Trends in consumer behavior in retail industry in China and implications to marketing strategies- Case study of Wal-Mart Stores

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Table of content

 

1.     Chapter 1 Introduction………………………………………………………………………………. 7

1.1           Company background……………………………………………………………………. 7

1.2           Research objectives……………………………………………………………………….. 7

1.3           Paper structure……………………………………………………………………………… 8

2.     Chapter 2 Literature review………………………………………………………………………… 8

2.1           Concepts……………………………………………………………………………………… 8

2.1.1     Consumer and customer…………………………………………………………… 8

2.1.2     Discretionary spending and mandatory spending………………………… 9

2.1.3     Planned buying and impulsive buying……………………………………….. 9

2.1.4     Culture and consumer culture…………………………………………………. 10

2.1.5     Reference group and social class…………………………………………….. 10

2.2           The process of consumer decision making………………………………………. 11

2.3           Influential factors in the consumer decision making process……………… 11

2.3.1     Sociocultural influences…………………………………………………………. 11

2.3.1.1 Family…………………………………………………………………………… 11

2.3.1.2 Culture………………………………………………………………………….. 13

2.3.1.3 Reference groups……………………………………………………………. 15

2.3.1.4 Social class…………………………………………………………………….. 16

2.3.2     Situational influences…………………………………………………………….. 16

2.3.2.1 Physical surrounding: Location, Location, Location……………. 17

2.3.2.2 Temporal perspective: Seasonality of the shopping……………… 18

3.     Chapter 3 Research methodology………………………………………………………………. 18

3.1           Research design………………………………………………………………………….. 18

3.2           Source of data…………………………………………………………………………….. 18

3.3           Sampling……………………………………………………………………………………. 19

4.     Chapter 4 Findings and Analysis……………………………………………………………….. 19

4.1           Findings in questionnaire……………………………………………………………… 19

4.1.1     Part I Respondent details……………………………………………………….. 19

4.1.2     Part II General Consumer Behaviors……………………………………….. 25

4.1.3     Part III Consumer behaviors and Sociocultural influences………….. 28

4.1.3.1 Part III-A Consumer behaviors and family life…………………… 28

4.1.3.2 Part III-B Consumer behaviors and culture……………………….. 34

4.1.3.3 Part III-C Consumer behaviors and Reference groups………… 36

Chart 19 The importance of reference groups that influence consumer behaviors patters     36

4.1.3.4 Part III-D Consumer behaviors and Social class…………………. 37

4.1.4     Part IV Consumer behaviors and Situational influences…………….. 38

5.     Chapter 5: Conclusions…………………………………………………………………………….. 42

5.1           Summary and conclusions…………………………………………………………….. 42

5.2           Recommendations: Implications to the Marketing strategies…………….. 43

5.2.1     Product………………………………………………………………………………… 43

5.2.2     Place……………………………………………………………………………………. 43

5.2.3     Promotion…………………………………………………………………………….. 43

5.2.4     Price……………………………………………………………………………………. 44

Reference list………………………………………………………………………………………………… 45

Appendix Questionnaire to study the trends in consumer behavior in Wal-Mart in Tianjin City, North Part of China……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 49

 

 

 

 

List of figures

 

Figure 1 The reciprocal influence of family members…………………………………… 10

Figure 2 China and US in the Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions………………… 12

 

List of charts

 

Chart 1 Gender of the respondents……………………………………………………………. 17

Chart 2 The age groups of the respondents………………………………………………… 18

Chart 3 The ethnicity groups of the respondents…………………………………………. 19

Chart 4 The current residency status of the respondents………………………………. 20

Chart 5 The personal monthly income level of the respondents…………………….. 21

Chart 6 The number of family members in the respondents’ family……………….. 22

Chart 7 Shopping frequencies among the respondents…………………………………. 23

Chart 8 Initiatives of shopping among the respondents……………………………….. 24

Chart 9 Time spent in each shopping…………………………………………………………. 25

Chart 10 Money spent in each shopping…………………………………………………….. 26

Chart 11 Family types……………………………………………………………………………… 27

Chart 12 Number of generations in the family……………………………………………. 28

Chart 13 Family’s monthly income level…………………………………………………….. 29

Chart 14 Family’s monthly expense level…………………………………………………… 30

Chart 15 Raise of children and more expenditure in the necessities………………. 31

Chart 16 Who is in charge of the family shopping tasks?……………………………… 31

Chart 17 The test of impulsive buying tendency…………………………………………. 33

Chart 18 The test of long term orientation or short term orientation………………. 34

Chart 19 The importance of reference groups that influence consumer behaviors patters       34

Chart 20 How would you rank your social class?………………………………………… 35

Chart 21 How long does it take you to reach Wal-Mart?……………………………… 36

Chart 22 How do you get to Wal-Mart?…………………………………………………….. 37

Chart 23 Satisfaction with the location of Wal-Mart stores………………………….. 38

Chart 24 Day of shopping………………………………………………………………………… 39

Chart 25 Necessity of shopping in the festivals…………………………………………… 39

 

List of tables

Table 1 The features of the culture of strong long term orientation………………… 13


 

Trends in consumer behavior in retail industry in China and implications to marketing strategies- Case study of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc in Tianjin City

 

1.        Chapter 1 Introduction

 

1.1    Company background

 

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. was founded by American retail legend Mr. Sam Walton in Arkansas in 1962. Over forty years later, it has become the world’s largest private employer and retailer, on the top of the Fortune 500 list and has been among the most valuable brands for many years. As of August 5, 2010, Wal-Mart had 189 units in 101 cities, and created over 50,000 job opportunities across China. And still Wal-Mart’s expansion in China is too slow, compared with that of Carrefour. And in Tianjin City, there are currently only two stores: Xin Kai Road Store and He Ping Road Store and the expansion in the city that has a population of 13 million residents is the anticipated strategic direction of the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc in the raising Chinese market.

