Consumer Decision-Making Styles in China: a Cross-Cultural Validation

ABSTRACT - Consumer decision-making styles is acknowledged to be one of the most widely studied topics in consumer behavior research. This study attempts to validate a widely adopted US-based Scale, Consumer Style Inventory (CSI), with a sample in China. This results in a 29-item and 8-factor solution. Overall the results compared favorably to those of the original study and this has provided a general support to the inventory. The findings show that four decision-makings styles, namely, Prefectionistic, Novelty-Fashion Conscious, Recreational and Brand Conscious, are common characteristics to both Americans and Chinese. This study has shed some light to global marketers who intend to enter the China consumer market.


Noel Y.M. Siu and Alice S.Y. Hui (2001) ,"Consumer Decision-Making Styles in China: a Cross-Cultural Validation", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 258-262.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 258-262


Noel Y.M. Siu, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Alice S.Y. Hui, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong


Consumer decision-making styles is acknowledged to be one of the most widely studied topics in consumer behavior research. This study attempts to validate a widely adopted US-based Scale, Consumer Style Inventory (CSI), with a sample in China. This results in a 29-item and 8-factor solution. Overall the results compared favorably to those of the original study and this has provided a general support to the inventory. The findings show that four decision-makings styles, namely, Prefectionistic, Novelty-Fashion Conscious, Recreational and Brand Conscious, are common characteristics to both Americans and Chinese. This study has shed some light to global marketers who intend to enter the China consumer market.


There is growing managerial interest in the study of consumer shopping orientations as a means for market segmentation and positioning. A variety of shopping behaviors have been identified in previous literature. Studies on shopping orientations cover different industries, products, nd groups of consumers. Examples include: catalogue shopping (Gehrt and Carter 1992; Korgaonkar 1981), grocery shopping (Williams, Painter, and Nicholas 1978), non-store retailers shopping (Korgaonkar 1984), supermarket shopping (Darden and Ashton 1974-75), cosmetics shopping (Moschis 1976), elderly shoppers (Lumpkin 1985) and recreational shoppers (Bellenger and Korgaonkar 1980). In an attempt to measure the decision-making styles of consumers in shopping orientations, Sproles and Kendall (1986) developed a Consumer Style Inventory (CSI) that has been widely validated and applied in different countries (Hafstrom, Chae, and Chung 1992; Durvasula, Lysonski, and Andrews 1993; Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos 1996). The CSI is believed to be a significant counseling device to consumer affairs specialists and a good instrument for segmentation and positioning to marketers (Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos 1996; Sproles and Kendall 1986).

In the past two decades, global marketers have been attempting to explore various market opportunities in Asia, with particular focus on China market. The development of consumerism in China has helped to increase the retails sales from 126.49 billion in 1978 to 2,915.50 billion in 1998 (China Statistical Yearbook 1997; Hong Kong Trade Development Council Homepage 1999). Because of this trend, China has attracted more than US$ 175 billion in foreign investments between 1978 and 1995 (1998 China Statistical Yearbook 1998). In the light of the retail development, a study of the characteristics of Chinese consumer behavior is noteworthy.

The study has attempted to serve two purposes: first, to examine the cross-cultural applicability of the Consumer Style Inventory in China; second, to identify the decision-making styles of the Chinese consumers.


Consumer decision-making style is defined "as a mental orientation characterizing a consumer’s approach to making choice" (Sproles and Kendall 1986). Sproles and Kendall (1986) view this construct as "basic consumer personality" that is analogous to the concept of personality in psychology. Based on a sample of 482 US youngsters, their study developed a Scale named Consumer Style Inventory (CSI) that identified eight mental characteristics of consumer decision-making. They are namely: (1) Perfectionistic and High-Quality-Conscious Consumers, (2) Brand-Conscious and Price-equals-Quality Consumers, (3) Novelty and Fashion-Conscious Consumers, (4) Recreational and Hedonistic Consumers, (5) Price-Conscious and Value-for-Money Consumers, (6) Impulsive and Careless Consumers, (7) Confused-by-Overchoice Consumers, and (8) Habitual and Brand-Loyal Consumers.

The CSI provides a quantitative instrument for classifying heterogeneous consumer decision-making styles into discrete categories of orientation. It is also essential for marketers in identifying segments of consumers sharing similar orientations to shopping (Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos 1996). The usefulness of the CSI is evidenced by several studies in the US. McDonald (1994) classified the eight decision making styles into six shopper styles when applying the CSI to a sample of the elderly US consumers (age 45 or above). Moreover, Shim (1996) adopted 33 items from the CSI scale and explores the decision-making styles of the US high school students from the perspective of consumer socialization. Shim and Gehrt (1996) also grouped eight decision-making styles into three shopping orientations and attempted to account for the differences in these shopping orientations in the socialization process among three ethnic groups.

