Investigating the Effects of Consumer’s Lifestyles on Their Brand Preferences: A Case of Macau

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Investigating the Effects of Consumer’s Lifestyles on Their Brand Preferences: A Case of Macau

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Context Overview

Macau’s luxury goods market has been growing dramatically in recent years, evinced by the growing numbers of nationalist Chinese shoppers who prefer spending in this market. So, luxury goods consumption remains an essential part of modern lifestyles in this emerging Asian market. Bian and Forsythe (2012) affirm this assertion by suggesting that luxury brands, which represent considerable portions of consumer product sales globally, are no longer limited to developed Western countries but have permeated new rich markets in Eastern economies. Luxury goods’ consumption and luxury retailing have continued to enjoy dynamic and steady growth even during times of economic downturn such as the recent one caused by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (Deloitte, 2020; Zhang, 2017). This indicates that the market will continue to attract many brands and actors due to its lucrativeness. Even so, proper and adequate comprehension of luxury consumption requires going beyond market growth dynamics to understanding consumer purchasing behaviours in this market and their brand preferences derived from their lifestyles.

1.2 Research Background

Contemporary research indicates that consumer lifestyles are constantly changing due to ongoing global cultural shifts, the continual evolution of the demographic mix, and rapid technological advances that shape consumers’ values and habits (Bian & Forsythe, 2012; Sheth, 2020). These changes are giving rise to new consumption trends embedded in consumers’ lifestyles, eventually shaping their preferences and choices for luxury commodities. Essentially, the importance of consumer lifestyle and its effects on purchasing choices and brand preferences is well documented in the literature. For instance, Cătălin and Andreea (2014) advocate that lifestyle has a significant impact on both consumer behaviour and clients’ brand preferences. Salajeghe and Mousavi (2012) further suggest that lifestyle is a strong source of identity and its associated consumption preferences. This means that people’s lifestyles are critical identifiers of their identity, which influences their consumption choices. Based on these researchers’ stance, lifestyle defines people’s distinguishing identity and their consumption motivations, eventually shaping their luxury brand preferences. This observation corroborates Cătălin and Andreea (2014) that consumers’ personal lifestyles are a means of the self-expression of their social identity and self-identity, expressed through the choices consumers make, including their purchasing choices.

From another perspective, Kashani et al. (2017) established that consumers’ lifestyles and their attitude functions directly influence individuals’ emotional attachment to specific luxury brands. In another study, Mohiuddin (2018) furthered the importance of lifestyle in determining brand preferences by arguing that lifestyle drives consumers’ decision making, especially among female consumers. This scholar submits that lifestyle, established by consumers’ beliefs, attitudes, and mindsets, significantly impacts the decisions that go into their professional and personal lives. Further research work by Ebrahim et al. (2016) confirms that lifestyle experiential aspects of specific brands directly influence client brand experiences, which eventually drive their brand preferences. These authors advocated that positive brand experiences stored in consumers’ memories are critical determinants of their repurchase intentions, particularly for luxury products.

Haryanto et al. (2019) affirms that various dimensions of lifestyle influence clients’ selection of foreign brands differently from their selection of local brands. Among these dimensions, those found to have significant correlations with consumers’ brand preferences include fashion consciousness, health consciousness, attentiveness lifestyle, leadership lifestyles, and extroversion lifestyles. In a separate study, Husnain and Akhtar (2015) advanced the investigation of lifestyle dimensions that have been found to directly impact consumer brand preferences for luxury products. The three dimensions addressed include price consciousness, need for uniqueness, and status consciousness. According to these researchers, these three variables or dimensions influence buying behaviours regarding genuine brands versus counterfeits brands.

1.3 Statement of the Problem

While studies on the impact of lifestyle on brand preferences for luxury commodities is relatively plenty, the number of lifestyle studies focusing on Asian markets are overly scarce. Additionally, those that have attempted to explain the role of lifestyle in shaping brand preferences in luxury consumption have concentrated in developed Asian countries such as China, thereby making it difficult to find studies on a developing territories such as Macau. The current study bridges this gap by contributing knowledge about the impact of lifestyle on people’s brand preferences in luxury clothing consumption in Macau. The study adopts a similar approach as adopted by Husnain and Akhtar (2015) in exploring the lifestyle-related variables of price consciousness, status consciousness, and the need for uniqueness in determining brand preferences for luxury clothing brands versus regular clothing brands within the Macau luxury market.