 

1.2    Research objectives

 

How the Tianjin customers perceive the Wal-Mart Stores and is it the best low price choice?

 

What the new customer behavior trends?

 

What the key considerations that the Chinese customers will have in purchasing the consumer products?

 

What are the impacts of the environments and personal factors on the buying decision making in the retail industry?

 

What are the implications of the new customer behaviors trends on the marketing strategies in Wal-Mart China?

 

1.3    Paper structure

 

The study will first look into the review of the related theories and literature about the consumer decision making; then the study will be followed by a careful environmental analysis of the market, macro environment, industrial environments and internal analysis of Wal-Mart China, and the major component of the study will be to focus on the customer behavior research which is followed by setting objectives of the company in term of the market share and financial objectives in the Tianjin city based on the company’s core value, culture and mission as well as the internal and external environments. And the next part regarding the marketing strategies includes the selection of generic strategies and the marketing mix strategies. And the last part is to provide an implementation and arrangement plan to the group for its future expansion and penetration into the large and fast growing Chinese market.

 

2.        Chapter 2 Literature review

 

2.1    Concepts

 

2.1.1            Consumer and customer

 

The field of consumer behavior is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society (Hawkins 2010, p. 5). Here the term consumer is a person who generally who generally engages in the activities – searching, selecting, using and disposing of products, services and experience or ideas while the similar term customer is specific in terms of brand, company or shop, it refers to the person who customarily or regularly purchases particular brand, purchases particular company’s product or purchases from the particular shop (Gunter 1998).

 

2.1.2            Discretionary spending and mandatory spending

 

Discretionary spending refers to spending on items that are not daily necessities; it is the money that one has to dispose of at his or her discretion (Irving 2008). A contrast concept is mandatory spending or necessities. In term of the types of goods, several types of consumer spending are found in the economic market. Necessities, non-durable goods, durable goods and luxury items are types of consumer spending. Necessities represent the food, shelter and clothing individuals need to maintain a certain quality of life. Non-durable goods last less than three years; these include gasoline, paper products and office supplies. Cars and houses are examples of durable goods, which last more than three years. Luxury items include jewelry, high-priced cars and other items not necessary for living a standard lifestyle (Vitez 2011).

 

2.1.3            Planned buying and impulsive buying

 

Wolman (1973) explains the conceptualization of impulse buying as “a purchase that was not consciously planned but arises immediately upon confrontation with a certain stimulus. Weinberg and Gottwald (1982) identified impulse buying as multi-dimensional behaviors by viewing it the result of affective, cognitive and reactive aspects of consumers. And they theorized that it was the “emotional” processes of the decision that contributed to the impulse buying. They also noted that “little cognitive” processes influenced impulse buying behaviors. On the other hand, planned buying entails thinking about the detail of a purchase from the initial desire to buy to the satisfaction after the purchase (Forgue 2010, p. 224).

 

2.1.4            Culture and consumer culture

 

Culture is defined as the collective mental programming of the human mind which distinguishes one group of people from another. This programming influences pattern of thinking which is reflected in the meaning people attach to various aspects of life and which become crystallized in the institutions of a society (geert-hofstede.com 2009). A relevant term in the consumer behavior research is consumer cultures which are characterized by widespread personal consumption rather than socially conscious and useful investment in the public sphere. The consumer culture focus on the private expenditure and leisure pursuits and this leads to privatism, self-centeredness, and a reluctance to allocate resources for public realm; advertising is held by many critics to be a primary instrument of those who own the means of production in generating consumer lust and consumer cultures and distracting people from social and public matters (Berger 2011, p. 200).

 

2.1.5            Reference group and social class

 

A reference group in the consumer behavior context is referred to as a group to which an individual belongs. Such membership is preferred as a point of comparison with another possible group. The said group becomes the individual’s frame of reference and source for sharing his experience, perception, cognition, and ideas of self. It becomes the basis of reference in making comparisons or contrasts and in evaluating his appearance and performance (Majumdar 2010, p. 142). Another concept in the consumer behavior research is social class. According to Laura Lake (2009), all societies possess a hierarchical structure that stratifies residents into classes of people called social classes. Groups and individuals are classified into this hierarchy on the basis of esteem and prestige. The groups differ in status, wealth, education, possession, values, occupation, lifestyles, friendships, and manners of speaking. Consumers of the same social class tend to share the same values, beliefs, and behaviors that unite them.

 

2.2    The process of consumer decision making

 

Besides these factors, the consumer decision making also follows processes. And according to Eric N. Berkowitz (2011, p. 125), a decision making process of the consumers includes six stages: (1) problem recognition, (2) internal search, (3) external search, (4) alternative evaluation, (5) purchase and (6) post purchase evaluation.

 

2.3    Influential factors in the consumer decision making process

 

And according to Jim Blythe (2008, p. 417), consumers need to balance a number of factors carefully in order to arrive at a final evaluation of the products’ worth which include functional benefits, financial benefits (money saving), personal benefits (self esteem), acquisition costs, internal costs, risk of purchase, effect of the marketing mix, psychological influence and so on. And provided the benefits exceed the costs, the consumer will be happy with the outcome and verse visa. Below we will discuss the influential factors in the consumer decision making process in two major directions: Sociocultural influences and Situational influences.

 

2.3.1            Sociocultural influences

 

2.3.1.1      Family

 

The family’s influence comes from the fact that the bonds within the family are likely to be much more powerful and intimate than those in other small groups. Because of these bonds, the family has profound social, cultural, psychological and economic influence on consumers. Within the family, operating as the unit of analysis, a reciprocal influence operates on all decisions. There are three main sources of influence in the family decision process. These are the father, the mother and other family members. Since a particular family may have several persons in the `other family members’ category, the decision process for a given family can be complex (egyankosh.ac.in 2009).

