusting to situations than Western children (Kindle, 1982). Relational orientation is also an important value-deriving doctrine, according to which Chinese people respect the authority over them and do not directly question their eligibility, rather relying on their teachers and people in power. They also believe in the culture of helping and doing favours for others and treat it as an investment.

Chinese culture reflects collective and group values conversely to only being concerned with personal well-being which is known as group orientation. Chinese, along with other Asians, believe in the collective good rather than the individual good (Hofstede, 1980), as is also evident in their family and kinship system (Hsu, 1968). The kinship system is based on forgoing personal interests for the private group and has generally no boundaries in defining the fulfilment of loyalty standards unlike in western culture, where the parents set boundaries to the conduct of their children until they are legally emancipated. A practical implication of such is the gift-giving culture among Chinese people, in which they make sure to give something that they can best afford to strengthen their ties. Similarly, the value can be attributed to the packaging of a certain product to be presentable and certainly is important along with the features of the actual product. These products can then be sold at a higher price. Past-Time orientation is also an important doctrine, set to give more importance to the things happened in the distant past and to expect that the future does not hold anything better than that has already been there and experienced (Strodbeck, 1961). This can be witnessed in their strong adherence to their traditions.

2.4 Shopping Styles

An individual can differ in shopping styles depending on the availability of information and exposure. The following can be assumed for the population living in China and other Chinese people living in European countries or Coastal areas of China, who are more individualistic in nature. According to Read (1993), Long-term Orientation is a common cause of Utilitarian Shopping style, resulting in extensive information gathering before the purchase decision, to make a quality choice benefit for a longer period. Surprisingly, choices regarding quality and utilitarian shopping do not differ amongst Chinese consumers living in inland China, coastal cities or those living abroad who are also conscious of the price and value of a product.  Brand consciousness serves as the splitting factor, more common in individualistic communities and culture. According to Manrai (2001), a brand is used for differentiation and personal choice, as well as recognition, and is more common in people who are individualistic, such as ones who are living in cosmopolitan cities. Acculturation is more linked to brand consciousness and, as an individual is more open to other cultures, accepting different brands is common (Vida, 1999). Similarly, Western brands are more popular in cosmopolitan cities than in inland areas of China and among Chinese people living abroad (Robison, 1996).

Previous research on fashion consciousness (e.g. Gelb, 1996), show positive correlation among individualistic values and fashion acceptance and consciousness. This is evident by the acceptance rate of new products in the coastal regions and among the natives living abroad who are considered as trend setters. Individualistic values promote fashion innovation through experimentation with different brands and products. Similarly, the people living in developed regions are more experimental and have opportunities to experience a variety of goods and products. According to Dickson (2004), natives of cosmopolitan cities are more connected globally and have been seen to accept consumption patterns and cultures of Western communities. Luxury goods are also more popular amongst citizens living in developed cities who have rich lifestyles and excessive disposable income to spend (Cui, 2000). In terms of loyalty to a certain brand, people with individualistic values generally are more brand loyal when it comes to well-known brands (Sun, 2004). According to Lam (2007), brand loyalty is positively correlated with the individualistic values. Hence, as people in coastal areas and developed cities are more individualistic, they certainly exhibit brand loyalty.

2.5 Acculturation and Individualistic Values

According to Paek (2004), consumer goods are now becoming globally available resulting in similar consumption patterns and promoting individualistic values. These different consumption patterns are more prominent in coastal areas than in inland areas of China. The people in inland areas are more concerned about social norms and interests, values which are deeply rooted in collectivistic behaviour. However, people who are more individualistic, are confident and possess more self-satisfaction towards new products (Horn, 2004). People with better qualifications as well as high disposable income, believe in quality of consumption and life.

Acculturation results in promotion of individualistic values and experiential/ hedonistic shopping, backed by the purchasing power and disposable income. This also brings in brand consciousness and innovation and acceptation of new products, while using trial and error before reaching brand loyalty.