1.4 Study Scope and Significance

The study is empirical in nature, involving the use of the survey questionnaire method to gather and synthesize data about these three lifestyle dimensions as they relate to luxury clothing brands in Macau. The study will be valuable because it will generate insights that luxury retailers can leverage to link up their luxury business investments to consumers’ lifestyle features to enhance market productivity and guarantee optimal profitability. Additionally, the study will provide unique perspectives in comprehending lifestyle-driven customer needs and consumer brand preferences.

1.5 Research Objectives

To discuss the dimensions of lifestyle and their impact on brand preferences for luxury products.

To examine the effect of status consciousness on consumers’ brand preferences for branded luxury clothing in Macau.

To explore the impact of price consciousness on brand preferences for luxury clothing among Macau consumers.

To study how the need for uniqueness positively influences brand preferences for luxury clothing among Macau consumers.

2.0 Literature Review

Understanding consumers’ brand preferences within the context of luxury commodities constitute an indispensable step towards comprehending their brand choice behavior (Ebrahim et al., 2016), actual purchasing behavior (Kwok et al., 2006; Zhang, 2017), and consumption dispositions (Cătălin & Andreea, 2014; Haryanto et al., 2019). Essentially, brand preferences for luxury brands have continued to receive great attention from marketing scholars. However, a significant portion of these researchers have limited their focus on luxury commodities’ utility maximization (Bronnenberg et al., 2012; Ebrahim et al., 2016; Heilman et al., 2000). A research model that explores brand preferences from the perspective of consumer lifestyle, its dimensions (Husnain & Akhtar, 2015), and their impact in shaping brand preferences is valuable in expanding the scope of scholarly inquiry in this area.

2.1 The Evolution of Brand Preferences within a Lifestyle Context

Scholars began exploring brand preferences across several products in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The conclusive outcomes of most of these early studies (Bass & Talarzyk, 1972; Bass & Wilkie, 1973; Churchill, 1972; Sheth, 1968; Sheth & Talarzyk, 1972) demonstrate close correlations between brand preferences and consumers’ salient attitudes and beliefs embedded in their lifestyles. When these attitudes and behaviors are activated at specific times, they drive their purchasing behaviors towards specific brands, thereby defining their preferences for (Husnain & Akhtar, 2015; Kwok et al., 2006; Mohiuddin, 2018; Zhang, 2017) and emotional attachment (Bian & Forsythe, 2012; Kashani et al., 2017; Miao et al., 2019) to those brands.

With time, researchers have dedicated efforts to explore the evolution of brand preferences entrenched in lifestyle, extending the understanding of this phenomenon within luxury brands’ contexts. In an earlier study, Heilman et al. (2000) examined the evolution of brand preferences and consumers’ responses to marketing activities for new clients. Their findings established that brand preferences among new consumers vary depending on learning (or brand information collection) and purchasing experience. With more learning and augmented purchasing experience, consumers garner more insights into the brand within the confines of their lifestyle. This increases their loyalty towards the brand and their probability of choosing the brand, even if it was inferior at the beginning of the purchasing experience.

The outcomes from Heilman et al. (2000) were corroborated sixteen years later by the findings from a study by Ebrahim et al. (2016), who affirmed that brand experience shapes consumer loyalty. Eventually, this influences their repurchasing intension, which has a direct impact on their brand preferences. Sharing the same sentiments, Husnain and Akhtar (2015) contend that brand preference evolution hinges on brand loyalty, giving insights into market segmentation for luxury brands. In another study, Bronnenberg et al. (2012) utilized data on consumers’ life histories and their purchases of packaged consumer goods to examine the long-term evolution of brand preferences. They discovered that brand preferences develop and evolve endogenously as a function of customers’ life histories and remain highly persistent components of their lifestyle once they are formed. In their study, Cătălin and Andreea (2014) suggested that brand preferences evolve as a function of consumers’ social identity and personal identity reflected in their lifestyle.

2.2 Impact of Lifestyle on Brand Preferences

Scholarly literature on the evolving area of brand preferences has expanded to include the role of consumers’ lifestyle in shaping their purchasing behaviors (Mohiuddin, 2018; Salajeghe & Mousavi, 2012). Essentially, research on the influence of lifestyle on luxury products’ brand preferences is plenty. While studying the association between consumers’ lifestyle and individual preferences in choosing foreign or domestic brands, Haryanto et al. (2019) described lifestyle as characterizing the orientation of persons who create life’s structure based on their activities, opinions, interests, and demographic characteristics. These authors define lifestyle as the value inherent in each individual expressed in different behaviors depicted in everyday life. From another perspective, Naim et al. (2019) consider lifestyle as a combination of indices such as demographic characteristics, social class, personality, excitements, emotions, macro-cultures, motivations, values, family position, previous experiences, and culture, which impact consumption behaviors, decisions, preferences, and tendencies.