 

Figure 1 The reciprocal influence of family members

Source: egyankosh.ac.in 2009

 

According to David Needham (1999, p. 39), among the small groups, the family probably exerts the most significant and enduring influence on the buyer behavior. Most people are members of at least two families during their lifetimes – the family into which they are born (family of orientation) and the one they eventually form as they marry and have children (family of marriage or procreation). The author further concludes that there are four major roles that people may be found playing in the household decision making process, they are:

l  Autonomic, in which an equal number of decision is made by each partner;

l  Husband dominant;

l  Wife dominant;

l  Syncratic, in which most decisions are jointly made by both partners;

 

And regarding the influence of the children, their influence over the buying decision making will be gradually enhanced as they grow older. And the author claims that the small children’s influence over the buying decisions is usually limited to the buying choices of toys, clothes, candies and so on.

 

According to Geoffrey Paul Lantos (2011, p. 276), one of the fastest growing types of household is the couples without kids. These household are sometimes call Dinks or Tinks with two incomes but no children. Contributing forces are dual income homes and delayed marriage as well as the increased career emphasis by women as well as men. This phenomenon results in a childless couple category in which there is high income from both spouses and no child care expenditures and consumers in this group tend to do a lot of discretionary spending.

 

2.3.1.2      Culture

 

Based on the Hofstede’s early study based on large date analysis from more than 70 countries and sequence studies, Hoftede has shown that there are close relations between grouping national cultures and organizational cultures. Base on the studies Geert Hoftede develop a five dimensional framework to access the national cultures (Geert Hoftede 2001) which have substantial influence over the organizational culture. The five dimensions are: Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism (IDV), Masculinity (MAS), Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) and Long-Term Orientation (LTO).

 

And in the case of China, since it is the fact that ethnic minorities in China are the non-Han Chinese population in the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) officially recognizes 55 ethnic minority groups within China in addition to the Han majority. As of 2010, the combined population of officially recognized minority groups comprised 8.49% of the population of mainland China (xinhuanet.com 2010). Therefore because of the absolute large proportion of the race of Han which enjoys a dominant position in the country political, social and economic life, the culture of China and the majority of the Chinese people are marked by strong features in the Han’a culture and conventions.

 

Figure 2 China and US in the Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions

Source: geert-hofstede.com 2009

 

According to Marieke De Mooij (2011, p. 344), buying behaviors could be divided into two major categories: planned buying and impulsive buying. And he makes a conclusion that personality is highly relevant to the strong uncertainty avoidance. And the author also mentions one impulsive buying behavior research based on a comparison study among five western and Asian countries indicates that individualistic emphasis which focus on self interest and personal satisfaction tends to stimulate impulsive buying decision making. In contrast, culture marked as with strong collectivism will contribute to the planned consumption and discouraging the impulse consuming behaviors. China is a collectivist culture, different from the host country of Wal-Mart, the US, which is more on the individualists. Moreover, the Chinese are also higher on the power distance if compared to that in the host country (Hofstede 1993). Hence these theories all indicate that China with a strong collective culture will encourage planned consumption behaviors while discouraging impulsive consumption behaviors.

 

In addition in the fifth dimension of the cultural dimension model, the long term orientation, mainland of China has by far the highest score in the dimension for long term orientation which is 118 followed by its special administration area of Hong Kong which is scored as 96. According to the analysis of Sebastian Hermann (2008, p. 51) the long term orientation index reflects the Chinese culture and the early teachings of Confucius best in term of having strong perseverance and sustained efforts toward slow results and also the Chinese people are willing to subordinate their current interest for the future gains. This view is in accordance with Hoftede (2005)’s descriptions about the culture of strong long term orientation.

 

Table 1 The features of the culture of strong long term orientation

Source: Hofstede, G. (2005)

 

 

2.3.1.3      Reference groups

 

According to Johan Botha, Johan Strydom and Annekie Brink (2004, p. 55), in all reference groups there are distinctive norms of behaviors and members are expected to conform with these norms in order to avoid sanctions being applied against them. The authors distinguish between the following types of reference groups that influence consumer behavior patterns:

 

l  Member groups (groups to which a person has obtained members such as friends and social club)

l  Automatic groups (a person belongs because of limitation of age, gender or occupation)

l  Negative groups (to which a person would not want to be a part of)

l  Associate groups (to which a person aspires to belong).

 

2.3.1.4      Social class

 

According to Annette Lareau and Dalton Conley (2008), one of the most important contributions of social class to the understanding of the consumer behavior is that it strongly influences lifestyle. The style of consumption (i.e. lifestyle) may be viewed as an expression of a particular social class. How consumers live is directly influenced by their education, household income, occupation, and type of house. Level of education tends to influence a person’s activities, interest, opinion, values and beliefs. Household income influences the capacity to purchase consumer good and to express other interest. Occupation influences the type of people with whom a person associates as well as the types of product and services that are purchased to play the occupational role.

 

 

2.3.2            Situational influences

 

According to G. R. Foxall, Ronald Earl Goldsmith and Stephen Brown (2006, p. 184), situational influences could account for about 20% to 45% of the consumer behavior decision making. And as claimed by Belk (1975), the situations in which consumer behavior takes place consist of all those factors particular to a time and place of observation which do not follow a personal (intra-individual) and stimulus (object or choice alternative) attributes. Several usual and key situational factors are: physical surrounding (geographical and institutional location, décor, sound, weather and so on), social surrounding (interactions with other people and crowding), temporal perspective (time constraints and seasonality of shopping) and task definition (based on difference tasks and roles of the buyers). In the following we will look into the three of these situational factors.

