A pursuit to identify brick-and-mortar and online consumer decision-making styles that are globally relevant

Erasmus, A.C., Donoghue, S, Dobbelstein, T.

Vol 18 | Issue 1 pp. 1-24


This cross-country comparison of consumer decision-making styles for brick-and-mortar and online shopping was inspired by notable changes in the marketplace. Conflicting evidence of the popularity of brick-and-mortar versus online shopping globally and the emergence of the so-called “global consumer” are increasingly questioning our understanding of consumers’ behaviour in the marketplace, challenging ways retailers can optimise their service offering to meet consumers’ needs. Extensive research on consumers’ decision-styles, conducted over more than three decades, aiming to indicate how consumers cognitively and emotionally deal with shopping decisions, have produced conflicting findings, further complicating retailers’ predicament. This quantitative survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 and involved South African (N=1495) and German adults (N=1344) as representatives of a developing and developed economy. The Sproles and Kendall (1986) Consumer Styles Inventory served as the point of departure to identify the prevailing consumer decision styles for the respective shopping modes in both countries. Data analysis was conducted separately for the two countries, using Exploratory Factor Analysis, t-tests/Anova, and relevant reliability measures. For the first time, this study presents consumer decision-making styles for brick-and-mortar and online shopping that concur for both countries, having achieved satisfactory internal consistency for the final factors. Particularly noteworthy for retailers is that “Perfectionism” is the most important decision style irrespective of the shopping mode. This translates as a prioritisation of trusted, good-quality products. A concern raised is the confusion experienced in physical stores due to the array of products and apparent impulsiveness when shopping online, which suggests consumer-friendly rather than product-oriented approaches by retailers to reduce consumers’ cognitive dissonance. The findings suggest that the so-called “global consumer” is not a far-fetched idea, as consumers’ needs and behaviour are more consistent than different despite demographic and geographic differences.

Keywords: consumer decision-making styles, shopping styles, brick-and-mortar shopping, online shopping, global consumer, demographic differences

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