In addition, the CSI has been validated in several cultures. Durvasula, Lysonski, and Andrews (1993) confirmed a high level of reliability and validity of the scale via the use of a sample of 210 undergraduate students in New Zealand. Similarly, Hafstrom, Chae, and Chung (1992) employed the CSI and copared the differences of the decision-making styles between the US and Korean young consumers. They found that five of the styles, Brand Consciousness, Quality Consciousness, Recreational Shopping Consciousness, Impulsiveness, and Confused-by-Overchoice, are common in both cultures. Furthermore, a recent study conducted by Lysonski, Durvasula, and Zotos (1996) compared the factor structures of the Scale across four countries (United States, New Zealand, Greece and India). The findings have provided a general support to the Sproles and Kendall’s (1986) Inventory.

The above studies have shown that the CSI has a potential utility across international populations. Previous studies have examined the inventory in homogeneous sample and researchers urged to apply it to the general public. Therefore, this study takes a pioneering role in applying the scale to a real consumer group with a particular reference to Chinese consumers.

In the case of China, there has been a decrease of government intervention on consumer market since the 1979 economic reform. This was followed by the rise of consumerism (Shell 1993). Since there is a paucity of empirical research on Chinese decision-making styles, this study can advance an understanding of contemporary consumer behavior in China.



The questionnaire for measuring decision-making styles developed by Sproles and Kendall (1986) was adopted. The Consumer Style Inventory is composed of 40 Likert-scaled items scored from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The reliabilities of the CSI Scale, according to Sproles and Kendall (1986), ranged from 0.48 to 0.76.

The questionnaire was first translated into Chinese and back-translated into English by two translators that could help to enhance translation equivalence (Brislin 1970). A small-scaled pretest with a sample of 50 subjects was conducted in Guangzhou, China, to clarify the meaning of wordings. To avoid sequence bias, two versions of questionnaires were used in which the statements were in different order.


Data were obtained from 417 female residents [This study was the first stage of a project that attempted to investigate the decision-making styles of female consumers in the cosmetics market in China via the use of the CSI. Therefore, only female respondents were chosen.] in Guangzhou inside shopping malls and department stores. Three hundred and seventy questionnaires were usable for this study. The reason for the choice of Guangzhou was that the city was ranked first in living expenses and consumption expenses that reached RMB 9,379.12 and RMB 8,092.8 respectively in 1996 (Tin Tin Daily News 1997). In other words, this city could be a good economic indicator in predicting the future consumption pattern of the Chinese consumers.

In order to test the inventory in a heterogeneous sample, different age groups were selected in the study via the use of judgmental sampling method. Most of the respondents fell in the age groups of 20 to 24 (18.0 percent) and 25 to 29 (19.7 percent). Around 60 percent of them were married. Nearly 30 percent of the respondents earned RMB 1,000 to 1,999 per month. Over 80 % of them have completed high school or above. The composition of the sample of this study differs from the US study in two ways. First, the former was composed of all age groups whilst the latter only included high school students with limited age range. Second, the former included female only and the latter included 80 per cent of females. Students may be different from non-students with respect to demographics such as income or social class and other socio-psychological variables. Such differences might, in turn, affect decision-making styles and purchase preferences. Thus, if the similar pattern of result is shown in the current study, the differences in the samples provide for a stronger test of generalizability of the inventory.

Data Analysis

The analysis employed statistical procedures identical to those used by Sproles and Kendall (1986). The analysis examined the psychometric properties of the CSI. First, the dimensionality of the Consumer Styles Inventory was assessed by examining the factor solution (Gerbing and Anderson 1988). Specifically, the amount of variance explained by the extracted factors (i.e., their eigenvalues) was noted. In addition, item-factor correlations (i.e., factor loadings) and other indices of model adequacy were examined. A principal component factor analysis was used to determine if the factors identified by Sproles and Kendall (1986) were common to the sample in China. Second, the scale reliabilities and the identified factors were compared with the Sproles and Kendall’s (1986) study. In a cross-cultural research, such an approach is commonly the first step in determining the generalizability of a model or scale to another culture (Irvine and Carroll 1980).


