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Materialism, Impulse Buying and Conspicuous Consumption:

A Qualitative Research

Aastha Verma Vohra 1

Global Business Review 17(1) 51–67 © 2016 IMI SAGE Publications DOI: 10.1177/0972150915610682

DOI: 10.1177/0972150915610682 Abstract Consumer behavioural traits or characteristics are

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


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.


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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.


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

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.


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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


Belk (1985)

Proposed three measures to quantify materialism, namely, possessiveness, non-generosity and envy Found three dimensions of materialism, namely, acquisition as the pursuit of happiness, possession-defined success and acquisition centrality Found that in India, spiritualism and materialism belong to the same realm and can be adopted together Empirically showed that materialism as a component of consumer culture has differed across different countries Found that Indian consumers are non-materialistic and the inherent risk of Westernization makes them materialistic Found that when the pursuit of possessions becomes the focus of one’s life, then one is said to be a materialist Found that family structure has an impact on materialism Stated that materialism is a Western consumer cultural trait Found that TV viewing is one of the most examined antecedents of materialism Found how materialism differs across demographics

Found that family structure and family stressors (death, separation) are positively related to materialism, unlike family resources (love, support, money) Found that consumers who are predisposed towards foreign brands show higher materialism Studied that materialist consumers and status signalling are related, and they only get product satisfaction by expanding more than their natural economic limit Studied materialism in eight countries, including India. Brought forth the relationship that materialism has with cultural adherence and regional differences with in India Investigated the impact of family disruptions over materialism Found that materialistic value in a consumer is a result of his life events during adolescent and childhood Studied that Indian consumers have greater materialistic tendencies Found that predisposition towards foreign brands has a significant impact on materialistic values among Indian consumers

Richins and Dawson (1992)

Venkatesh (1995)

Ger and Belk (1996)

Petty and Balagopal (1998)

Roberts (2000)

Rindfleisch, James and Frank (1997) Ruth and Commuri (1998) Sirgy (1998)

Goldberg, Gerald, Peracchio and Bamossy (2003) Roberts, Chris and John (2003)

Eckhardt and Mahi (2004)

Wang and Wallendorf (2006)

Cleveland et al. (2009)

Nguyen, George and Randall (2009) Benmoyal-Bouzaglo and Moschis (2010) Mishra and Mishra (2011) Gupta (2012)

Source: Author’s own.



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


Clover (1950)

Introduced the study of impulse buying and discovered some product categories sold on impulse Recognized the role and importance of autistic stimuli in motivating impulse purchase Studied impulse buying as any purchase which is unplanned and the shopper has not planned in advance Introduced impulse buying as a distinctive type of consumer buying behaviour and highlighted impulsivity as a lifestyle trait Found the involvement of fashion in impulse buying

Found that gender influences impulse buying Studied impulse buying involves a hedonic and affective component. Impulse buyers tend to be motivated by immediate gratification. Explained that impulse buying involves immediate purchase without pre-shopping objective

Piron (1989)

Stern (1962)

Rook (1987)

Han, Morgan, Kotsiopulo and Kang-Park (1991) Dittmar, Beattie and Friese (1995) Rook and Fisher (1995)

Beattey and Ferrell (1998)

(Table 2 continued)


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(Table 2 continued)

Author and Year


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 Impulse buying is affected by the retail store environment, such as, POP Found that hedonic consumption has an indirect effect on fashion-oriented impulse buying Studied the Indian youth and found that odour, background music of store and feel of the product set off impulse buying in them Found that there is a significant relationship between a person’s affective and cognitive state and their online impulse buying behavior Found that variety-seeking individuals are more prone to impulse buying

Suggested that customers do more impulse buying when there is special in-store display and discounts Suggested customer in-store experience as a critical factor in formulating useful marketing strategies

Zhou and Wong (2004) Park, Kim and Forney (2006)

Kaur and Singh (2007)

Dawson and Kim (2009)

Sharma, Sivakumaran and Marshall (2010) Hultén and Vanyushyn (2011)

Yoon (2013)

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.



Table 3. Chronological Study of Conspicuous Consumption

Author and Year


Veblen (1899)

Presented conspicuousness as a purposive conduct in which status considerations predominate Studied that conspicuous products are consumed publicly The paper has indicated that consumer’s conspicuous consumption and status consumption are two different constructs and studied as one construct representing similar meaning Studied that Indian middle class consumer’s consumption becomes conspicuous, but is different from what is practised by the rich and wealthy Suggested that consumers tend to use conspicuous products in order to impress others and display their wealth Found that the conspicuous consumption relies on the premise of economies Found that psychological and brand antecedents are important factors influencing conspicuous consumption Found that Indian society has turned conspicuously consumerist Proposed a formal definition of conspicuous consumption which was absent in the extant literature Found that conspicuous consumption is positively related to materialism Found that the conspicuous consumption is directly related to the social status display Explained that luxury consumption relates to a specific segment of consumers

Bearden and Etzel (1982) O’Cass and McEwen (2004)

Chaudhuri and Majumdar (2006)

Coleman (1983)

Katsunori (2008)

Shukla (2008)

Gupta (2009) Chaudhuri, Majumdar and Ghodhal


Podoshen and Andrzejewski (2012) Souiden, M’Saad and Pons (2011)

Schiffman and Kanuk (2004)

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.


