The Effects of National Culture on Social Commerce and Online Fashion Purchase Intention

The Effects of National Culture on Social Commerce and Online Fashion Purchase Intention

Sarah Josephine Hepple (London College of Fashion, UK) and Julie A. Dennison (London College of Fashion, UK)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1865-5.ch011
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This chapter investigates the effects of national culture on social commerce and in turn, online fashion purchase intention. Using a deductive approach, hypotheses were developed that sit within the context of shopping for fashion products online. A quantitative research instrument was developed to test for difference between Chinese and British online fashion consumers. Results show that national culture has a significant influence on social commerce engagement, with Chinese participants found to be greatly influenced by their social group when shopping online. The study also found that purchase intention is positively influenced by social commerce engagement across both cultures. As this study argues that global fashion consumers are not homogenous in their shopping habits, fashion brands are advised to acknowledge cultural difference across markets to ensure an optimal shopping experience. Investment in website localisation using local expertise should increase purchase intention in overseas markets.
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In a general move towards user-generated content (UGC) on the web, social-commerce has emerged as an important driving force in online shopping (Hajli & Sims, 2015). This falls within Web 2.0, where ‘social media has become a powerful channel for initiating online purchases’ (Wang, Lau & Gong, 2016). It has become increasingly important for fashion retailers who trade online to improve their understanding of social commerce, as the satisfaction of shoppers’ social needs can lead to many benefits such as greater expenditure and longer time spent shopping (Kang & Park-Poaps, 2011). As customers now have multiple channels of retail to choose from, such as physical stores, online, mobile and social shopping, there is a growing body of research emerging around how these channels are adopted, used and which factors are affecting purchase decisions (McCormick et al., 2014). In this study, social commerce is defined as ‘the online buying and selling activities initiated via social media, which entails business transactions through either social networks or on e-commerce websites’ (Ng, 2013, p. 609).

Shopping for fashion products has traditionally been viewed as an inherently social activity (Funk, 2008). Whilst in-store shopping has been described as a largely social experience, e-commerce is said to fulfill functional needs and repeat purchasing (McCormick et al., 2014), with Hassanein and Head (2007) describing online shopping as anonymous and automated. This implies that online shopping is more utilitarian than physical retailing, with the latter appearing to meet hedonistic purchasing desires more effectively (Babin et al.,1994). However, some retailers have found that well designed websites providing enhanced customer experience can create a hedonistic service experience, particularly if social interaction features are incorporated (Kim & Kim, 2004; Ha & Stoel, 2012). The term social commerce was introduced in 2005 (Wang & Zhang, 2012) and has since been used to describe a wide remit of online activity - the phrase may be used interchangeably with social shopping or social business, which at a simplistic level is the merging of social activity with commercial activity; this includes website features such as customer reviews, interaction with brands on social media websites or apps and online communities (McCormick et al., 2014; MacGrath & McCormick, 2013). Funk (2008) touches on the phenomenon as social commerce started to emerge in the literature, describing it as a way for brands to encourage shoppers to rate products, share opinions with peers and compare tastes with a group of friends. Certainly, the rise in popularity of social media is viewed as the cornerstone in the advancement of social commerce, allowing interactions to take place both on a retailer’s website and social media platforms due to the consumer desire to seek opinions from peers, often employing greater trust in other users than the fashion brand itself (Hew et al., 2016; Wolny & Mueller, 2013). In addition, the development of social commerce has also been attributed as a major contributor to the growth of the e-commerce sector, however the exact impact on fashion retailer’s online revenues remains inconclusive (Huang & Benyoucef, 2015).

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