Marketing Letters

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 309–320 | Cite as

Cross-national differences in uncertainty avoidance predict the effectiveness of mass customization across East Asia: a large-scale field investigation

  • Emanuel de Bellis
  • Christian Hildebrand
  • Kenichi Ito
  • Andreas Herrmann


Why does mass customization succeed in some East Asian markets but fail in others? Building on and extending prior work on uncertainty avoidance, this research suggests that providing mass customization in highly uncertainty-avoiding cultures can have negative consequences for consumers and companies, including longer configuration duration, lower conversion rates to actually purchase the customized product, and a reduced degree of sharing one’s product with other consumers. We provide support for those propositions based on two large-scale field studies involving more than 700,000 prospective car buyers in Japan and Taiwan (scoring high on uncertainty avoidance) versus China and Singapore (scoring low on uncertainty avoidance). Our findings on actual customers suggest that neglecting cross-national differences in uncertainty avoidance across East Asia puts both consumers and companies at risk due to more onerous customization experiences for consumers and substantially lower conversion for companies.


Mass customization Uncertainty avoidance Cross-cultural marketing Inter-Asian differences Field study 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the guidance of the editor and the two reviewers. They also wish to thank the car manufacturer for providing the data, Lucas Beck for assisting with the data coding, as well as Anna-Louise McCaskey for proofreading the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emanuel de Bellis
    • 1
  • Christian Hildebrand
    • 1
  • Kenichi Ito
    • 2
  • Andreas Herrmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Customer InsightUniversity of St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland
  2. 2.Division of Psychology and Institute on Asian Consumer InsightNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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