Learning to navigate the American retail servicescape: Online forums as consumer acculturation platforms and consumer gift systems

Hope Jensen Schau, Yan Dang, Yulei Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


With consumer mobility on the rise, marketers need to understand how to best serve the increasing number of immigrants, expatriates, and foreign nationals. We examine an independent (non-corporate, brand agnostic) online forum that operates as a consumer acculturation platform and a consumer gift system, where Chinese-speaking consumers assist one another with navigating and even exploiting the American retail servicescape. Forum participants bestow the gift of experience on the collective to enhance the market-oriented communicative competence of forum participants necessary to master the American retail environment. Consumers on the platform systematically employ American English to reference brands and describe retail marketing promotions in a forum dominated by Chinese language. Specifically, we find that code switching, typically expected in early stages of language acquisition, becomes a robust norm to communicate specifically about American retail phenomena (metaphorical code switching) and bridge the gulf between home and host cultures. We offer firms four tactical strategies to attract and retain Chinese-language consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-188
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Business Research
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017



  • Chinese-speaking
  • Expatriates
  • Immigrant
  • Retail
  • Servicescape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing

Cite this