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Article

Materialism, Impulse Buying Global Business Review


17(1) 51–67
and Conspicuous Consumption: © 2016 IMI
SAGE Publications
A Qualitative Research sagepub.in/home.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0972150915610682
http://gbr.sagepub.com

Aastha Verma Vohra1

Abstract
Consumer behavioural traits or characteristics are the most imperative part in the study of con-
sumer behaviour. Researchers and marketers have always been interested in understanding consumer
behaviour so that apt marketing strategies can be formulated. This article deals with three important
traits, namely, materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous consumption. All the three traits relate
to the imaginative, emotional and evaluative components of consumption behaviour. This article is
the author’s attempt to generate new knowledge and insight about the topic by integrating significant
research work conducted by authors world over using qualitative research techniques. It is the form of
research that reviews, critiques and synthesizes the literature of the topic, such that a new framework
and perspective on the topic is generated. Synthesizing knowledge from the existing literature on all
the three above-mentioned traits is a significant value-added contribution to the body of literature, and
thereafter, the use of the structured in-depth interviews further help in developing a comprehensive
framework. The study has also opened up many provocative questions for future research, and is
useful as a foundation to practitioners and scholars who are interested in the same field. The article
provides a broad overview of the factors that motivate a consumer to exhibit a particular consumption
trait through a comprehensive framework, and for this purpose, first, the extant academic literature is
studied extensively, and then the study undertakes structured in-depth interviews with 20 individuals
in the hypermarket. The article concludes with the generation of the framework and a series of recom-
mendations for international/domestic marketing managers.

Keywords
Materialism, conspicuous consumption, impulse buying

Introduction
The need to conceptualize three important consumption traits arises from the fact that with the
increase in globalization, consumer culture and behaviour worldwide is homogenizing. This implies that
local culture in India too is being influenced by these unabated forces of globalization (Gupta, 2012),
which leads to a change in consumer behaviour. Due to globalization, the preferences and choices of

1
Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, New Delhi, India.

Corresponding author:
Aastha Verma Vohra, Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, Delhi 110007, India.
E-mail: aastha178@gmail.com
52 Global Business Review 17(1)

consumers worldwide have more or less become similar. Therefore, this study is an attempt to propose
a comprehensive framework of consumer behavioural traits that can be further explored and empirically
tested in future research endeavours. The current study extensively identifies the literature based
on these three constructs, namely, materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous consumption; this is
followed by a primary research through in-depth interviews of the customers of a local hypermarket,
so that the understanding of these three important behavioural traits can produce an insight for the
global corporate managers who anticipate scopes for investments in the world market.
Although the consumption traits of the consumers are prevalent in the everyday lives of the consumer
in many ways. Consequently, it is the subject of a respectable amount of academic research in the area
of consumer behaviour; however, no study is currently present that specifically focuses on the implica-
tions of these traits all together on the day-to-day lives of the consumers. There are studies present in the
extant literature dealing separately with each of the traits; however, to the author’s knowledge, no review
is present in the literature that combines all the mentioned traits to give a ready reference in the form of
a single study.
Through this study, efforts have been made for global corporate managers and companies opera-
tional in more than one country to glean some lessons from the framework developed. It appears that
the systematic literature review on the present type of study is waning, as only less than a few related
studies have been published in the recent years.
Finally, this article has outlined various factors which leads a consumer to exhibit a particular above-
stated consumer trait, and then all the common factors are extracted, which collectively define a set
of factors influencing consumer behavioural traits in totality.

Methodology
The research is divided into four stages. The first stage is initial literature review, which involves
the scanning of a wide range of relevant electronic journal databases, academic papers and books to
review the works of various researchers. The second stage is exploratory literature review in which
all the specific relevant papers, articles and books are selected and placed chronologically. In this
stage, research objectives are also defined. The third stage is focused literature review, which involves
analysis and documentation of the possible finding pertaining to the research objectives. In the final
stage, qualitative research through in-depth interview technique is conducted with 20 individuals follow-
ing the Kvale (1996), seven-stage model of in-depth interview. The participants chosen are the regular
customers of the local hypermarket ‘Big Bazaar’. All the participants belonged to the urban middle class
population of the city ‘Delhi’ from various backgrounds. The data were collected from March 2014
to April 2014. Figure 1 depicts all the stages involved in the research methodology.