 

2.3.2.1      Physical surrounding: Location, Location, Location

 

Whilst the old adage “Location, Location, Location” has probably been overplayed, it has some truth, and above all it is an identifying characteristic of the retail trade. Retailers much understand the spaces within which consumers operate and try to match these in term of their locational and operational decisions. Therefore retailers manage the macro-location (the country, region or city) and the micro-location (the store location and internal environment) (Gustafsson 2006, p. 24). One good example of using an excellent is Wal-Mart stores. David Neumark, Junfu Zhang and Stephen Ciccarella (2005) approached the endogeneity problem using an identification strategy that used information directly from Wal-Mart’s location strategy. In their reading of Sam Walton’s biography, they found his direct explanation of their growth strategy which has closed relationship with the store location strategy. They quote Walton as saying: “[our growth strategy] was to saturate a market area by spreading out, then filling in. In the early growth years of discounting, a lot of national companies (in the US) with the distribution systems already in place such as Kmart for instance were growing by sticking stores all over the country… We figured we had to build our store so that our distribution centers or warehouse could take care of them”. Therefore, the premium location and centralization marks the location strategy of the company which contributes to the business success of the company worldwide.

 

2.3.2.2      Temporal perspective: Seasonality of the shopping

 

According to Nicolas Boccard (2011) the seasonality or cyclicality in economic activities originates in nature and customs; the main historic forms are: daily (farming products), Weekly (Weekends are holidays), Yearly and also weather will also matter. Also many of these patterns have been passed into regulation or norms to organize the society’s activity during day, week and year in order to achieve a better coordination both at work and at home. This collectivism makes herding a dominant strategy since everything is organized for those who follow the rules.

 

3.        Chapter 3 Research methodology

 

3.1    Research design

 

One major assumption in this study is that with the development of the economy and rapid social development in China, there are also fast changes in the consumer buying behaviors and decision making process which have great influences over the marketing strategies and company business objectives setting. And case study in Wal-Mart China (Tianjin City) in the retail industry would be adopted as the major research design method.

 

 

 

3.2    Source of data

 

Primary data would be collected in several Wal-Mart Stores in China through interview, observation as well as paper based questionnaire. We will use the paper based questionnaire to research the customers purchasing decision making behaviors and also their thoughts about the supermarkets in China. Secondary data could be from the government reports, company financial reports, books, Internet resource, journals and other publications.

 

3.3    Sampling

 

A sample of 100 customers who had visited the Wal-Mart shops in Tianjin City would be surveyed with structured questions to analyze the customer behaviors and consumer trends and also their impacts and implications over the company’s marketing strategies.

 

4.        Chapter 4 Findings and Analysis

 

4.1    Findings in questionnaire

 

4.1.1            Part I Respondent details

 

Chart 1 Gender of the respondents

 

In term of the gender of the respondents, among the randomly selected 100 candidates, 57 of them are female customers while the rest are 43. This fact actually suggests that more women customers are found in the customer group of Wal-Mart in Tianjiin City.

 

Chart 2 The age groups of the respondents

 

Regarding the age groups of the respondents, from the above chart that summaries the age category information of the surveyed customers we can understand that young age people who are aged from 25 to 44 account for more than a half of the customers who visit the Wal-Mart shopping centers. The shopping center is not a regular place for fun for the small children and also the teenagers, other age groups who are relatively elders among the surveyed people, they are those who are aged from 45 to 59 and they account for 34 per cent of the total respondents. But in contrast, those aged more than 60 are in a very small proportion, only 3 of them are recorded in our survey. The results in the part of the survey indicates that the shopping center which as a new concepts comes from the west is more acceptable and welcome among the young people while that elders who actually are usually considered as the those who usually play the role of shopping for the whole family because the other family members could be busy with work or study would not choose to shop in a big shopping center and they might still prefer to shop in the community and small village style fair.

 

 

Chart 3 The ethnicity groups of the respondents

 

The above result about the ethnicity grouping of the respondents shows that in Tianjin, a city that is adjacent to the capital city of Beijing, the ethnicity grouping of the consumers is similar to the national demographical situation that the proportion of Han Chinese in China’s total population has kept a dominant position of about 91.51% of the total population (xinhuanet.com 2010). Though the survey sample is small, the results in the category of the ethnicity groups of the respondents to some degree corresponds with the general believed fact in the cities there are less minorities than that in the rural areas, in particular in the provinces where the minorities reside.

 

 

Chart 4 The current residency status of the respondents

 

And our survey also investigated the residency status of the 100 customers who visited Wal-Mart. As the above chart discovers, though the local Tianjin residents account for 60 percent of the respondents, the 40% of the non locals still occupy a big proportion of the consumers who visit the Wal-Mart shopping centers. This is in accordance with the fact that among of these developed areas, the migrant workers in the major cities account for 47% distributing manufacturing (30%), construction industry (23%), service industry (10%), accommodation Industry (7%), wholesale and retail industry (5%) and also the migrant workers is the mainstream of Chinese industries, separately account for 68% in processing manufacturing industry, 80% in construction industry, above 52% in the service industry sector (including wholesale, retail and accommodation industries) (ico-china.org 2010

 

Chart 5 The personal monthly income level of the respondents

 

It is obvious that higher personal income will usually imply higher expenditure spent that could be allocated in the daily consumptions. Regarding this topic, from our survey we can see that in term of the personal monthly income the respondents are mainly in three categories: 0 RMB – 1000 RMB (18 per cent), 3001 RMB – 4000 RMB (22 per cent) and 2001 RMB – 3000 RMB (35 per cent). The 18 per cent of the surveyed respondents are located in the 0 RM – 1000 RMB category, they are either students or could be in the unemployment or non non-employment status[1]. The majority of the respondents are in the 2000 RMB to 4000 RMB which is in an average level found in the Tianjin City.