3.    Research Methodology

3.1 Research Design

The research was conducted using the positivism research philosophy. According to Polit and Beck (2008:14), “Positivism research philosophy is based on the fact that the reality can be noticed.” The study used quantitative and deductive approach because of the focus of the study on analysis of Chinese students’ perception about apparel purchase in the UK through quantification of the responses gathered from them. The research is deductive in nature because of the fact that variables like culture, western marketing and consumer purchase decisions already exist in the current literature. However, the purpose of this research is to confirm the relationship between them for Chinese students studying in UK and their purchase patterns for apparel products. The deductive approach allowed the researcher to derive a conclusion through testing the hypothesis. The use of deductive approach also enabled the researcher to validate that the knowledge generated or obtained from this study is as close to truth as possible as well as that the results derived from this study are reliable (Reichertz, 2010). The use of deductive approach is also justified as other researches, which were conducted in the similar context, have also used deductive approach and quantitative methods.

The research employed quantitative research method because it helped the researcher in analysis of the responses gathered from a large sample of Chinese students in UK through the quantification of those responses. Since the data in this study was collected from a large sample, the employment of quantitative research method not only enabled the researcher in collecting a large amount of data economically but also helped in more categorized data collection which made the huge amount of data collected easy to interpret (Amaratunga et al., 2002). The reason for selecting quantitative method was also because the researcher required confirmation of relationships and not the reasons that influenced to make these relationships the way they are; for reasoning and answering why qualitative methods are used which was not the purpose of this study.

Moving forward, the researcher used ‘survey questionnaire’ as the research tool for this research; since this is the only tool used therefore the research is based on a ‘mono-method’. The survey questionnaire had different nominal, ordinal and scale based questions which were used to reject/accept the developed hypotheses and answer the respective research questions.

The data was collected through questionnaire survey of the students selected in the sample. The use of questionnaire survey allowed the researcher to collect huge amount of data in the form of responses of the participants as well as to process the collected data with ease due to categorized data collection (Amaratunga et al., 2002).

3.2 Population

The target population for this research are students studying at the University of Glasgow who are from People’s Republic of China and are staying in the UK for the purpose of attaining education. To meet with the objectives of this study, research subjects also had to be between the ages of 18-25 and have lived in the UK for more than a year in order for the researcher to validate the acculturation hypothesis.

3.3 Sampling Method & Sample Size

The research used random sampling since the target population of the research (students from China studying in the UK) is directed mainly at Chinese students at the University of Glasgow. The selection of the sample was done through volunteer subjects and a survey questionnaire was used to record their responses. The selection of sample was based on the method introduced by Krejcie and Morgan’s (1970) for determination of sample size. The selected sample consisted of 151 students in different years of study, not belonging to a specific gender or age group; however, the students were selected from undergraduate courses at the University of Glasgow, mainly in the college of Social and Political Sciences. The sample size of 151 was decided based on the statistical tool of calculating sample populations; to arrive at the sample size, 95% confidence interval was taken with 8% margin of error. Participants between the age of 18 and 25 were selected for the analysis.

The research employed convenience sampling technique because of the availability of limited resources to the researcher. Furthermore, given the sample size, the data collection was time consuming and the use of convenience sampling enabled the researcher to save some time during the data collection process. While the use of convenience sampling is deemed biased by some researchers, it allows the researcher to record the existence of a specific quality (The Health Communication Unit, 1999).

3.4 Hypotheses

The following hypotheses reflect the objectives of the research:

  • There is a positive correlation between culture and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK
  • There is a positive correlation between western marketing and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK
  • Acculturation takes place on Chinese students the longer they’ve lived in the UK

3.5 Data Collection

There are two ways through which the data for the research can be collected; primary data sources and secondary data sources (Neelankavil, 2007). In this research, both primary and secondary data collection methods were used.

3.5.1 Primary Data

According to Stevens (2006:90), “primary sources generate data that is obtained for the specific project at hand by the researcher for the very first time.” This research used primary data because of the reliability and relevance of the data for this study. In contrast to secondary data which is collected by other researchers in a similar context, primary data collected specifically for this research enabled the researcher to ensure the authenticity, credibility, and reliability of the data.

3.5.2 Secondary Data

Secondary data was collected to confirm or contrast the results that were generated from the primary data collection; thus, enabling the researcher to make a discussion on the existing literature with the results of this research.

3.6 Software Employed

The software that was employed to assist in the data analysis of this research includes:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • IBM SPSS Statistics v.21

3.7 Data Analysis

The analysis of the data was performed using reliability analysis, descriptive analysis, cross-tabulation analysis and correlation analysis. Reliability analysis was used to validate the questions and deem them reliable for usage. Descriptive analysis helped in reflecting the frequencies of demographics, ordinal and nominal questions. Cross-tabulation analysis assisted the researcher in accepting/rejecting the hypothesis on acculturation. Finally, correlation analysis assisted the research to accept/reject the hypotheses on the relationship between culture and western marketing, and consumer purchase decisions.