Initial Literature Review


The extant academic literature in the area under consideration is reviewed. A wide range of relevant
electronic journal databases, academic papers and books were referred to review the works of various
researchers in this field.
After the initial literature review, buyer behavioural traits, such as materialism, conspicuous con-
sumption and impulse buying, are chosen because of the research interest of the author, and also because
materialism and conspicuous consumption (luxury/status) are the two corner stones of consumer
Vohra 53

Figure 1. Stages of Research Methodology


Source: Author’s own.

culture (Roberts, 2000). Cass and Julian opined that materialism appears to be an important dimension
of consumer behaviour as a value, and marketers are keen to know the value that characterizes consump-
tion. Moreover, materialism has become a truly global phenomenon (Podoshen & Andrzejewski, 2012).
Further, Podoshen also believes that understanding the variables, such as materialism, conspicuous
consumption and impulse buying, underlies the consumption behaviour and is vital to public policy
makers, to marketing managers and also to the society.
According to Richins (2010), materialism is associated with many variables of interest to marketers,
including preference for status goods (conspicuous consumption). Materialism has important impli-
cations for society as a driver of personal consumption, and thus the economy. It also has personal
implications because of its negative association with well-being and other desirable personal outcomes.

Exploratory Literature Review


In this section, all the papers have been reviewed and selected on the bases of their relevance to the
topic and have then been placed chronologically from 1950 to 2013 with their contributions.

Definitions of Materialism
Belk (1985) defined materialism as the importance a person attaches to worldly possessions. At the
highest level of materialism, such possessions place a central place in a person’s life and are believed
to provide the greatest source of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
Richins and Dawson (1992) conceptualized materialism as consumer value and stated that materialism
comes from value, and it is value that guides people’s choices. With respect to consumption, materialism
will influence the type and quantity of goods purchased. Roberts (2000) explained materialism as
a lifestyle in which a high-level material consumption functions as a goal.
Cleveland, Laroche and Papadopoulos (2009) have defined materialism among Indian consumers.
The study brought forth the relationship that materialism has with cultural adherence and regional
differences within India, and its impact on various purchase behaviour.
54 Global Business Review 17(1)

Benmoyal-Bouzaglo and Moschis (2010) stated that materialistic value in a consumer is a result of
his life events during adolescent and adulthood. The events like stress, family structure (intact or
dislocate), TV viewing greatly impact an individual’s materialistic values.
Mishra and Mishra (2011) also found that Indian consumers having greater materialistic tendencies
exhibit higher consumption innovativeness and display a positive attitude towards TV advertising.
Wang and Wallendorf (2006) found that materialistic consumers and status signalling are related, and
they only get the product satisfaction by expanding more than their natural economic limits. Gupta
(2011) defined materialism, a construct as defined by Belk (1985) for ‘giving importance/being attached
to worldly possessions’, and its influence on consumer culture.

Table 1. Chronological Study of Materialism

Author and Year Contribution


Belk (1985) Proposed three measures to quantify materialism, namely, possessiveness,
non-generosity and envy
Richins and Dawson (1992) Found three dimensions of materialism, namely, acquisition as the pursuit
of happiness, possession-defined success and acquisition centrality
Venkatesh (1995) Found that in India, spiritualism and materialism belong to the same realm
and can be adopted together
Ger and Belk (1996) Empirically showed that materialism as a component of consumer culture
has differed across different countries
Petty and Balagopal (1998) Found that Indian consumers are non-materialistic and the inherent
risk of Westernization makes them materialistic
Roberts (2000) Found that when the pursuit of possessions becomes the focus of
one’s life, then one is said to be a materialist
Rindfleisch, James and Frank (1997) Found that family structure has an impact on materialism
Ruth and Commuri (1998) Stated that materialism is a Western consumer cultural trait
Sirgy (1998) Found that TV viewing is one of the most examined antecedents
of materialism
Goldberg, Gerald, Peracchio Found how materialism differs across demographics
and Bamossy (2003)
Roberts, Chris and John (2003) Found that family structure and family stressors (death, separation)
are positively related to materialism, unlike family resources
(love, support, money)
Eckhardt and Mahi (2004) Found that consumers who are predisposed towards foreign brands
show higher materialism
Wang and Wallendorf (2006) Studied that materialist consumers and status signalling are related,
and they only get product satisfaction by expanding more than their
natural economic limit
Cleveland et al. (2009) Studied materialism in eight countries, including India. Brought forth
the relationship that materialism has with cultural adherence and
regional differences with in India
Nguyen, George and Randall (2009) Investigated the impact of family disruptions over materialism
Benmoyal-Bouzaglo and Found that materialistic value in a consumer is a result of his life events
Moschis (2010) during adolescent and childhood
Mishra and Mishra (2011) Studied that Indian consumers have greater materialistic tendencies
Gupta (2012) Found that predisposition towards foreign brands has a significant
impact on materialistic values among Indian consumers
Source: Author’s own.
Vohra 55

