Cultural congruence of Websites: conscious, unconscious or coincidental? The case of Honda Cars
Cultural values are an important topic in international marketing, as they affect how consumers respond to marketing communication – including Websites (Usunier and Lee, 2009). Companies that want to address diverse cultural groups across national borders thus face accommodation issues when designing their Websites. Indeed, the consensus in the literature is that sites that reflect a target country’s culture are more effective. The reviews by Vyncke and Brengman (2010) and Tigre Moura, Singh and Chun (2016) show that so-called cultural congruence has a positive impact on Website performance measures such as perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, positive attitudes, positive intentions and overall effectiveness.
However, the existing studies only investigate whether or not Websites significantly reflect national culture as measured in terms of, for example, Hofstede’s classification. The literature has never really analysed to what extent the reflected culture corresponds with the actual culture of a country, let alone tried to explain the deviations. Moreover, so far only Singh, Baack and Bott (2010) have investigated the strategy of international companies with regard to cross-cultural Website design and examined whether they see localisation as an important issue. The present paper aims to fill these research gaps by means of a case study of Honda Cars.
The structure of the remainder of the paper is as follows. After a brief review of the literature, the section that follows provides a deeper look into Honda Cars and its Website design strategy. The next section then sets out the theoretical background, the research questions, and the hypotheses. After describing the data and the methodology we dive into the results. In the first step, t-tests and correlations verify, as well as quantify, the reflection of culture in the Honda Cars Websites. In the second step we zoom in on the deviations between actual and reflected culture and attempt to explain these deviations by means of regression analysis. In particular, the question here is whether the observed level of cultural congruence is the result of a deliberate strategy, an unconscious process, or just coincidence. In the third and final step, we study whether or not the templates provided by some of the regional headquarters of Honda Cars constrained local developers in creating culturally congruent Websites on the national level. The paper ends with concluding remarks and suggestions for future research.