Lifestyle and its various dimensions impact brand preferences for luxury products in various ways well-established in research. For instance, Salajeghe and Mousavi (2012) sustain that an individual’s lifestyle integrates that person’s characteristics, previous experience, and current position or attitudes towards a brand, all of which directly impact all aspects of their consumption behavior. According to Mohiuddin (2018), lifestyle affects brand preferences from the perspective that it defines their purchasing decisions and consumption choices. Specifically, this author submits that lifestyle depends on people’s standards of living, which is a factor determinant of their purchasing power, thus their consumption choices. Additionally, lifestyle reflects their beliefs, mindsets, attitudes, and thoughts towards brands, significantly impacting theirs purchasing decisions (Mohiuddin, 2018). Corroborating these sentiments, Cătălin and Andreea (2014) and Zhang (2017) hold that each person’s lifestyle reflects their aesthetic style, values, life goals, visions, and symbolic meaning, brand quality perceptions, all of which have a great impact on brand preferences.

In their study, Kashani et al. (2017) admit that lifestyle drives brand preference by defining the level of emotional attachment that consumers develop towards luxury brands. These scholars suggest that consumers’ attitudes mediate the relationship between their lifestyle and their emotional attachment to luxury goods. Accordingly, they affirmed that a lifestyle characterized by value-oriented attitudes towards luxury brands augment consumers’ emotional attachment to those brands, translating to high preferences for the brands. Husnain and Akhtar (2015), who argue that customers’ preferences largely depend on consumers’ lifestyle, sustain that the phenomenon impacts purchasers’ luxury brand preferences by forecasting their needs. Precisely, they believe that lifestyle is a valuable element in predicting luxury consumers’ needs and designing segmentation, positioning, and marketing strategies to meet these needs in a way aligning with the desired lifestyle. Zhang (2017) agrees with this observation, suggesting that the lifestyle projected by luxury brands and their respective marketing messages reflect the brand image attached to those brands, which ultimately dictate consumers’ attitudes and preferences towards them. Finally, Cătălin and Andreea (2014) believe that lifestyle is a rational instrument for creating a robust sense of self that resonates and aligns with consumers’ social and personal identities, which they express via their brand choices and preferences.

2.3 Dimensions of Lifestyle Influencing Luxury Brand Preferences

Researchers have identified more than ten dimensions of lifestyle that influence brand preferences, in general. According to Haryanto et al. (2019), the thirteen dimensions of lifestyle include fashion consciousness, cost consciousness, craftsmanship, health consciousness, adventure, community consciousness, family orientations, leadership, practicality, extroversion, attention, casualness, and interest in sports. In the context of genuine versus counterfeit brands. Husnain and Akhtar (2015) identified three additional dimensions: price consciousness, status consciousness, and need for uniqueness. According to these researchers, the attainment of strong brand preferences entails taking account of the brand-customer relationships and brand perceptions, establishing sound brand positioning, and linking up these considerations with the dimensions of lifestyle that shape luxury goods’ consumption. The three dimensions identified by Husnain and Akhtar (2015) form the conceptual framework applied for the current research study.

2.3.1 Status Consciousness and Luxury Clothing Brands

Researchers Husnain and Akhtar (2015) have defined status consciousness as the motivational process by which individuals strive to improve and enhance their social repute or position by deliberately engaging in conspicuous consumption of consumer goods that symbolize or signal eminence for them and their surroundings. Millan and Mittal (2017) use the term “status concern” to refer to status consciousness, suggesting that it describes the value individuals place on attaining higher societal and community status. Status-conscious or status-concerned consumers are highly predisposed to participating in status consumption of luxury clothing brands because such brands are regarded as emblems of social class, prestigious identity, and grander eminence (Cham et al., 2018). Reinforcing this observation, Chan (2015) and Millan and Mittal (2017) affirm that status-conscious consumers will always buy luxury goods (luxury clothing) to fulfill their need for status because they are highly mindful of the status they currently have and are motivated to display and guard it.