Definitions of Impulse Buying


Earlier studies of impulse buying focused on the product as a motivator of impulse purchase. Yesteryear
studies by Clover (1950) and West (1951) also found impulse buying to be similar to unplanned buying.
Stern (1962) classified purchase as planned or impulse, where planned purchase involved rational
decision making and impulse purchase involved quick decision making.
Rook (1987) defined that impulse buying occurs when a consumer experiences a sudden, often power-
ful and persistent urge to buy something immediately. The focus of the study was mainly on product while
determining impulse purchase. The impulse to buy is hedonically complex and may stimulate emotional
conflict. In addition, impulse buying is prone to occur with diminished regard for its consequences.
Rook and Fisher (1995) introduced impulsiveness as a personality trait and defined it as a consumer’s
tendency to buy spontaneously, non-reflectively, immediately and kinetically. Strengthening and further
extending these findings, Dawson and Kim (2009) enunciated that Rook and Fisher’s findings have a
direct link to an individual’s impulsiveness while making an online purchase.
Kacen and Lee (2002) stated that impulse buying is a sudden decision taken by a buyer due to his
cultural background. Yoon (2013) defined the type of in-store experience that make a difference in
impulse buying. An affective in-store experience has a significant positive effect on impulse buying.
Beatty and Ferrell (1998) explained that impulse buying involves immediate purchase which is
without any pre-shopping objective. They described that impulse buying occurs after experiencing a
buying desire by the shopper, and without much reflection.

Definitions of Conspicuous Consumption


In the theory of leisure class, Thorsten Veblen (1899) coined the phrase ‘Conspicuous Consumption’ to
designate the act of purchasing certain goods and services not in order to survive but to identify oneself
to others as having superior wealth and social standing. O’Cass and McEwen (2004) explained that
underlying characteristic of an individual decides their consumption behaviour, for example, young,

Table 2. Chronological Study of Impulse Buying

Author and Year Contribution


Clover (1950) Introduced the study of impulse buying and discovered some product
categories sold on impulse
Piron (1989) Recognized the role and importance of autistic stimuli in motivating
impulse purchase
Stern (1962) Studied impulse buying as any purchase which is unplanned and the
shopper has not planned in advance
Rook (1987) Introduced impulse buying as a distinctive type of consumer buying
behaviour and highlighted impulsivity as a lifestyle trait
Han, Morgan, Kotsiopulo and Found the involvement of fashion in impulse buying
Kang-Park (1991)
Dittmar, Beattie and Friese (1995) Found that gender influences impulse buying
Rook and Fisher (1995) Studied impulse buying involves a hedonic and affective component.
Impulse buyers tend to be motivated by immediate gratification.
Beattey and Ferrell (1998) Explained that impulse buying involves immediate purchase without
pre-shopping objective
(Table 2 continued)
56 Global Business Review 17(1)

(Table 2 continued)

Author and Year Contribution


Kacen and Lee (2002) Suggested researchers and practitioners to be aware of cultural
differences because there are essential underlying differences between
Western and Eastern societies
Zhou and Wong (2004) Impulse buying is affected by the retail store environment, such as, POP
Park, Kim and Forney (2006) Found that hedonic consumption has an indirect effect on fashion-oriented
impulse buying
Kaur and Singh (2007) Studied the Indian youth and found that odour, background music
of store and feel of the product set off impulse buying in them
Dawson and Kim (2009) Found that there is a significant relationship between a person’s affective
and cognitive state and their online impulse buying behavior
Sharma, Sivakumaran and Found that variety-seeking individuals are more prone to impulse buying
Marshall (2010)
Hultén and Vanyushyn (2011) Suggested that customers do more impulse buying when there is special
in-store display and discounts
Yoon (2013) Suggested customer in-store experience as a critical factor in formulating
useful marketing strategies
Source: Author’s own.

status-conscious consumers are more likely to be affected by interpersonal influence; the clothes which
they wear also tells much about their status and group dynamics.
Conspicuous consumption in India is defined by the English-speaking Indian middle class who are in
a transitional phase and actively adopt a new product which enhance their personality, but is different
from what is being practised by the rich and wealthy (Chaudhuri & Majumdar, 2006). Shukla (2008)
defined conspicuous consumption by the psychological and brand antecedent.
Chaudhuri, Majumdar and Ghodhal (2011) stated that conspicuous consumption is a deliberate engage-
ment in symbolic and visible purchase with a motivation to communicate a distinctive self-image to others.