4.    Research Findings

4.1 Reliability Analysis

Reliability analysis was done by using the ‘pilot testing’ strategy where 15 survey questionnaires were filled by the respondents and their cronbach’s alpha value was calculated. The results below have Cronbach’s Alpha values greater than 0.6, which proves that the scales used in the survey are reliable:

Table 4.1 Reliability Statistics
Cronbach’s Alpha N of Items
.914 4

4.2 Demographic Analysis

Table 4.2.1 Age
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 18-19 58 38.4 38.4 38.4
20-21 51 33.8 33.8 72.2
22-23 15 9.9 9.9 82.1
24-25 27 17.9 17.9 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.1 suggests that 38.4% of the respondents were aged between 18 and 19 years, 33.8% of the respondents were aged between 20 and 21 years, 9.9% of the respondents were aged between 22 and 23 years, and 17.9% of the respondents were aged between 24 and 25 years.

Table 4.2.2 Gender
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Male 68 45.0 45.0 45.0
Female 83 55.0 55.0 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.2 suggests that 45% of the respondents were male and 55% of them were female.

Table 4.2.3 Qualification
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid O/A Levels 58 38.4 38.4 38.4
Bachelors 51 33.8 33.8 72.2
Masters 37 24.5 24.5 96.7
PhD 5 3.3 3.3 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.3 suggests that 38.4% of the respondents had the qualification level of O/A Levels, 33.8% of the respondents had the qualification level of Bachelors, 24.5% of the respondents had the qualification level of Masters and 3.3% of the respondents had the qualification level of PhD.

Table 4.2.4 How important to you is the suitability to your culture on the goods and services that you buy
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 3 2.0 2.0 2.0
2 24 15.9 15.9 17.9
3 34 22.5 22.5 40.4
4 33 21.9 21.9 62.3
5 57 37.7 37.7 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.4 suggests that 37.7% of the respondents rated 5 (highest) when asked about how important it was for them the suitability of their culture while buying goods and services; 21.9% of the respondents rated 4, 22.5% rated 3, 15.9% rated 2 and 2.0% rated 1.

Table 4.2.5 How brand conscious do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 36 23.8 23.8 23.8
2 50 33.1 33.1 57.0
3 34 22.5 22.5 79.5
4 19 12.6 12.6 92.1
5 12 7.9 7.9 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.5 suggests that 7.9% of the respondents rated 5 (highest) when asked about how brand conscious they consider themselves while buying apparel fashion products; 12.6% of the respondents rated 4, 22.5% rated 3, 33.1% rated 2 and 23.8% rated 1.

Table 4.2.6 How brand loyal do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 36 23.8 23.8 23.8
2 52 34.4 34.4 58.3
3 39 25.8 25.8 84.1
4 17 11.3 11.3 95.4
5 7 4.6 4.6 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.6 suggests that 4.6% of the respondents rated 5 (highest) when asked about how brand loyal they consider themselves while buying apparel fashion products; 11.3% of the respondents rated 4, 25.8% rated 3, 34.4% rated 2 and 23.8% rated 1.

Table 4.2.7 How would you rate your Openness to try new brands/products i.e. British or European products
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 36 23.8 23.8 23.8
2 50 33.1 33.1 57.0
3 34 22.5 22.5 79.5
4 20 13.2 13.2 92.7
5 11 7.3 7.3 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.7 suggests that 7.3% of the respondents rated 5 (highest) when asked about how open they consider themselves while trying new brands/products; 13.2% of the respondents rated 4, 22.5% rated 3, 33.1% rated 2 and 23.8% rated 1.

Table 4.2.8 Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Individualistic 53 35.1 35.1 35.1
Collectivist 98 64.9 64.9 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.8 suggests that 35.1% of the respondents considered themselves Individualistic while 64.9% of the respondents considered themselves to be Collectivists.

Table 4.2.9 Years in UK
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid less than 1 57 37.7 37.7 37.7
1-2 years 33 21.9 21.9 59.6
2-3 years 34 22.5 22.5 82.1
3-4 years 24 15.9 15.9 98.0
4 + years 3 2.0 2.0 100.0
Total 151 100.0 100.0

Table 4.2.9 suggests that 37.7% respondents are studying in UK for less than a year, 21.9% are studying in UK for 1-2 years, 22.5% are studying in UK for 2-3 years, 15.9% are studying in UK for 3-4 years and 2.0% are studying in UK for more than 4 years.