Status consciousness is a mentally conceived construct that captures individuals’ desires to achieve, improve, and maintain a respectable standing within their status hierarchies (Millan & Mittal, 2017). Within such a psychological makeup, consumers find themselves continually motivated to become a part of a certain socially prestigious or desirable class in society (Chan, 2015) where they achieve notability among their reference groups to be regarded with respect as influential and successful. According to Husnain and Akhtar (2015), this desire drives the decisions they make concerning the types of luxury products to purchase, with such decisions hinging principally on whether or not these products’ characteristics are commensurate with maintaining their prestigious status. Essentially, this translates to the inference that luxury brands (such as luxury clothing) constitute an essential and potent means of communicating and displaying individuals’ facets of identity and status (Millan & Mittal, 2017). So, high status consciousness is a prerequisite for engendering brand preferences for luxury clothing because these brands serve to express their prestige (Chan, 2015). Consistent with Husnain and Akhtar (2015), status-conscious consumers will demonstrate lesser acceptance for regular clothing than luxury clothing. Based on this literature, the first hypothesis for this study is:

H1: Status consciousness positively affects Macau consumers’ preferences for branded luxury clothing and has no effect on preferences for regular clothing.

2.3.2 Price consciousness and Luxury Clothing Brands

Husnain and Akhtar (2015) and Khurram et al. (2018) collectively define price consciousness as the degree to which consumers focus their attention exclusively on paying low prices for what they purchase. In other words, it entails their unwillingness to pay higher prices for a particular product. In their research, Cham et al. (2018) suggest that price consciousness constitute a factor that moderately influence consumers’ purchasing intentions and interests when buying clothing. The study by Gaston-Breton (2011) also acknowledge the importance of price consciousness in shaping brand preferences, suggesting that it plays a mediating role in driving the persuasiveness of 99-ending prices. Specifically, these scholars use linear regressions to confirm that price-conscious consumers demonstrate strong sensitivity and preferences for brands with 99-ending prices, particularly new products. Husnain and Akhtar (2015) affirm that for price-conscious customers, the essence of seeking the lowest or the best prices for brands is to get perceived optimal value for their money.

The mediating role of price consciousness means that before buying even the smallest item, price-conscious consumers will always check the prices of all related products and compare these prices before making their purchases. So, they are more predisposed to engage in price comparisons before purchasing than their less price-conscious counterparts (Khurram et al., 2018). Based on this knowledge, marketers try to infuse the perception that certain brands have greater value for reasonably lower prices than competitors’ to augment brand recognition and purchasing chances (Gaston-Breton, 2011; Khurram et al., 2018). Unfortunately, focusing overly on such aspects of price consciousness has the potential of causing consumers to buy regular products unknowingly, thinking that they are luxury goods (Husnain & Akhtar, 2015). Confirming this assertion, Kundi and Mughal (2021) recently affirmed that price sensitivity is an important mediating variable in the purchase of counterfeit brands. This indicates why price-conscious consumers tend to show positive attitudes toward counterfeit products because they will consider these brands as giving them the value for their money. This literature leads to the second hypothesis for this study:

H2: Price consciousness positively affects brand preferences for regular clothing and negatively affects brand preferences for luxury clothing among Macau consumers.

2.3.3 Need for Uniqueness and Luxury Clothing Brands

This dimension of lifestyle has been comprehensively addressed in literature, with Husnain and Akhtar (2015) defining it as the individualistic desire to look different from the rest of society by consuming brand types that augment one’s self- and social image. According to Zhang (2017), consumers’ need for uniqueness constitute a personality trait characterized by the need to exhibit individuality by acquiring, displaying, and utilizing distinctive consumer goods typical of rarity and extraordinariness. For this reason, the distinctive image and scarcity of value associated with luxury brands make them ideal to meet consumers’ need for uniqueness. Corroborating this point, Cham et al. (2018) and Chan (2015) assert that consumers who crave for the need for uniqueness will generally be motivated to internally maintain this sense of uniqueness, sustain interpersonal differences, and externally project the unique self onto others using the ‘wow’ and ‘cool’ effects derived from luxury commodities, specifically luxury clothing.

In the contemporary luxury domain, the need for uniqueness as a lifestyle dimension has transformed into a universal personality that drives status consumption for modern consumers. This implies that the need for uniqueness works hand-in-hand with status consciousness in shaping brand perceptions and preferences for luxury products and the associated purchasing intentions (Chan, 2015). In this domain, consumers are curious of trying new things provided they feel that these items help them display a unique self-image and interpersonal difference with the rest of society. They tend to depict high inquisitiveness for new brands while constantly anticipating the emergence of self-differentiating and upscale consumer items (Cham et al., 2018). Such curiosity comes along with risk-taking and novelty-seeking behaviours that augment their chances of falling into the trap of buying counterfeit luxury products (Husnain & Akhtar, 2015). As per this literature, the third hypothesis for this study is:

H3: The need for uniqueness positively affects brand preferences for luxury clothing and has no effect on preferences for regular clothing.

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