Objective of the Study


After the exploratory literature review, the present study was able to find out the gaps which could
be addressed through this research. The attempt of this study was to translate all empirical and concep-
tual findings gathered through systematic review of literature regarding the three mentioned consump-
tion traits into lessons for both international and domestic corporate managers, researchers and scholars
interested in understanding them. To substantiate the same, and also to test its practical implication,
a qualitative research has been conducted using in-depth interview method.
The broad objectives of the current study are

1. To derive the factors through focused literature review which perpetuate particular consumer
behavioural traits, namely, materialism, conspicuous consumption and impulse buying in the
consumer.
2. To conduct a qualitative research for verifying the validity and rationality of the factors extracted
from the literature in the present scenario, or to find out whether it also stands true for the
population targeted in the present study.
Vohra 57

Table 3. Chronological Study of Conspicuous Consumption

Author and Year Contribution


Veblen (1899) Presented conspicuousness as a purposive conduct in which
status considerations predominate
Bearden and Etzel (1982) Studied that conspicuous products are consumed publicly
O’Cass and McEwen (2004) The paper has indicated that consumer’s conspicuous consumption
and status consumption are two different constructs and studied
as one construct representing similar meaning
Chaudhuri and Majumdar (2006) Studied that Indian middle class consumer’s consumption
becomes conspicuous, but is different from what is practised by
the rich and wealthy
Coleman (1983) Suggested that consumers tend to use conspicuous products in order
to impress others and display their wealth
Katsunori (2008) Found that the conspicuous consumption relies on the premise
of economies
Shukla (2008) Found that psychological and brand antecedents are important
factors influencing conspicuous consumption
Gupta (2009) Found that Indian society has turned conspicuously consumerist
Chaudhuri, Majumdar and Ghodhal Proposed a formal definition of conspicuous consumption which
(2011) was absent in the extant literature
Podoshen and Andrzejewski (2012) Found that conspicuous consumption is positively related to materialism
Souiden, M’Saad and Pons (2011) Found that the conspicuous consumption is directly related to the
social status display
Schiffman and Kanuk (2004) Explained that luxury consumption relates to a specific segment
of consumers
Source: Author’s own.

3. To extract the common factors, collectively described as influencers for consumer behavioural
traits, encompassing all the three above-mentioned traits.
4. To propose a framework.
5. To glean lessons for both international and domestic marketers.

Focused Literature Review

Factors Influencing Materialism


There are many factors that influence materialism in a consumer. In this section, the synthesis of literature
review from various sources leads to factors such as globalization (preference for foreign brands),
culture, family structure, satisfaction and demographics as the motivators of materialism.
As stated by Ger and Belk (1996) that materialism is considered as a Western consumer cultural trait,
Indian consumers are also trying to imitate Western lifestyle as they are being influenced by Westerniza-
tion (Ruth & Commuri, 1998). Supporting this, Durvasula and Lysonski (2008) stated that the access
to global media exposes consumers in India to Western culture/practices and they are likely to develop
desires similar to those in consumer-oriented Western cultures. Further, Eckhardt and Mahi (2004)
observed that foreign brands are bringing in foreign cultural influence in India, and consumers who are
predisposed towards foreign brands are expected to show significantly higher materialistic value.
58 Global Business Review 17(1)

Petty and Balagopal (1998) state in their research findings that due to Westernization, Indian
consumers have become more materialistic. Gupta (2011) empirically showed that Indian consumer’s
predisposition towards foreign brands (PTFB), which is used as the proxy to globalization, has a positive
correlation with materialistic values.
Researchers like Ger and Belk (1996) and Richins and Dawson (1992) could not find a relationship
between materialism and affluence; however, Richins (1987) showed a high correlation among the
level of income and materialism. In the United States, Goldberg et al. (2003) observed boys to be
more materialistic compared with girls. In addition, Gupta (2011) also empirically showed that demo-
graphic variables like age and gender significantly impact the materialistic value prevalent among
Indian consumers.
Nguyen et al. (2009) found that family disruptions influence materialism only among young
adults from lower social classes. Nguyen also quoted the works of few researchers like Rindfleisch
et al. (1997) who view the development of materialistic attitudes developed over time as a response
to the type of family structure (disrupted, divorced, separated). Roberts et al. (2003) empirically showed
that family structure is positively related to materialism. Benmoyal-Bouzaglo and Moschins (2010)
found that children from a family with low standard of living display higher materialistic value
at adulthood.
Researchers have also shown that materialism can indeed be significantly predicted by exposure to
advertising on TV. Sirgy (1998) demonstrated empirically that TV viewing is one of the most examined
antecedents of materialism.
Richins’s (1994) believe that materialism leads to the need for acquiring goods that denote prestige
and in this case, goods are purchased for social status. Fournier and Marsha (1991) contend that materi-
alistic consumers relate status recognition and happiness with sufficient or appropriate possessions.
Yurchisin and Johnson (2004) found that perceived social status, which is associated with materialism,
is positively related to conspicuous consumption. O’Cass and Julian (2001) found that a consumer’s
involvement in fashion clothing would be significantly affected by a consumer’s degree of materialism,
with more materialistic consumer’s being more involved.

