درک مصرف لوکس در چین :برداشت مصرف کننده از شناخته شده ترین نام های تجاری (برند)
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|2000||2012||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Business Research, Volume 65, Issue 10, October 2012, Pages 1452–1460
This study investigates the underlying motivations for luxury consumption among Chinese middle-class consumers by testing the relationships between psychological traits and attitudes toward the best-known luxury brands. The study examines three psychological traits that make Chinese consumers unique compared to their global peers: value consciousness (VC), susceptibility to normative influence (SNI), and the need for uniqueness (NFU). Results suggest that consumers evaluate the best-known brands more favorably as they become more value conscious, indicating that luxury products are not necessarily extravagant purchases in China. In addition, SNI positively relates to brand attitudes, which suggests that social influence is an important driver for luxury consumption. The relationship between NFU and brand attitudes depends on consumer knowledge. As consumers learn more about different luxury brands, they evaluate the best-known brands more negatively as uniqueness-seeking becomes a more important goal. These findings offer insight into consumer perceptions of luxury brands and provide managerial implications for marketers to build sustainable luxury businesses in China.
With a rapidly growing economy and an enormous population, China has become one of the most attractive markets for luxury brands in the world. According to a report by Goldman Sachs, China's luxury consumption accounts for 25% of the global market, making China second only to Japan in global luxury consumption (People's Daily, 2009). Despite the worldwide economic downturn in 2008, many key luxury producers report strong sales in China. For example, China is the number one market for Hennessy cognac and the world's second largest market for fashionable clothing and leather goods (China Daily, 2009). China's growth is also the main reason that Asia surpassed the United States in 2009 to become the second largest market for another luxury brand, Versace (Cavender & Rein, 2009). China's middle-class consumers are becoming important targets of luxury brands (Unger, 2006). McKinsey & Company defines consumers in households with annual income of 40,001–100,000 RMB (i.e., USD $6060–USD $15,151) as the upper middle class in China (Farrell, Gersch, & Stephenson, 2006). This study refers to this group as the middle class for simplicity purposes. Although this consumer group is the main proponent of China's luxury market, their motivations for luxury consumption are not thoroughly understood. Without a good understanding of these motivations, companies cannot adequately address these consumers' perceptions of luxury brands, nor can they effectively meet consumer needs. Previous studies examine motives for luxury consumption in other countries (e.g., Clark et al., 2007, Dubois and Paternault, 1995 and Veblen, 1899), but those findings cannot be generalized to China without further investigation because Chinese consumers differ remarkably from their foreign counterparts (Atsmon and Dixit, 2009, KPMG, Inc., 2007 and Phau and Prendergast, 2000). Therefore, this study explores the underlying motives of middle-class consumers in China by relating consumers' psychological traits to their attitudes and purchase intentions toward luxury brands. The study examines three psychological traits that distinguish Chinese consumers from their global peers: value consciousness (VC), susceptibility to normative influence (SNI), and the need for uniqueness (NFU).The first trait, value consciousness (VC), refers to a tendency to seek the best features and performance of a product or service for a given price (Lichtenstein, Netemeyer, & Burton, 1990). Chinese consumers value the functional benefits (e.g., quality, materials) of any particular purchase more than their peers in other countries do (Atsmon & Dixit, 2009). In addition, Chinese consumers save a much larger portion of their growing incomes than their counterparts in America, the United Kingdom, and Japan (Orr, 2004 and Wang and Lin, 2009). Because luxury products are characterized by premium prices and have the highest ratios of price to quality (McKinsey & Co., 1990), this study attempts to answer one simple question: are luxury products perceived as worthwhile purchases by Chinese middle-class consumers? The answer to this question would help marketers of luxury brands evaluate the sustainability of the emerging Chinese market and better position their products for this market. The second trait, susceptibility to normative influence (SNI), refers to individual differences in the tendency to conform to social norms. Social norms exert great influence in China because of its collective culture. Research suggests that motives for luxury consumption differ to cultures, so that consumers in individualistic cultures purchase luxury brands mainly for self-expression, while consumers in collective cultures are primarily driven by social needs (Wong & Ahuvia, 1998). Collective cultures emphasize group harmony and individual responsibility to the group, so following social norms is a core goal that guides each individual's behavior (Kim & Markus, 1999). For example, consumers from collective cultures tend to choose products that conform to group norms (Kim & Markus, 1999). Thus, a critical issue for understanding luxury consumption is to identify the social norms that guide Chinese middle-class consumers, norms that are shaped by two competing forces: Chinese traditional values and modern Western cultures. To provide insight into Chinese consumers' changing mindset, this study attempts to shed light on two related questions: what are the dominating social norms among the middle-class consumers in China, and how do the norms influence luxury consumption? Another unique characteristic of wealthy Chinese consumers is their lack of knowledge about luxury brands. Investigations from leading marketing research firms find that most Chinese consumers can name only one or two luxury brands in