 

 

Chart 6 The number of family members in the respondents’ family

 

Based on our observations, as shown in the chart above, only 9 per cent of the respondents do not have a family though some respondents are migrant workers and students from other provinces, they do have families outside Tianjin City; with 23 per cent respondents have two members in their family, 39 per cent of them have 3 members and 20 per cent have 4 members we can see that the data reflects that the Tianjin consumers found in Wal-Mart represent an average and normal situation found in the country everywhere. Assume that the customers falling in the category of 6 members and above actually have only 6 members; the average number of members in the respondents’ family is 2.99[2] which is in accordance with the results of the 2010 national population census that suggest that the average household size shrank by 10 percent to 3.1 people (nytimes.com 2011). And the difference between our result of 2.99 and the national average of 3.1 in term of the average family size could be understood as that the birth rate control policy was strictly implemented in Tianjin which is a major and more urbanized city in China.

 

 

4.1.2            Part II General Consumer Behaviors

 

 

Chart 7 Shopping frequencies among the respondents

 

Regarding the general consumption behaviors among the respondents, we have asked several questions. First of all, we have investigated the shopping frequencies of the respondents in term of shopping in a shopping mall (not limited in Wal-Mart). As the chart above describes, 34 per cent of the respondents will only go to the shopping centers only once each week while not many of them will go to the shopping center more than three times indicating that they either shop a large volume for the week to come or only go the shopping center when certain items are needed. This information will be further probed into in the next questions.

 

 

Chart 8 Initiatives of shopping among the respondents

 

From the answers to the questions about the initiatives of shopping among the respondents, we can see that consumers go to a shopping center because they believe that a shopping center offer more choices (87 out of 100 respondents agree with this option), the location is near (79 out of 100 respondents agree with this option), they can shop according to the shopping schedule and shopping list (68 out of 100 respondents agree with this option), in addition cheap price (67 out of 100 respondents agree with this option) and special brands that can not be found elsewhere (67 out of 100 respondents agree with this option) are also important factors why people would choose to shop in a shopping center. But it seems that the majority of people visiting the shopping center would not agree that time saving (only 30 out of 100 respondents agree with this option) is a feature of a typical shopping mall. This issue will be further discussed in the next question.

 

Chart 9 Time spent in each shopping

 

As just said, it seems that the majority of people visiting the shopping center would not agree that time saving (only 30 out of 100 respondents agree with this option) is a feature of a typical shopping mall; therefore it will be meaningful that we investigate how much time on average the customers will spend in each time shopping. As the chart above illustrates, only 24 out of the 100 surveyed customers agree with the view that they can finish the purchasing within 30 minutes while the rest will spend more than 30 minutes in each time shopping. But on the other extreme, only 20 per cent of the respondents will spend more than one hour in the shopping mall. In another word, the majority of the respondents will spend about 30 minutes to 1 hour in their each time shopping experience.

 

Chart 10 Money spent in each shopping

 

In correspondent with the longer time spend in each shopping; the money spent in each shopping is also not small. Only 9 out of the 100 surveyed customers will only spend less than 50 Yuan per each time shopping while 40 of them spend 51 yuan to 150 yuan on their each time shopping in a shopping center and the rest of them will spend more than 150 yuan each time when they do their regular shopping in a shopping mall. As the chart shows, the largest group of customers are falling in the category of 1500 RMB to 2000 RMB, assume that average monthly income is 3000 RMB and these customers do one buying each week, these customers spend 23.33% of their monthly income in the shopping in the shopping malls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.1.3            Part III Consumer behaviors and Sociocultural influences

 

4.1.3.1      Part III-A Consumer behaviors and family life

 

Chart 11 Family types

 

Probably due to the high living pressure and also because of the cultural conventions since the establishment of the new China, in the cities of China, single career family accounts for only a small proportion of the total households. For example, in our own survey, only 12 out of the 100 respondents suggest that they are living in a single-career family while 46 of them living in a typical family which has dual careers and in addition 31 of them are even living in family which has multi incomes.

 

 

Chart 12 Number of generations in the family

 

As said above, assume that the customers falling in the category of “6 members and above” actually have only 6 members; the average number of members in the respondents’ family is 2.99 which is in accordance with the results of the 2010 national population census that suggest that the average household size shrank by 10 percent to 3.1 people (nytimes.com 2011) Here the results of the answers to the question that “How many generations in your family?” again reconfirm the fact that the family size is common small in Tianjin city like all the large cities in the country. With only 22 per cent of respondents having only one generation and a half of the respondents having two generations in their households, it seems that the traditional family structure that consist of at least three or even four generations are losing its dominance though the three generation type family still account for 20 per cent of the total surveyed respondents’ family.

 

 

Chart 13 Family’s monthly income level.

 

The curve above describes the family’s monthly income level of the respondents. Obviously, the overall family income level has closed relationship with the number of respondents, because of the popular family type of dual-career family; we can see that the average family income level is about two times more than that of the individual income level. While talking about the family income we also need to focus on the family expense level to make some comparisons.

 

Chart 14 Family’s monthly expense level

 

From the above chart and with reference to the previous chart we can find some obvious facts by making a comparison. At the very beginning, let us divide the family into three major categories based on their family monthly income: Low income family (RMB 3000 and below); Middle income family (RMB 3000 to RMB 5000) and high income family (above RMB 5000). Based on this division we have 21 respondents being categorized as living in low income family, 41 respondents in middle income family and 38 respondents in high income family. Therefore, if this categorization is not very wrong we should see a similar expense curve. But in contrast 38 of the households spend less than 2000 a month, and because of the high income households still keep high spending we conclude that a large proportion of the middle income households spend less than they can afford. Based on our observation and analysis, we have concluded two major reasons behind this strange fact: first of all, as mentioned in the literature part of this study, according to the analysis of Sebastian Hermann (2008, p. 51) the long term orientation index reflects the Chinese culture and the early teachings of Confucius best in term of having strong perseverance and sustained efforts toward slow results and also the Chinese people are willing to subordinate their current interest for the future gains. Because of this strong long term orientation characteristic, we can see that it is understandable that the surveyed Chinese customers in the middle income family are spending as they are only in the lower income level. This rationality is further confirmed when we chatted with the respondents when we found out that some high income respondents were actually choose the lower level expenditure. There are two major reasons why people are saving up a lot of money: saving for children’s education and saving for accidental needs such as for hospital service and unemployment in the future. This view could also be confirmed by analyzing the answers to the questions that “Do you agree with the view that the raise of children will result in more expenditure in the necessities?” as a total of 88 respondents out of the 100 people either agree or strong agree with this saying;

 

Chart 15 Raise of children and more expenditure in the necessities

 

Secondly, the good prices or CPI are too high for them based on their income level. This will be further discussed in the Part VI Consumer behaviors and Situational influences when we survey the respondents’ view on the current high consumer price situations.