Factors Influencing Impulse Buying


Researchers have found many factors which influence impulse buying; it could be the overall shopping
experience, shopper’s individual traits, product related, demographic and sociocultural.
Muruganantham and Bhakat (2013) have found that Indian consumers have diametrically changed
in terms of their consumption behaviour and impulse buying due to entry of foreign products in the
Indian market, growth in organized retail industry, increasing disposable income, favourable demo-
graphic segmentation and changing culture and lifestyle.
Researchers like Hoyer and MacInner (1999), Verplanken and Herabadi (2001), Kaur and Singh
(2007), Dave (2011), and Yoon (2013) have also found that overall store environment involving
ambience, odours, colours, decoration, background music and product appearance as the motivators
of impulse purchase.
Dawson and Kim (2009) and Rook (1987) pointed out the usage of credit cards, 24-hour retailing
and online shopping as factors which result in increased impulsive buying.
Hultén and Vanyushyn (2011) and Kalla and Arora (2011) found that the number of impulse
purchases that shoppers make in a store depends on how they respond to special in-store displays
and discount offerings.
Vohra 59

Researchers have also found that demographic and sociocultural factors influence impulse purchases.
Kacen and Lee (2002) observed that there is an important underlying difference between consumers
in Western individualist societies, and those in Eastern collectivist cultures. They further argued that
in a cultural context, the theory of individualism and collectivism gives important insights about con-
sumers’ impulsive behaviour.
Dittmar et al. (1995) observed that disposable incomes and credit availability have made impulse
buying a widespread consumer behaviour. They further observed that gender as a social category affects
impulse buying. Kollat and Willett (1967) also pointed out that consumer’s demographics and the
characteristics influence impulsive purchases.
Han et al. (1991) studied the involvement of fashion in impulse buying and variety of patterns, such
as emotional, pure reminded and fashion-oriented impulse.
Park et al. (2006) found that fashion-oriented impulse buying is stimulated by the fashion involvement
of a consumer.
As the internal motivator of impulse buying, Piron (1989) recognized the importance of autistic
stimuli in motivating impulse purchase. Kalla and Arora (2011) found that the internal motivators
of impulse buying in a consumer are self-discrepancy, hedonic needs, mood states, autistic stimuli and
social status.

Factors Influencing Conspicuous Consumption


Marcoux, Filiatrault and Cheron (1997) found that social status is often reported as a major factor
stimulating conspicuous consumption. Confirming this view, Goldsmith, Flynn and Eastman (1996)
also stipulated that one of the most important forces influencing consumer’s behaviour is their desire
to seek social status from the acquisition of luxury goods. Podoshen and Andrzejewski (2012) found
that consumers buy certain goods in the hope of being seen more favourably in social hierarchy.
This leads to the use of conspicuous consumption in an attempt to find greater social status. Souiden
et al. (2011) stated that conspicuous consumption in different cultures directly and positively influences
social status, and hence consumers’ conspicuous behaviour might be explained by their desire for
social status.
Chaudhuri and Majumdar (2006) studied that in the transitioning Indian society, there are changing
dynamics of socio-economic structure, which are being fostered by the entry of foreign brands in
India, making the consumption of luxurious imported goods be guided by the symbolic properties
(brand name) of the product than the functional property. Gupta (2009, p. 2) quoted the research
conducted by the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and found foreign
brands, such as, Louis Vuitton and Armani, as the most prestigious accessories brands in India. The
purchase of luxury fashion accessories falls under the umbrella of conspicuous consumption; therefore,
the marketers of luxury fashion accessories should not overlook potential segments in the developing
world (Souiden et al., 2011).
Gupta (2009) concluded in his study that consumption behaviour of the Indian consumers should be
understood in the light of the specific cultural context in which it takes place because Asian culture is
based on the interpersonal construal of self. Asian value group goals more highly and there are cultural
factors underlying luxury consumption. While conspicuous consumption may be global, the perception
of its desirability and its motivation seems to be founded on cultural values (Souiden et al., 2011).
In addition, cultural theories anchored on Hostede’s conceptualization of cultural dimensions suggest
several explanations for the potential variation of conspicuous consumption across culture.
60 Global Business Review 17(1)