any product category (Atsmon and Dixit, 2009 and KPMG, Inc., 2007). In other words, the best-known brands may represent the whole category of luxury products in China. In addition, Chinese consumers have difficulty identifying luxury brands because of their rather limited experience in the market as well as the vagueness of the luxury concept (Kapferer and Bastien, 2009 and Vigneron and Johnson, 2004). A pretest with 105 respondents listing all the luxury fashion brands they knew found that over one quarter (25.7%) of the respondents named brands that are barely luxury brands (e.g., Nike and ELLE). To address the general lack of knowledge about luxury brands, this study focuses on only the best-known luxury brands in China. The third psychological trait examined in this study is need for uniqueness (NFU), which reflects an individual's tendency to distinguish oneself from others (Snyder & Fromkin, 1977). NFU is an important determinant for consumer possession acquisitions and their display (Tian, Bearden, & Hunter, 2001). Understanding the relationship between NFU and brand attitude toward the best-known luxury brands would provide brand owners with valuable information to better position their products and meet consumer needs more effectively. NFU may negatively relate to brand evaluation of the best-known brands, because uniqueness-seeking consumers prefer less popular products (Lynn & Snyder, 2002) and the best-known luxury brands are also the most popular ones in China (TIME Magazine, 2007). On the other hand, luxury, by definition, is exclusive, which may be particularly true in China where only a tiny fraction of the population own luxury brands (Roberts, 2007). In other words, NFU can also positively relate to brand evaluation, especially when consumers are not aware of other brands that represent prestige and uniqueness. To further clarify this relationship, the model adds one construct—consumer knowledge about luxury brands—to test how consumer knowledge affects the relationship between NFU and brand attitudes. This study suggests several marketing implications. First, the findings offer useful information for market segmentation in China's market by delineating the psychological characteristics of consumers who pursue luxury products. Second, this study sheds light on the dominating social norms among Chinese middle-class consumers and, thus, can help owners of luxury brands to better communicate product values and develop market positioning that appeals to consumers' specific needs. Third, this study reveals the role of consumer knowledge in shaping consumer perceptions of the best-known luxury brands, and, therefore highlights an important, long-neglected variable that should be considered in market segmentation and positioning strategies.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The growing middle-class group in China is a main engine for luxury businesses. However, the unique characteristics of this consumer group challenge luxury producers in designing their marketing strategies to meet consumers' specific needs. This study attempts to provide new insights to this group's underlying motivations for luxury consumption by investigating how consumer brand attitudes and purchase intentions relate to consumer traits that reflect the uniqueness of Chinese middle-class consumers. Results show that both VC and SNI positively relate to brand attitudes and purchase intentions toward the best-known luxury brands. However, the effect of NFU depends on the general knowledge that consumers have about luxury brands. For more-knowledgeable consumers, NFU shows a negative relationship with brand attitudes, whereas for less-knowledgeable consumers, the relationship is not significant. These findings suggest that Chinese middle-class consumers perceive luxury brands as highly valuable possessions, and they primarily pursue luxury goods to conform to the social expectations of important reference groups. In addition, the best-known luxury brands are not good options for consumers who want to express their uniqueness, probably due to the popularity of the brands. The revealed positive relationship between VC and brand attitude appears to contradict the common perception that Chinese consumers are exceptionally frugal and price-sensitive. Indeed, in a recent study, about 80% of Chinese respondents rated price as the most important factor when they purchase a personal computer, compared to 46% of American consumers, 50% British buyers, and 39% of Japanese buyers (Suessmuth-Dyckerhoff et al., 2008). Nevertheless, the consumer group studied in this research is the young, middle-class shoppers whose income and lifestyles differ from those of the general Chinese population. Also, the trait of VC in this study does not focus on price sensitivity; instead, VC captures consumer sensitivity to the overall benefits given the price paid. Chinese consumers distinguish a luxury brand from other brands by the symbolic meanings associated with the brand as well as the superior quality of the product. Therefore, at high income levels, luxury goods become affordable and valuable possessions that can better satisfy both functional and social needs of the middle-class consumers. The results of SNI suggest that conspicuous consumption is prevalent among Chinese middle-class consumers. This trend again indicates that these consumers may be motivated more by the social than by the functional benefits of luxury goods. For example, the incentive to purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Rolex watch may not be personal taste or quality but a necessity because those products may be viewed as essential possessions that fit their owners into important social groups and help their users behave appropriately in various social situations. From this perspective, Chinese middle-class consumers are not extravagant shoppers; instead, they spend wisely on products that can bring desirable social consequences. This trend also explains why Chinese consumers constitute a fast-growing market for luxury products at the same time that they save a much higher percentage of their incomes than their counterparts in other countries. As expected, the extent