 

Chart 16 Who is in charge of the family shopping tasks?

 

When asked “In your family, who are in charge of the daily shopping tasks?”, it is interest to notice that the elders are usually the ones who are in charge of the family shopping tasks. But by recalling our previous summary of the respondents’ age group information, those aged more than 60 are in a very small proportion and only 3 of them are recorded in our survey, while these two seemingly contradicting facts are put together we have managed to conclude that the elderly Chinese people are usually in charge of the family purchasing but they are not frequent visitors of the large shopping malls such as Wal-Mart.

 

4.1.3.2      Part III-B Consumer behaviors and culture

 

As concluded in the literature review part, China is a collectivist culture, different from the host country of Wal-Mart, the US, which is more on the individualists. Moreover, the Chinese are also higher on the power distance and long term orientation if compared to that in the host country (Hofstede 1993). Hence these theories all indicate that China with a strong collective culture will encourage planned consumption behaviors and long term orientation consumptions while discouraging impulsive consumption behaviors and short term oriented consumption behaviors.

 

Chart 17 The test of impulsive buying tendency

 

In the test of impulsive buying tendency or planned buying, as the chart above shows which summarize the answers to the five questions that are designed to test the tendency of impulsive buying behaviors, the majority of the surveyed respondents tend to disagree with the impulsive buying behaviors by choosing either scale 4 or scale 5 which suggest that they do will carefully plan most of the purchase rather than buying things on the spur of the moment. 

 

Chart 18 The test of long term orientation or short term orientation

 

In the test of long term orientation or short term orientation, as the chart above shows which summarize the answers to the five questions that are designed to test the long term orientation or short term orientation, most of the surveyed customers strongly agree or agree with five statements in the questions, this has provided strong support to the claim that the Chinese customers share the value of strong long term orientation which is an obvious feature in the Chinese culture. In details, this cultural feature could be seen from the customers’ buying behaviors such as focusing on the warranty of the products and long term usage of the products brought by them.

 

4.1.3.3      Part III-C Consumer behaviors and Reference groups

 

Chart 19 The importance of reference groups that influence consumer behaviors patters

 

Among the six listed out reference groups we can see that closed relatives such as parents and sons and daughters play important role in influencing one’s purchasing decision making. But one needs to notice that such influence is limited to the closed families while the other relatives’ ideas do not play important role. A second trend that could be identified is the importance of friends’ ideas over the final purchasing decision making. A third important find is that the celebrities’ influence over the customer decision making is also significant. This finding will have significant implications over the retailers’ advertising and promotion strategies making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.1.3.4      Part III-D Consumer behaviors and Social class

 

 

Chart 20 How would you rank your social class?

 

As said earlier the style of consumption (i.e. lifestyle) may be viewed as an expression of a particular social class. How consumers live is directly influenced by their education, household income, occupation, and type of house. Level of education tends to influence a person’s activities, interest, opinion, values and beliefs. In our survey, we have investigated customers’ perception of their social class and it is surprised but reasonable to learn that 44 per cent of the respondents consider themselves as in the lower income class because living in the current China in which the high price is everywhere. By investigating their attitude towards the branded products, we can see some differences between the lower income customers with other social classes. While 86 per cent of the respondents who consider themselves as in the middle or high income social class agree with the view that branded products are of better quality and more worth buying, that percentage in the self claimed lower income social class is only 60 per cent. This proves that differences in social class could result in difference life styles as well as consumption behaviors and perspectives.

 

4.1.4            Part IV Consumer behaviors and Situational influences

 

Part IV-A Physical surrounding: Location, Location, Location

 

Chart 21 How long does it take you to reach Wal-Mart?

 

 

Chart 22 How do you get to Wal-Mart?

 

As analyzed above, whilst the old adage “Location, Location, Location” has probably been overplayed, it has some truth, and above all it is an identifying characteristic of the retail trade. From the above two charts, we can see that the first transportation tool that people would choose is public service followed by walking and driving. And in term of the transportation time spend to arrive at the Wal-Mart stores, a total 74 out of 100 respondents suggest that they spent less than 30 minutes for them to get to the shopping center or shopping mall. This suggests that a Wal-Mart store cover majorly those consumers who can arrive at the shopping center within 30 minutes by the transportation tools that they manage to get access to.

 

 

Chart 23 Satisfaction with the location of Wal-Mart stores

 

After summarizing the consumers’ idea over the satisfaction with the location of Wal-Mart stores, we can see that most of the consumers are agreeable with the location of the Wal-Mart stores which is probably because they are from the vicinity of the stores. Also the majority of respondents agree with the view that they can get all the service and goods they desire in the shopping mall which means that the services and goods provided are comprehensive to satisfy the customer needs; in term of transportation, the average score is 3.2 indicating that the transportation is acceptable but not very satisfactory; the major problem happens in the number of outlet as the average score of satisfaction of the number of outlets in covering the city is only 1.4, meaning to say that most consumers are not satisfied with the networking of the outlets, and more outlets are desired.