In-depth Interview
The interview is conducted using Kvale’s (1996) seven-stage model of conducting in-depth interviews:
thematizing, designing, interviewing, transcribing, analyzing, verifying and reporting.
Stage 1: Thematizing—The purpose of the interview is to know how a particular consumption trait
(materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous consumption) affects the buying behaviour of the
consumer. To pinpoint the key information to be gathered through this interview, various dimensions
of consumer behavioural traits will be sought for information. Following are the dimensions which
have been elicited from the systematic review of extant literature: impact of globalization, demo-
graphics, culture, family structure, TV viewing, fashion, usage of credit card, social status etc. As
evident from the exhaustive review of literature in this article (also posited by many researchers), these
dimensions are also the factors which perpetuate the display of a specific or all three traits in the
consumer. The interview collects the information on the effect of these dimensions on the consumption
traits of the consumers.
Stage 2: Designing—To elicit the desired information, an interview guide is designed (Table 4) to
help the interviewer focus on topics that are important to explore, maintain consistency across interviews
with different respondents and to stay on track during the interview process. The following is the
interview guide used for this study:

Table 4. Interview Guide

Thank you for your participation in my study. Please give your honest opinion about each question or statement.
There are no right or wrong answers, and I am interested to know what you truly feel. Please be as descriptive
as possible in your answer. I would love to hear stories and anecdotal examples that you think is related to
the topic.
•  Are you a materialistic person (a person who •  I am going to read a couple of statements and ask
has high aspirations for worldly possessions for your comments.
like cars, TV, laptop, home, air-conditioned, etc.)? 1. In the theory of leisure class (1899), Thorsten
•  Do you think that factors like your age, income, Veblen coined the phrase ‘Conspicuous
gender and marital status impacts your tendency consumption’ to designate the act of purchasing
of being materialistic? certain goods or services not in order to survive
•  Do you believe that the kind of family structure but to identify oneself to others as having superior
(nuclear family, joint family, single parent, wealth and social status.
divorced, separated, etc.) decides on one being 2. Conspicuous consumption in India is practiced by
materialistic or not? English speaking middle class population who are
•  Do you experience internal satisfaction once you in their transitional phase and actively adopt a
possess what you desired? new product that enhances their personality
•  Is it also a matter of social status to own worldly (Chaudhuri & Majumdar, 2006).
possessions?
•  Are you an impulse buyer? How much do you concur with the above statement
•  Do you think that credit cards make you an in your life?
impulse buyer? •  Are there also some situations in your life when
•  Explain some situations in which you buy you consume conspicuously? If yes, then please
impulsively. describe some.
•  How globalization/the entry of foreign brands in •  Do you believe that globalization/ availability
Indian markets impacts your buying. of foreign goods has some role to play?
Source: Author’s own.
Vohra 61

Table 5. Respondent’s Profile

S. No. Age Gender Occupation


 1 19 F Student
 2 42 M Financial advisor
 3 21 F BPO worker
 4 20 F Student
 5 51 F Homemaker
 6 49 M Govt. service
 7 62 F Retired
 8 18 M Student
 9 22 M Student
10 54 F Homemaker
11 45 M Banker
12 59 F Teacher
14 60 M Business
15 66 M Retired
16 23 F Telephone operator
17 35 F Hotelier
18 37 M Business
19 41 M Business
20 24 F Welfare officer
Source: Author’s own.

Stage 3: Interviewing—In this stage, interviews were conducted with 20 individuals who were the
regular visitors of the nearby supermarket. Eleven of them were interviewed in the supermarket and
nine consented to be interviewed at the time and place as per their convenience. The profile of the
respondents is given later in this section (Table 5). A deliberate effort had been made to include the
respondents belonging to varied age groups and profiles in the interview. The interview began with
the introduction and explained the purpose of the study to respondents. Prompts and probes were used
in each question for eliciting the exact information. All the 20 sessions were audio recorded and compli-
mented with written notes after obtaining the respondent’s permission. All the sessions were listened
and observed properly and lasted for about 20–25 minutes. All along, respondents were guided through
the conversation until all of the important issues on the interview guide were explored.
Stage 4: Transcribing—In this section, a verbatim text of all the responses is presented in the form of
written statements for better understanding using the audio recording and interviewer’s side notes.
Stage 5: Analyzing—This stage involved re-reading the interview transcripts to identify themes
emerging from the respondents’ answers. The responses were analyzed for synthesizing the answers to
the proposed objectives of the study. The response gained from each question is used for organizing the
analyses and drawing the conclusion thereafter, which is presented later in the study.
Stage 6: Verifying—Verifying includes checking the credibility of the information gathered and for
that, a method called triangulation is used to achieve the purpose. Triangulation involves using multiple
perspectives to interpret a single set of information. For example, one of the responses for the interview
question ‘Explain some situations in which you buy impulsively’ is that ‘due to impressive store displays
and discount schemes I become impulsive buyer’. In order to verify this, when the same question was
asked to three different categories of respondents (viz., student, homemaker and a business owner) using
some prompts and probes, similar responses were received. When each participant said the same thing in
62 Global Business Review 17(1)

different interview sessions, then the information that is obtained as a result is considered valid. Similarly,
the method of triangulation was used on all the statements written in the transcribing section above.
Stage 7: Reporting—The results from this study are shared with its stakeholders later in the conclu-
sion section.

