Historically, religion, a systematic collection of beliefs that influence human behaviour, has been a dominant force. For most people, religion is about how you live. People adopt the beliefs of their system as a way of life. The influence of religion reaches every corner of the world and significantly influences the purchasing behavior of customers.
When considering the four major religions globally, it is essential to note that religious practices vary widely, even within the same religion. Therefore, the observations in this lesson relate generally to the most conservative or most observant members of the faith.
Buddhism is a paradigm that promotes all things in moderation. He teaches that craving for the things of the world leads to evil. Unlike many other religions, Buddhism focuses on individual enlightenment rather than a central deity, although iconography exists in mainstream Buddhist cultures such as China.
Buddhism teaches that striving for the things of the world is worthless and will hinder one’s progress towards enlightenment. Therefore, retailing in areas where shopping is influenced by practising Buddhists will be particularly difficult if the products are associated with the gratification of worldly desires or are consider frivolous. However, there aren’t many strictly practising Buddhists apart from the monks, so this shouldn’t be a big problem. A company needs to make sure it does specific research into the habits of the people who live in those areas before letting a potentially lucrative deal go through.
Although Muslims worldwide, Islam is the central religious force in the Middle East, Africa and the Indonesian islands. Islam differs from Buddhism in that it identifies the main deity, Allah, whose instructions guide behavior. Some Muslim countries require a religious dress code (especially for women) that covers most of the body to show propriety. In less conservative regions, men wear western clothing, and women can only wear a headscarf.
International business conducted in conservative Muslim regions is influenced by various Islamic practices, including religious dress codes. For example, in areas where women do not wear a Western dress and the Islamic dress code is fervently enforced, clothing retailers must adjust their stocks to include burquas, niqabs, hijabs, and chadors.
Like Islam, Christianity is monotheistic (a belief in a single, all-powerful deity) and gives its followers guidelines for personal conduct. Like Islam, Christianity is practis with a variety of norms of behaviour. For example, conservative Christians have theological beliefs that discourage drinking, allow only modest clothing, and sometimes prohibit activities such as dancing or listening to certain types of music. More liberal Christian groups do not take a definitive position on these issues but may continue to discourage them with less intensity.
In regions where Christianity is prevalent, trade is primarily tie to the intensity of observance. Utah’s liquor regulations are a prime example of the influence of conservative Christianity. In this region, the state government maintains tight control over the alcohol industry and imposes severe sales and consumption restrictions. Therefore, businesses in areas where conservative Christianity is prevalent should ensure that their plans and forecasts are not based on retail sales of goods or services viewed as sinful or wrong.
Weber’s thesis that religion is matters became one of the most influential (and most-cited) works in the social sciences and has been widely discuss ever since. Indeed there is a connection: the world’s oldest capitalist region, England, is predominantly Protestant; in some countries like Switzerland or France, the Protestants were particularly frugal and enterprising; and Protestant immigrants from Europe largely drove the economic rise of the United States of America.
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