to which the best-known brands communicate uniqueness depends on how much consumers know about luxury brands. High-knowledge consumers perceive those brands as particularly not unique, while low-knowledge consumers do not hold such a perception despite the high popularity of the brands. One possible explanation for the latter is that luxury products are generally identified as a product category with exclusive ownership, and their users are not ordinary consumers. These findings also suggest the importance of studying consumer knowledge in future research on luxury consumption. The effect of consumer knowledge may provide new insights into some conflicting findings in prior studies. For instance, the luxury market holds a rarity principle which suggests that brand desirability decreases as the brand becomes more popular because prestige is attributable to ownership exclusivity. Dubois and Paternault (1995) document supporting evidence for this principle using a western consumer sample. However, studies in Singapore and Hong Kong find that consumers more prefer a luxury brand as the brand gets more popular, which clearly rejects the rarity principle (Chung and Zaichkowsky, 1999 and Phau and Prendergast, 2000). Researchers attributed the latter findings to the strong tendency of Asian consumers to conform to social pressure (Phau & Prendergast, 2000). However, this study suggests that consumer knowledge of the sample in different studies may also have contributed to the conflicting findings in that more-knowledgeable consumers were more likely to behave in ways as predicted by the rarity principle. 5.1. Managerial implications This study identifies new variables for market segmentation by delineating the psychological characteristics of Chinese middle-class consumers who favorably evaluate luxury products. This information is particularly useful in China's market because the demographic information, such as age, gender, and income, offers little help in segmenting wealthy consumers (Atsmon & Dixit, 2009). Besides segmentation, the relationships between VC, SNI, and brand evaluation also provide insight into marketing strategies to position a luxury brand in China and to communicate with targeted consumers. For instance, a common positioning strategy used by established luxury brands in China is to place an emphasis on superior product (Atsmon & Dixit, 2009). This strategy may have worked effectively when Chinese consumers were totally new to foreign brands, but current marketers might want to consider shifting their focus to emphasize ways in which the brands can help consumers meet their social goals. In contrast to Western countries where luxury brands can communicate self-expression and uniqueness, luxury brands in China need to highlight the social meanings of their products and clearly communicate how their products can benefit consumers in important social situations and connect them with desirable social groups. In addition, because influential reference groups define social norms, marketers need to reconsider how to best present the reference groups for the middle-class consumers in marketing communication. For example, one group of publicized social models in China includes successful professionals who are young and well-educated with elite social status (Rosen, 2004). Nevertheless, many advertisements for luxury brands in China commonly feature foreign movie stars or fashion models. Marketers need to understand how these endorsers relate to social norms in China and how the middle-class consumers resonate with the lifestyles and values communicated in the advertisements. These issues may pose challenges for those brands that use global communication strategies in promotion. Finally, the NFU findings indicate that marketers of the best-known brands seem to overlook consumers who seek uniqueness through consumption. Apparently, the familiar luxury brands fail to explain how their products can distinguish users from each other. Thus, companies need to increase their efforts to achieve product differentiation within the brand. For instance, companies may illustrate how various product lines project distinctive user images, or they can also consider incorporating customization into product design so that consumers have more opportunities to express their individuality. In addition to within-brand differentiation, marketers should also consider how to stand their own brands out from their competitors' offers in the same category. Between-brand differentiation will benefit companies in the long run as consumers become more familiar with luxury brands. 5.2. Limitations and future research The data are limited to the best-known luxury brands in China. Logically, the results and conclusions, especially those relating to VC and SNI, could apply to other luxury brands, but caution must be taken when generalizing findings to other settings. Future research involving other brands will be useful in verifying the results of this study. In addition, the study sample only involved consumers living in Shanghai, and thus may represent only for the middle-class consumers living in other tier-1 cities and top tier-2 cities. The results cannot be generalized to other cities, especially those in less-developed regions, because consumption behaviors differ greatly in those places. Another limitation also relates to the sample representativeness. The respondents in this study are relatively younger compared to the middle-class population as a whole and further testing is needed when the focus is on an elder consumer group. Finally, although this study demonstrates that consumers perceive luxury brands as highly valuable, future research should further investigate which specific values connect to luxury brands and how those values relate to different consumer groups. Similarly, more investigations can help identify specific social norms and examine how the norms contribute to luxury consumption. Future studies addressing these issues will develop valuable insight into China's luxury market and provide useful implications. Finally, researchers should further explore the role of knowledge in understanding individual differences in luxury consumption.