Table 6. Interviewee’s Responses

Derived from the Interview Responses


•  I am a materialistic person. •  I own a Samsung TV, LG washing machine, Sony
•  Who isn’t materialistic in today’s world. laptop and Hyundai car. All are foreign brands.
•  I wish to have all the worldly possessions. •  I have almost all non-Indian clothes of brands in my
•  I am planning to buy a laptop. wardrobe.
•  I feel I have started shopping more after •  I believe foreign brands in both consumer durable
marriage. and non-consumer durable are better than Indian
•  A person of my age doesn’t really have many brands.
desires. •  I am planning to buy a Volkswagen car.
•  I think women shop more than men especially •  Globalization is good according to me. It gives many
the stuff related to their looks/personality. options of brands to choose from.
•  I have everything except my own house. •  Image of a foreign made product is better than a
•  I am planning to buy my own house. locally manufactured product.
•  Certainly, it gives internal satisfaction if I get •  I believe that in urban cities consumption of goods
what I want. merely for survival has reduced many times unlike
•  My parents are very strict; they don’t allow me few decades back.
to buy anything without their permission. •  Today goods are mostly consumed to match up with
•  Life in the college hostel gives you freedom to the pace of fast moving lifestyle.
buy anything you want. •  I think people residing in metropolitan cities like Delhi
•  I think people flaunt more in metro cities like mostly buy goods to display superior wealth and
Delhi. social status.
•  There are people who buy things to show off •  I believe that because of the strong influence from
their status. the peers people consume conspicuously.
•  I bought a new refrigerator after I got a salary •  Many times I buy a new product which enhances my
hike of 20 per cent this year. personality.
•  ‘Yes’, sometimes I buy things spontaneously. •  Surviving in a professional life is difficult if you don’t
•  Many times I don’t plan and buy. I just buy carry a smart personality.
whatever appeals to me at that moment. •  I buy the expensive dresses when I go out for party.
•  The excellent persuasion skills of the trainer •  Recently my child forced me to buy an expensive
salesman in store also become the reason of my game box for him because his friend owns one.
impulse purchases. •  I bought an expensive painting for my living room
•  Many times I go out for shopping a pair of jeans because we arranged our daughter’s birthday party
but come back with a couple of t-shirts also due at home.
to the attractive displays and discount schemes. •  I think my 18-year-old daughter is one who mostly
•  Fashion and lifestyle has also made people indulges in conspicuous consumption.
impulse buyers especially women. •  When I am in a shopping centre, so many foreign-
•  ‘Yes’, the facilities by bank on credit cards like made brands entice me to buy them.
EMI on zero per cent interest has become the •  I believe that TV ads also have a big role in my buying
reasons of my impulse buying. decisions.
•  The in-store displays like the picture of a model
wearing a pair of smart looking sunglasses
enticed me to buy it for carrying the same look.
Source: Author’s own.
Vohra 63

Discussion and Conclusion


After a comprehensive review of literature, the present study synthesized the factors which motivates
a consumer to exhibit a particular consumption trait. In order to validate the findings from the literature
review, and to confirm whether it stands true on the sample of population selected in this study, in-
depth interviews were conducted following Kvale’s (1996) seven-stage model. The findings of the quali-
tative study suggests that there are various factors which lead to materialism, impulse buying and
conspicuous consumption, and if all the common factors from each of the three categories are extracted
and accommodated in a separate category, then that produces a different category, namely, ‘consumer
behavioural traits’. These are those factors which commonly impact the three traits discussed in the
article. Based on the findings from the literature review and the in-depth interviews, the study proposes
a framework of factors influencing the consumer behavioural traits.
According to Rook and Fisher (1995), impulse buying is a consumer’s personality or behavioural trait
which is defined by a their tendency to buy spontaneously. Gupta (2011) also calls impulse buying a
behavioural trait and cited (Data monitor report, 2010, p. 2) that among various other behavioural traits
that have been associated with Indian consumers, rise in impulse buying is one of them. Ger and Belk
(1996) stated that materialism is considered as a consumer trait. Chaudhuri et al. (2011) defined conspicu-
ous consumption as an innate trait that motivates consumers to engage in visible forms of consumption.
Various authors have implicitly or explicitly defined materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous
consumption as behavioural traits; therefore, in this article, the category of common factors is called
‘consumer behavioural traits’ for the purpose of understanding.
The findings show that the important common factors that collectively affect all the three traits in
a consumer are globalization, consumer demographics and culture.
The list of the consumer traits and the factors that affect them studied in this article are not exhaustive,
and more traits and the factors that affect them can be studied further in future research attempts. Future
research could be done to test the proposed framework empirically.