Dimensionality of the Consumer Style Inventory

The original 40-item CSI inventory was factor analyzed with varimax rotation. The factor structure presented by Sproles and Kendall (1986) seemed not fully applicable to the China sample. Some items showed cross-loadings and were difficult to interpret. After inspecting the item-to-total correlation, factor solution, and item loadings, eleven items from the original CSI inventory were deleted. The remaining 29 items of the CSI inventory resulted in an eight-factor solution. The scale reliability was 0.73, and the item loadings were clean and easily interpretable. The 8 factors extracted in the China sample explained 54.3 percent in total variance that compared favorably with the 46.0 percent in the US sample. Table 1 features a comparison of the rotated factor loadings between the 29-item inventory for the China sample and the 40-item inventory for the US sample.

Factors were named in line with those of Sproles and Kendall (1986) when they reflected similar decision-making styles between the US and China samples. Most items were grouped in the same factors in both samples, whilst there were some differences in the pattern of certain item loadings. In the China sample, seven items loaded on factors other than those found from the US sample. For instance, item 5 ("don’t give my purchase much thought or care.") showed higher loading (0.79) on factor 6 labeled Impulsive and Careless Consumer. Intuitively, this item seemed to represent Impulsiveness (factor 6) rather than High Quality Consciousness (factor 1) as indicated by Sproles and Kendall (1986). Similarly, item 13 ("prefer buying the best-selling brands") had a higher loading in the Brand Loyal factor instead of the Brand Conscious factor. Also, item 22 ("shopping the stores wastes my time") seemed to describe the Confused-of-Overchoice Consumer in the China sample instead of the Recreational, Hedonistic Consumer. Item 27 ("look carefully to find the best value for the money") also loaded in the Price Consciousness factor instead of Quality Conscious Consumer factor. Moreover, three items in the Impulsiveness factor (items 28, 31 and 32) had higher loadings in the Price Conscious factor. These three Impulsiveness items were more appropriate to measure the Price Conscious style.

Reliabilities of the Consumer Style Inventory

Table 2 shows the reliability coefficients across two samples for eight factors, as measured by coefficient alpha. The alpha estimates were generally similar in both samples. The Cronbach alphas of the three factors (Perfectionistic, Novelty-Fashion Conscious and Recreational) were above 0.7 in both samples that indicate their high level of reliability in different cultures. The reliability of Brand Conscious factor approached the 0.70 for the China sample and was marginally acceptable (Nunnally 1978). However, the scales representing Price Conscious Consumer, Impulsive Consumer, Confused-by-Overchoice, and Habitual, Brand-Loyal Consumer require further refinement as they lack acceptable levels of reliability in both US and China samples. The findings from the China sample showed that the overall alpha value of 29 items was 0.73. Therefore, the overall result of the purified scale based on China sample provided reasonable reliability measure to the Sproles and Kendall (1986) inventory.






As more and more international marketers are interested in the emerging consumer market in China, an understanding of Chinese consumer behavior and their decision-making styles is crucial. Adopting the well-established Consumer Style Inventory (CSI) to profile the Chinese shopping orientation has long-term significance. Nevertheless, before a scale can be applied to other culture, its cross-cultural reliability and validity need to be examined.

This study investigates the applicability of the CSI to the Chinese culture by examining its reliability and validity. Overall results from the China sample compare favorably to those of the Sproles and Kendall’s (1986) original study and have provided a general support to the inventory. It appears that some factors, such as Perfectionistic, Novelty-Fashion Conscious, and Recreational, are common to the two cultures. The Brand Consciousness factor is also nearly identical. Such results indicate that some of the shopping styles of the Western and Chinese consumers are similar.

However, not all the results are equivalent. For example, some items displayed a different pattern of loadings compared to the US findings. Seven of the item-loadings were in different factors. Besides, the reliabilities of four scales (Price Conscious, Impulsive, Confused-by-Overchoice, and Habitual, Brand-Loyal) are low in both the US and China samples. In fact, these factors also appeared unstable in previous studies, so these scales require further refinement in future research.


This study has made the first attempt to apply the Consumer Style Inventory to the Chinese consumers in China. The cross-cultural examination reinforces the inventory as a universal theory in the area of decision-making style. The implication is that the inventory is a suitable device to be used in understanding the Chinese consumer behavior. Thus, researchers are suggested to further apply the scale to different consumer markets in order to test its applicability in the business setting.


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Noel Y.M. Siu, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Alice S.Y. Hui, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001

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