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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.



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.


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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  has high aspirations for worldly possessions like cars, TV, laptop, home, air-conditioned, etc.)? •   Do you think that factors like your age, income,  gender and marital status impacts your tendency of being materialistic? •   Do you believe that the kind of family structure  (nuclear family, joint family, single parent, divorced, separated, etc.) decides on one being materialistic or not? •   Do you experience internal satisfaction once you  possess what you desired? •   Is it also a matter of social status to own worldly  possessions? •   Are you an impulse buyer? •   Do you think that credit cards make you an  impulse buyer? •   Explain some situations in which you buy  impulsively. •   How globalization/the entry of foreign brands in  Indian markets impacts your buying.

•   I am going to read a couple of statements and ask  for your comments.

1. In the theory of leisure class (1899), Thorsten Veblen coined the phrase ‘Conspicuous consumption’ to designate the act of purchasing certain goods or services not in order to survive but to identify oneself to others as having superior wealth and social status.

2. Conspicuous consumption in India is practiced by English speaking middle class population who are in their transitional phase and actively adopt a new product that enhances their personality (Chaudhuri & Majumdar, 2006).

How much do you concur with the above statement in your life?

•   Are there also some situations in your life when  you consume conspicuously? If yes, then please describe some. •   Do you believe that globalization/ availability  of foreign goods has some role to play?

Source: Author’s own.



Table 5. Respondent’s Profile

S. No.











Financial advisor




BPO worker












Govt. service




































Telephone operator
















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


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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. •   Who isn’t materialistic in today’s world. •   I wish to have all the worldly possessions. •   I am planning to buy a laptop. •   I feel I have started shopping more after  marriage. •   A person of my age doesn’t really have many  desires. •   I think women shop more than men especially  the stuff related to their looks/personality. •   I have everything except my own house. •   I am planning to buy my own house. •   Certainly, it gives internal satisfaction if I get  what I want. •   My parents are very strict; they don’t allow me  to buy anything without their permission. •   Life in the college hostel gives you freedom to  buy anything you want. •   I think people flaunt more in metro cities like  Delhi. •   There are people who buy things to show off  their status. •   I bought a new refrigerator after I got a salary  hike of 20 per cent this year. •   ‘Yes’, sometimes I buy things spontaneously. •   Many times I don’t plan and buy. I just buy  whatever appeals to me at that moment. •   The excellent persuasion skills of the trainer  salesman in store also become the reason of my impulse purchases. •   Many times I go out for shopping a pair of jeans  but come back with a couple of t-shirts also due to the attractive displays and discount schemes. •   Fashion and lifestyle has also made people  impulse buyers especially women. •   ‘Yes’, the facilities by bank on credit cards like  EMI on zero per cent interest has become the reasons of my impulse buying. •   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.

•   I own a Samsung TV, LG washing machine, Sony  laptop and Hyundai car. All are foreign brands. •   I have almost all non-Indian clothes of brands in my  wardrobe. •   I believe foreign brands in both consumer durable  and non-consumer durable are better than Indian brands. •   I am planning to buy a Volkswagen car. •   Globalization is good according to me. It gives many  options of brands to choose from. •   Image of a foreign made product is better than a  locally manufactured product. •   I believe that in urban cities consumption of goods  merely for survival has reduced many times unlike few decades back. •   Today goods are mostly consumed to match up with  the pace of fast moving lifestyle. •   I think people residing in metropolitan cities like Delhi  mostly buy goods to display superior wealth and social status. •   I believe that because of the strong influence from  the peers people consume conspicuously. •   Many times I buy a new product which enhances my  personality. •   Surviving in a professional life is difficult if you don’t  carry a smart personality. •   I buy the expensive dresses when I go out for party. •   Recently my child forced me to buy an expensive  game box for him because his friend owns one. •   I bought an expensive painting for my living room  because we arranged our daughter’s birthday party at home. •   I think my 18-year-old daughter is one who mostly  indulges in conspicuous consumption. •   When I am in a shopping centre, so many foreign- made brands entice me to buy them. •   I believe that TV ads also have a big role in my buying  decisions.

Source: Author’s own.



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


Impulse Buying

Conspicuous Consumption

Demographics Globalization Family Structure Satisfaction Culture TV viewing (ads) Social Status Fashion

Sociocultural Demographics Store environment Usage of credit cards Fashion Social status Globalization Autistic stimuli




Social status

Reference group


Common Factors Influencing: Consumer Behavioural Traits




Social Status


Source: Compiled by the author.


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



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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