4.3 Descriptive Analysis

Table 4.3 Descriptive Statistics
N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation
Years in UK 151 1 5 2.23 1.173
How important to you is the suitability to your culture on the goods and services that you buy? 151 1 5 3.77 1.173
How brand conscious do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products? 151 1 5 2.48 1.210
How brand loyal do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products? 151 1 5 2.38 1.107
How would you rate your Openness to try new brands/products i.e. British or European products 151 1 5 2.47 1.199
Valid N (list-wise) 151

Table 4.3 suggests that the respondents have high variations in terms of responses as the standard deviation values for all the questions above are higher than 1. Furthermore, the mean value of years in UK, which is 2.23, suggests that on an average the respondents belonging to UK are studying there for 1-3 years. Also, the mean value of 3.77 for the importance of culture suggests that majority of the respondents have high importance for their own culture. The mean value 2.48 suggests that the average respondents have a neutral ranking when asked about the brand consciousness levels. Similarly, the mean value 2.38 suggests that the average respondent has  a neutral ranking when asked about the brand loyalty levels. A mean value of 2.47 for Openness suggests a similar ranking for this attribute as well.

4.4 Cross-tabulation Analysis

Table 4.4.1 Years in UK * Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Individualistic vs. Collectivistic Total
Individualist Collectivist
Years in UK less than 1 1 56 57
1-2 years 3 30 33
2-3 years 30 4 34
3-4 years 17 7 24
4 + years 2 1 3
Total 53 98 151

On the basis of the evidence presented in Table 4.4.1, it can be concluded that students from China, have high concerns of their culture if they are new to the UK society. It is evident that majority of the students believe that they are collectivists if they have spent fewer years studying in UK. On the contrary, it is also evident that majority of the students believe that they are Individualistic if they have spent more than 2 years studying in UK. This also helps in accepting the research’s third hypothesis:

  • Acculturation takes place in Chinese students the longer they’ve lived in the UK
Table 4.4.2 How important to you is the suitability to your culture on the goods and services that you buy * Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Individualistic vs. Collectivist Total
Individualist Collectivist
How important to you is the suitability to your culture on the goods and services that you buy? 1 2 1 3
2 17 7 24
3 30 4 34
4 3 30 33
5 1 56 57
Total 53 98 151

On the basis of the evidence presented in Table 4.4.2, it can be concluded that students who are from China and consider themselves collectivists, have high concerns of their culture when they are making purchase decisions for goods and services. On the contrary, it can also be concluded that students who are from China and consider themselves Individualistic, have low concerns of their culture when they are making purchase decisions for goods and services.

Table 4.4.3 How brand conscious do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products * Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Individualistic vs. Collectivist Total
Individualist Collectivist
How brand conscious do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products 1 1 35 36
2 3 47 50
3 26 8 34
4 15 4 19
5 8 4 12
Total 53 98 151

On the basis of the evidence, presented in Table 4.4.3, it can be concluded that students from China and consider themselves collectivists, are not brand conscious when it comes to buying apparel fashion products. On the contrary, it can also be concluded that students from China and consider themselves Individualistic, are brand conscious when it comes to buying apparel fashion products.

Table 4.4.4 How brand loyal do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products * Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Individualistic vs. Collectivist Total
Individualist Collectivist
How brand loyal do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products? 1 4 32 36
2 5 47 52
3 29 10 39
4 11 6 17
5 4 3 7
Total 53 98 151

On the basis of the evidence, presented in Table 4.4.4, it can be concluded that students who are Chinese and consider themselves collectivists, are not brand loyal when it comes to buying apparel fashion products. On the contrary, it can also be concluded that Chinese students who consider themselves Individualistic, are brand loyal when it comes to buying apparel fashion products

Table 4.4.5 How would you rate your Openness to try new brands/products i.e. British or European products * Individualistic vs. Collectivist
Individualistic vs. Collectivist Total
Individualist Collectivist
How would you rate your Openness to try new brands/products i.e. British or European products? 1 5 31 36
2 2 48 50
3 24 10 34
4 15 5 20
5 7 4 11
Total 53 98 151

On the basis of the evidence, presented in Table 4.4.5, it can be concluded that students who are from China and consider themselves collectivists, are not open to trying new brands/products when it comes to buying British or European products. On the contrary, it can also be concluded that students from China and consider themselves Individualistic, are open to trying new brands/products when it comes to buying British or European products.

