Collectivist Vs Individualist Societies: How do these impact upon retail?

Culture is a huge factor that influences how people think, behave, interact and more. There are many ways to categorise societies based on their similarities and/or differences. One way to view societies is how they interact within themselves, their behavioural and social trends, and these can put societies into a category of either an individualistic society or a collectivist society. These trends will impact upon many things in different cultures, including the retail industry. Of course, these trends will differ from country to country, even if both are individualistic or collectivist societies, but the basic views and behaviours will remain the same.  


What is an individualistic society? 

Individualistic societies are those that prioritise the needs of an individual over the needs of a group as a whole. In this type of culture, people are viewed in an independent way and social behaviour tends to be directed by the attitudes and preferences of individuals. Relying or depending on others is often deemed embarrassing or shameful, especially in situations that can be dealt with as an individual. The US, western Europe and Australia are examples of individualistic societies. 

How do they shop?

Individualist societies strive to stand out from the crowd and be unique. They tend to focus on the latest trends, making fast and cheap fashion popular among these societies. Individualists spend more time searching for the best value products based on price rather than quality, meaning they are not overly brand loyal and are more likely to shop both instore and online. It is also more common for them to return items that do not meet their expectations, especially from brands they have not bought from before. Individualists rarely think in the long term when it comes to clothes which means quality is sometimes bypassed in the bid for cheap fashion. On average, fast fashion that is bought to keep in style with the latest trends is only worn seven to ten times before being thrown away. To stay in touch with the current trends, they shop more frequently than collectivist societies, make more impulse purchases, and look for items that will make them stand out from the crowd whilst still following fashion trends.  

So what?

Individualists shop around, therefore reward points and loyalty cards are not as much of an incentive for people to shop with a certain brand or company. Instead, instant incentives such as student discounts, offers and sales are more likely to gain customers attention and persuade them to buy. For online shops, cheap and fast shipping, discount codes and free gifts/samples will be more enticing than loyalty points. As well as this, online shops should offer easy and quick returns as people in individualist societies are more likely to send items back.

Collectivist Societies 

Collectivist societies emphasise the needs, wants and goals of a group over the needs and desires of each individual. These societies are less self-centred and have social values that revolve around what is best for a community and society. Helping others and asking for help from others is not only encouraged but viewed as essential. Having strong families and friendship groups is important in these societies and people may sacrifice their happiness or time for the benefit of someone else or for the greater good of a group. Countries such as Portugal, Mexico and Turkey are examples of collectivist societies.  


How do they shop?

Collectivist societies tend to follow the crowd. They favour quality over cheaper prices and are willing to spend more money on a product that is better quality and will last a long time. They shop for their families as well as themselves, usually buying multiple items from different departments in the same trusted retail store. Because they favour quality products and think in the long run, shopping trips and impulse buys are less common. People in collectivist societies are brand loyal and rarely shop online as they prefer to see and feel products before buying. Returns are also less frequent as they spend longer looking for quality and mainly buy from trusted brands they are loyal to. If returns are made, it is usually for different sizes and not to return a product completely. Expectations of quality are much higher than in individualist societies. 

So what?

Companies should focus on promoting the high quality of their products rather than the cheapness, both instore and online. Because collectivist societies are brand loyal, reward points and loyalty schemes are likely to work as incentives however, customers will only go back if the products they bought met their expectations of quality and longevity. People in collectivist societies often shop for others, not just themselves, so having offers on multi-buys may be appealing. As well as focusing on quality, appealing to the community is also important. This could be done by sponsoring or partnering up with local charities or organisations. If a brand is seen as part of a community, people will be more loyal to it and choose to shop there as opposed to other brands that aren’t as apparent in a community.