Table 7. Framework for Factors Influencing Consumer Behavioural Traits

Factors Influencing
Materialism Impulse Buying Conspicuous Consumption
Demographics Sociocultural Culture
Globalization Demographics Globalization
Family Structure Store environment Fashion
Satisfaction Usage of credit cards Social status
Culture Fashion Reference group
TV viewing (ads) Social status Demographics
Social Status Globalization
Fashion Autistic stimuli
Common Factors Influencing: Consumer Behavioural Traits
Globalization
Culture
Demographics
Social Status
Fashion
Source: Compiled by the author.
64 Global Business Review 17(1)

Various authors worldwide have opined that materialism, impulse buying and conspicuous consump-
tion are the important aspects of consumer behaviour, and their thorough understanding can be capital-
ized by the marketers to benefit their respective businesses. The proper combination and collaborative
effect of various factors that influence them can lead to more sales turnover, thereby benefiting the
marketers and retailers. The market of goods and services in India continues to grow, and the competi-
tion in the days to come will likely be stronger as more international brands enter the market, and domes-
tic brands too grow and expand. In the current scenario, it becomes imperative for international/domestic
marketers to understand the consumer’s mind. Based on the findings of the research, following are the
recommendations for the marketers.

1. Globalization (entry of foreign brands)—The good news for international marketers is that
people are welcoming foreign brands and are perceiving it positive to own a foreign-made
brand. Western style consumption behaviours will eventually be adopted indiscriminately by
consumers around the world. Marketers have long noted the link between brands and social
status. Foreign brands yield benefits to consumers by offering them credibility, power and value
(Alden, Steenkamp & Batra, 1999). Alden et al. (1999) have also argued that global branding
strategies may be more successful in countries with a lower level of economic development
because the consumers in these markets prefer foreign brands out of admiration, and possessing
an international brand is a matter of social status for them. Therefore, it is advisable for interna-
tional marketing managers to safely disregard the political frontiers of nations and start largely
by considering the globe as the market and then contracting the scope of the market by searching
the groups of the consumers that share communalities.
2. Media—Marketing managers should foster on the efforts of media planning because it was
found through this study that TV viewing taps into a latent, and apparently, a universal human
desire for material enrichment. The habits of consumers are shaped by the intensive exposure to
the marketing activities of multinational firms, for example, TV advertisements and magazines;
therefore, it is advisable to focus more on the promotion element of the marketing mix.
3. Luxury goods—It has been reported in this study that possession of luxury plays an important
role for the consumers, and it is no longer only possessed by the rich and the wealthy. The urban
middle class population also buys luxury goods more often than before to sport it on various
occasions; therefore, it is recommended to the luxury goods producers to engage in some
expansion. Instead of limiting the presence of luxury goods in some special areas, it should be
standardized to enjoy the benefits of the economies of scale, once a consistent identity has been
established.
4. Culture—The marketers of products that are traditionally culture bound, and those objects that
may be purchased and consumed in conjunction with strong cultural rituals, would almost
certainly need to adapt the marketing mix accordingly. Cultural aspects cannot be overlooked.
This is undoubtedly one of the important consumer behavioural traits which influences the
consumer to follow a particular consumption behaviour.

Consumer researchers have mainly focused on identifying the different factors that induce traits
like impulse buying in developed countries (Bayley & Nancarrow, 1998). Gupta (2009) has also high-
lighted that the luxury market in India is poised for growth; therefore, there is a need to enrich market-
ing literature for conspicuous consumption, which involves the luxury market through borrowing and
integrating fundamental concepts of luxury consumption behaviour as an extended and evolving para-
digm of consumer behaviour. In emerging economies, there is a need to conduct such type of study due
Vohra 65

to increased disposable income, change in lifestyle and consumer acculturation due to globalization
(Gupta, 2012).
After the content analysis of the literature, it was possible to clarify the three consumer behavioural
traits, its various dimensions and its relationship with the consumer. In addition, development of such
a framework develops the knowledge in the field of consumer research and makes a value-added contri-
bution to the existing body of literature. Based upon the changing trends in the market of the developing
economies, it is possible to infer that consumer behavioural traits may turn into a growing area of
research and could be referred many times by marketers and retailers before generating a new strategy.
In the end, the author hopes that the present work can help marketing scholars and practitioners
to think even ‘bigger’ about the consumer behavioural traits and their implications in the marketing
practice.

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