4.5 Correlation Analysis

Table 4.5 Correlations
IV: Culture IV: Western Marketing DV: Consumer Purchase Decision
IV: Culture Pearson Correlation 1 .106 .583**
Sig. (2-tailed) .195 .000
N 151 151 151
IV: Western Marketing Pearson Correlation .106 1 .204*
Sig. (2-tailed) .195 .012
N 151 151 151
DV: Consumer Purchase Decision Pearson Correlation .583** .204* 1
Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .012
N 151 151 151
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

According to Table 4.5 the following can be concluded:

  • Culture and Consumer Purchase decision have a positive value of 0.583 and a p-value of 0.00 which suggests that the relationship is positive and statistically significant, respectively.
  • Western Marketing and Consumer Purchase decision have a positive value of 0.204 and a p-value of 0.012 which suggests that the relationship is positive and statistically significant, respectively.

On the basis of the above, Table 4.5, the following two hypotheses are accepted:

  • There is a positive correlation between culture and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK
  • There is a positive correlation between western marketing and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK

5.    Discussion and Analysis

It is evident that values shape our lives and certainly are influential while we are confronted with choices (Calogero, 2009). Moreover, values shape our attitudes as well as perceptions as has been evident over time. These values originate from and are outcomes of our social culture and environment, defining the individual and personal behaviour of a consumer and reserves central importance for marketers to understand the behaviour of the consumer (Phinney, 1992).

As previously discussed, Chinese society is aptly defined by the concept of individualism and collectivism (Yang, 2005).  The Chinese, known to be prominently collectivistic and dependent on close relationships amongst individuals, has seen a transition towards individualism in recent years, due in part to the extensive economic growth and a shift towards materialism (Cui, 2001). The conclusions drawn from existing literature are similar to the results of this research, which show that Chinese students who have spent fewer months in the UK consider themselves collectivists, while students who have been living in the UK for more than two years consider themselves to be individualistic.

The results of this research have shown that brand-consciousness in Chinese students in the UK strongly correlates with the amount of time they’ve lived in the country. Research by Read (1993) has shown that long-term orientation is a common cause of utilitarian shopping style which result in consumers making more conscious, quality decisions through gathering information. Brand consciousness serves as the splitting factor; it is more common in individualistic communities and culture.  It was found through this research that Chinese students who have spent fewer months in UK do not consider themselves as brand conscious, brand loyal or open to try new products as students who have been living in UK for more than two years.

In terms of loyalty to a certain brand, Sun (2004) states that people who hold individualistic values are generally known to be more brand loyal especially when it comes to well-known brands. Brand loyalty is found to be positively correlated with individualistic values hence, as people in coastal areas and developed cities are more individualistic, they begin to exhibit brand loyalty (Lam, 2007). Similar conclusions have been made by the findings of this research which suggest that Chinese students who have spent more years studying in the UK consider themselves to be individualistic and thus are more brand loyal.

Similar to the findings of this research and the literature review it can be summed up that acculturation results in the promotion of individualistic values and experiential/ hedonistic shopping, backed by an individual’s purchasing power and disposable income. This also brings in brand consciousness and innovation and acceptance of new products, while using trial and error before reaching brand loyalty.

6.    Conclusions

It can be concluded that students from China who are studying in UK, have high concerns for their culture if they are new to the UK society. Thus, it can be concluded that Chinese students are acculturated the longer they’ve lived in the UK.

Moreover, students who are from China and consider themselves collectivists, have high concerns of their culture while those who are from China and consider themselves Individualistic, have low concerns of their culture when they are making purchase decision for goods and services. Also, students who are from China and consider themselves collectivists, are not brand conscious, brand loyal and open to try new brands/products while those who are from China and consider themselves Individualistic, are brand conscious, brand loyal and open to try new brands/products when it comes to buying apparel fashion products.