 

Part IV-B Temporal perspective: Seasonality of the shopping

 

 

Chart 24 Day of shopping

 

 

Chart 25 Necessity of shopping in the festivals

 

From the above two charts summarizing the day of selection in a week and necessity of shopping in the various festivals, we can see that there are two major features. In term of the day of choice in a week for shopping, Saturday and Sunday are the most two days in which people would choose to do their shopping; and in tem of the necessity of shopping in the festivals, in the traditional Chinese festivals such as Spring festival and Mid Autumn day, people’s possible of shopping is very high.

 

5.        Chapter 5: Conclusions

 

5.1    Summary and conclusions

 

From the above analysis and discussion, we can safely come to some conclusions. First of all, by investigating the personal profile of the respondents, we find out that the major visitors of the Wal-Mart shopping centers are young people. They are more acceptable to the new shopping mode which is different from the traditional small market that is familiar with the eders. Hence the penetration rate is low among the elders who are usually the one being in charge of the responsibility to buy the food and daily consumption good for the family.

 

Secondly, by investigating the influence of family and relevant cultural conventions over the consumer decision making process, we find out that because of this strong long term orientation characteristic as well as facing the high CPI challenge, we can see that it is understandable that the surveyed Chinese customers in the middle income family are spending as they are only in the lower income level. Also there is a low penetration of the large shopping malls among the elderly people who are usually in charge of the purchasing tasks.

 

Thirdly, since nearly a half of the respondents considered themselves as in the lower income group and also the survey results confirm that a large proportion of the consumers share the features of lower income social class in term of buying behaviors. This means that even a proportion of the middle income class will tend to control their spending as if they are in the lower income social class.

 

Fourthly, in term of the location strategy of the Wal-Mart, the majority of consumers use the transportation of public transportation and walking, and they spend less than 30 minutes to get to the stores. What is more, they do not agree with the view of point that the number of Wal-Mart stores is sufficient.

 

5.2    Recommendations: Implications to the Marketing strategies

 

5.2.1            Product

 

Since we have concluded that the penetration rate is low among the elders who are usually the ones being in charge of the responsibility to buy the food and daily consumption good for the family, therefore it is important to increase the exposure rate among the elderly. One major strategy is trying to introduce the service such as health service in the shopping mall to attract the attention of the elderly.

 

5.2.2            Place

 

As analyzed above the major problem regarding the location of the Wal-Mart stores happens in the number of outlet as the average score of satisfaction of the number of outlets in covering the city is only 1.4, meaning to say that most consumers are not satisfied with the networking of the outlets, and more outlets are desired. Hence it could be a possible and constructive strategy for the company to increase the number of outlets while reducing the size of the shopping mall to make the expansion in an easier way and the number of outlets could be increase largely.

 

5.2.3            Promotion

 

According to the findings in the part of the survey regarding the importance of the various reference groups, we have come to the conclusion that the celebrities’ influence over the customer decision making is significant and could be compared to that of the closed relatives to the consumer decision making and celebrities are thus important reference group that the Chinese consumers will refer to. Therefore, advertising and promotional activities with the presence of the famous celebrities will be helpful to increase the product and brand awareness among the Chinese consumers.

 

Also because in term of the day of choice in a week for shopping, Saturday and Sunday are the most two days in which people would choose to do their shopping and in tem of the necessity of shopping in the festivals, in the traditional Chinese festivals such as Spring festival and Mid Autumn day, people’s possible of shopping is very high, therefore the Wal-Mart stores could focus their marketing efforts in these festivals and weekends.

 

5.2.4            Price

 

Because we have concluded that a large proportion of the consumers share the features of lower income social class in term of buying behaviors which means that even a proportion of the middle income class will tend to control their spending as if they are in the lower income social class, therefore competitive pricing will still be advised for the Wal-Mart shop to adopt because lower pricing will attract the frequent visiting from the lower income family and people.


 

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Appendix Questionnaire to study the trends in consumer behavior in Wal-Mart in Tianjin City, North Part of China

 

Please tick the most appropriate response based on your personal experience

 

Part I Respondent details

 

What is your gender?

      Female (57)

      Male (43)

 

Please select the category that includes your age.

      24 and under (12)

      25 – 34 (25)

      35 – 44 (26)

      45 – 54 (20)

      55 – 59 (14)

      60 and above (3)

 

How do you describe your ethnicity?

      Han (94)

      Menggu (0)

      Hui (1)

      Zang (1)

      Wei Wu Er (2)

      Miao (0)

      Others (2)

 

Please select the category that best describes your current residency in Tianjin City.

 

      Local Tianjin resident (60)

      Migrant workers (23)

      Migrant students (8)

      Foreigners (workers or student) (4)

      Others (5)

 

Please select the category that includes your personal monthly income level.

      0 – 1000 (18)

      1001 – 2000 (5)

      2001 – 3000 (35)

      3001 – 4000 (22)

      4001 – 5000 (11)

      5001 – 7000 (7)

      7001 – 10,000 (1)

      10,001 and above (1)

 

How many persons do you have in your families (inclusive of yourself) right now?

      1 (please skip Part II and answer Part III directly) (9)

      2 (23)

      3 (39)

      4 (20)

      5 (7)

      6 and above (2)

 

Part II General Consumer Behaviors

 

How often will you shop (not limited in Wal-Mart) in a shopping mall or shopping center each week?

 

      Less than one time each week (8)

      One (34)

      Two (22)

      Three (19)

      Four (7)

      Five (6)

      Six or above (4)

 

Why would you choose to shop in a shopping mall or shopping center (multiple choices)?

 

      Time saving (30)

      Cheap price (67)

      Can shop according to the shopping schedule and shopping list (68)

      More choices (87)

      Special brands that can not be found elsewhere (67)

      Location is near (79)

 

How long on average will you spend in each time shopping?

