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Culture and the consumer journey

Aaron Barnes S. Shavitt
Journal of Retailing. March 30, 2020

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The consumer journey metaphor emphasizes the steps that individuals take in their path toward relationships with brands or satisfying shopping experiences. However, in many non-Western cultures, these steps are less likely to be shaped by individual preferences and priorities. Instead, they emerge from a collectivistic motivation to adapt to prevailing norms and others’ expectations, and are shaped by a holistic thinking style that emphasizes context and relationships. As a result, the meaning of each step in the consumer journey is likely to be normatively infused and contextually embedded. This paper will review research showing cross-cultural differences in responses to prices, ads, store displays, retailer reputations, coupons, and other characteristics important to the retail context. Our focus is on contrasting the consumer journey in individualistic contexts versus collectivistic ones, but we also address emerging findings on other key cultural differences, such as power distance belief. Taken together, these findings suggest that the patterns and drivers of consumers’ pre-purchase activities, purchase decisions, and post-purchase commitment may differ significantly across cultures. In describing these culturally distinct processes, we illustrate how a deep consideration of cultural differences can enhance our understanding of the consumer journey.