Finally, there is a positive correlation between culture and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK. This result proves that the values of the Chinese culture which have been imbedded and inculcated in them from a young age are still prominent in their psyche regardless of the purchasing environment in which they are in. Furthermore, it also serves to demonstrate the importance of culture for the Chinese even when making purchase decisions. There is also a positive correlation between western marketing and consumer purchase decisions of Chinese students in the UK. This result is not surprising considering the global penetration of various marketing campaigns in foreign markets. Coastal cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are known to be more aware of western brands and marketing campaigns which are more widespread and conspicuous in major Chinese cities as opposed to inland areas. Despite the omnipresence of western marketing in Chinese cities, these marketing campaigns have mostly been tailored to suit the culture and country in which they are marketed. Therefore, from a cultural standpoint, it is interesting to note that Chinese students who mostly identify with the collectivist culture of their country, are influenced by marketing that is subtly driven by western and by automation, individualistic ideals.

6.1 Recommendations

For marketers and business owners the following is recommended:

The marketing efforts should be targeted towards foreign Chinese individuals who are studying in UK for longer than 2 years as the findings suggests that acculturation takes place on Chinese students the longer they’ve lived in the UK. Acculturation is what brings the change in the Chinese individuals by turning them from collectivists to individualists and thus leads them to many new opportunities like openness to trying brand/products, being brand conscious and being brand loyal. In contrast, for a student who is still new to the UK culture, it is highly probable that he/she will not be motivated by the marketing efforts due to his/her high attachment with home/Chinese culture.

By focusing on the former group of consumers, marketers may be able to better understand the motives of Chinese consumers in the UK beyond acculturation. Through understanding what lies behind the purchase decisions of this particular group, businesses can focus on marketing their products as a solution to a problem or satisfier of a need or want ergo accelerating the adoption of new brands and products as well as other individualistic consumer qualities. By extension, marketers may be able to reach out to the latter group of Chinese consumers who may look to their peers as a source of influence in a country that is not their own. Chinese consumers tend to strongly rely on word-of-mouth communication and other informal channels of communications (Yau, 1988). This consumer behaviour of information sharing (Hirshman 1981; Webster 1992) can have repercussions for marketers. High contact rate among group members result in communications among Chinese consumers regarding a given product idea may be diffused very quickly. Because of their tendency to rely on informal channels of communications, they’re more likely to believe in rumours rather than actual facts (Yau, 1988).

It is also important that marketers as well as business owners understand the needs of this group of consumers through the implementation of theories such as Maslow’s needs theory which may aide in the creation of more effective marketing campaigns designed to appeal to a broader demographic.

6.2 Areas of Further Research

The following areas of study are recommended to future researchers:

  • Many other variables can be tested with consumer purchase decisions for Chinese students studying in UK, other than Culture and Western Marketing. Further research may also look at other influencers such as the role of social groups or British pop culture and how these may affect buying behaviour.
  • A study may focus on purchase decisions of Chinese students in UK for products other than fashion apparel.

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Appendix

Survey Questionnaire

Disclaimer: Filling this questionnaire will make you part of a study being conducted by a student. It is to assure you that the confidentiality of each respondent would be maintained and that the data collected would only be used for academic purposed. Your help, effort and feedback is highly appreciated. Please ensure that you’re a Chinese native student who is studying in UK; if you don’t belong to the target population please return this questionnaire unfilled.
                         
1 What is your age?
18-19 20-21 22-23 24-25
2 Your Gender?
Male Female
3 What is your maximum Qualification?
O/A Levels Bachelors Masters PhD
4 Since how many years are you studying in UK?
less than 1 1-2 years 2-3 years 3-4 years
4 + years
5 On a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, how important for you is the suitability to your culture, belief, tradition and custom on the goods and services that you buy.
1 2 3 4
5
6 On a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, how brand conscious do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products
1 2 3 4
5
7 On a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, how brand loyal do you consider yourself while buying apparel fashion products
1 2 3 4
5
8 On a Scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, how would you rate your Openness to try new brands/products i.e. British or European products
1 2 3 4
5
9 Which of the following traits describe you best
Individualistic Collectivist
* Please answer the following Likert Scale Questions by tick marking in the box of answered alphabets:
SD for Strongly Disagree, D for Disagree, N for Neutral, A for Agree and SA for Strongly Agree.
Question SD D N A SA
IV: Culture
10 My beliefs and my traditions form the basis of purchase decisions for apparel products
IV: Western Marketing
11 The marketing efforts that I am exposed to, motivate my decision towards my purchases of apparel products
DV: Consumer Purchase Decision
12 As a consumer, my purchase decision is motivated from the culture I belong to
13 As a consumer, my purchase decision is motivated from the western marketing that I come across

 

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