      Less than 15 minutes (4)

      15 minutes – 30 minutes (20)

      30 minutes – 45 minutes (32)

      45 minutes – 1 hour (24)

      1 hour – 2 hours (13)

      2 hours and above (7)

 

How much on average will you spend in each time shopping?

      Less than 50 Yuan (9)

      51 Yuan – 100 Yuan (20)

      101 Yuan – 150 Yuan (20)

      151 Yuan – 200 Yuan (34)

      201 Yuan – 300 Yuan (18)

      300 Yuan and above (8)

 

 

Part III Consumer behaviors and Sociocultural influences

 

Part III-A Consumer behaviors and family life

 

Are you living in a single-career family, dual-career family or multi-career family?

      Single-career family (12)

      Dual-career family (46)

      Multi-career family (31)

      Not any of these answers above (11)

 

How many generations in your family?

      One (22)

      Two (50)

      Three (20)

      Four (6)

      Others (2)

 

Does your family have any children and how many of them?

      None (37)

      One (44)

      Two (17)

      Three (2)

      Four and above (0)

 

Does your family have any elders and how many of them?

      None (36)

      One (34)

      Two (25)

      Three (3)

      Four and above (2)

 

Please select the category that includes your family’s monthly income level.

      0 – 1000 (2)

      1001 – 2000 (7)

      2001 – 3000 (12)

      3001 – 4000 (16)

      4001 – 5000 (25)

      5001 – 7000 (14)

      7001 – 10,000 (7)

      10,001 – 15,000 (4)

      15,001 – 20,000 (6)

      20,001 – 25,000 (3)

      20,001 – 25,000 (3)

      25,001 and above (1)

 

Please select the category that includes your family’s monthly expense level.

      0 – 1000 (21)

      1001 – 2000 (17)

      2001 – 3000 (17)

      3001 – 4000 (21)

      4001 – 5000 (8)

      5001 – 7000 (5)

      7001 – 10,000 (6)

      10,001 – 15,000 (3)

      15,001 and above (2)

 

Do you agree with the view that the raise of children will result in more expenditure in the necessities?

 

           Strongly agree       Strong disagree

    1     2     3     4      5

                (3)    (2)    (7)    (33)   (55)

 

In your family, who are in charge of the daily shopping tasks?

      Children (below 24) (4)

      Parents (25-50) (41)

      The elders (51 and above) (43)

      The maid (5)

      Not applicable (7)

 

Part III-B Consumer behaviors and culture

 

The test of impulsive buying tendency

                                      Strongly agree  Strong disagree

      I often buy things spontaneously          1     2     3     4      5

      “Just do it” describes the ways I buy things. 1     2     3     4      5

      I often buy things without thinking.       1     2     3     4      5

      I buy things on the spur of the moment.    1     2     3     4      5

      I do not carefully plan most purchases.     1     2     3     4      5

 

The test of long term orientation or short term orientation

 

                                      Strongly disagree  Strong agree

      Warranty is of great importance to me     1     2     3     4      5

      Good brought should be used for long.    1     2     3     4      5

      I will plan most purchasing before action.  1     2     3     4      5

      I will avoid satisfying short term needs.    1     2     3     4      5

      Gains could be got by long term efforts.    1     2     3     4      5

 

Part III-C Consumer behaviors and Reference groups

 

Please rank the importance of the following groups when you are about to make some purchasing behaviors (if not applicable, please leave it as blank).

 

                                      Not important    Very important

      Parents                             1     2     3     4      5

      Sons and daughters                   1     2     3     4      5

      Friends                             1     2     3     4      5

      Club members (such as golf club)         1     2     3     4      5

      Relatives                            1     2     3     4      5

      Celebrity (stars in the advertisement)      1     2     3     4      5

 

Part III-D Consumer behaviors and Social class

 

How would you rank your social class?

 

      Lower income class (44)

      Middle income class (46)

      Higher income class (10)

 

Do you agree with the view that branded products are of better quality and more worth buying?

 

      Yes (76)

      No (22)

      Not sure (2)

 

Part IV Consumer behaviors and Situational influences

 

Part IV-A Physical surrounding: Location, Location, Location

 

How long does it take you to reach Wal-Mart?

 

      Within 15 minutes (36)

      15 minutes to 30 minutes (38)

      30 to 45 minutes (16)

      45 minutes to 1 hour (6)

      1 hour and above (4)

 

How do you get to Wal-Mart?

 

      By walk (30)

      Driving (23)

      Public service (37)

      Others (10)

 

How do you rate the following items?

 

                                      Disagree               Agree

      The location of the shop is convenient    1     2     3     4      5

      The transportation is convenient.        1     2     3     4      5

      I can get all the goods and service       1     2     3     4      5

      The outlet number is sufficient          1     2     3     4      5

 

Part IV-B Temporal perspective: Seasonality of the shopping

 

On which day will likely go the shopping in a week (multiple choices)?

 

                                     Not likely            Very Likely

      Monday                          1     2     3     4      5

      Tuesday                          1     2     3     4      5

      Wednesday                        1     2     3     4      5

      Thursday                          1     2     3     4      5

      Friday                            1     2     3     4      5

      Saturday                          1     2     3     4      5

      Sunday                            1     2     3     4      5

 

How do you rate the necessity of shopping in following festivals?

 

                               Not necessary               Necessary

      Spring festival                    1     2     3     4      5

      Labor day                        1     2     3     4      5

      Mid autumn day                   1     2     3     4      5

      Christmas                        1     2     3     4      5

      Valentines’ day                    1     2     3     4      5

      National holiday                   1     2     3     4      5

      Others                           1     2     3     4      5

 

 

 



[1] People in the non-employment select not to work rather than being unemployed, such as housewives and those who are retired.

[2] 3.73 = (3*1 + 2*13 + 3*32 + 4*23 + 5*18)/100

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