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Social Factors in your PESTEL Analysis (Part 4 of 7)

You will recall from the earlier posts in this series that a PESTEL analysis highlights the external macro-economic factors that can affect a business’s growth prospects or even its financial health. We have been taking a close look at each of the letters that make up the acronym. The “S” stands for Social factors. While social factors are arguably most important for marketers, these factors will affect every type of business, so everyone should track them regularly. Social factors include topics such as demographic characteristics and trends, norms, customs, and even the values of the people in the country or countries in which you operate or intend to operate.

Social Factors in your PESTEL Analysis

For example, an international liquor distributor will focus his sales of ultra-premium vodka in the U.S., China, and Germany and not in the Muslim dominated GCC countries where most people do not consume alcoholic beverages because drinking alcohol is haram (forbidden).

Another interesting social factor would be working hours. In many countries, the standard work week extends from Monday to Friday with employees working an 8-hour day with a break for lunch. In other countries, the work week might be 5 ½ days with Thursday afternoon and Friday being the “weekend.” In the Middle East, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. For business leaders doing business in countries with different work weeks and working hours, these differences can be important.

The table below lists just some of the topics that might be considered when evaluating social factors:

  • Number of births per year
  • Number of marriages and divorces
  • Rates of immigration; out-migration
  • Life expectancy – men; women
  • Age distribution
  • Distribution of wealth
  • Impact of social class distinctions
  • Per capita income
  • Median household income
  • Average levels of disposable income
  • Lifestyle – smoking, eating healthy, etc.
  • Importance of leisure time
  • Culture and religion
  • Acceptance of different races
  • Trust in government
  • Attitude toward work
  • Shopping habits
  • Savings rate
  • Acceptance of foreigners
  • Acceptance of new things, new changes
  • Acceptance of minorities
  • Trust in banks
  • Savings rate
  • Attitude toward retirement
  • Belief in birth control
  • Importance of good customer service
  • Family formation
  • Importance of Education

Examples of the Impact of Social Factors

  • Many “third-world” countries are essentially cash societies. Why are these countries not as “banked” as European countries? There are many reasons, and most of them relate to social factors. For instance, lack of access to education means a lack of understanding of technology. In many third-world countries, there is a lack of trust in banks because, in these countries, there is no deposit insurance provided by central banks. Another reason is that per capita income and median household income is so low that people live from day to day and do not require the services of a bank.
  • Societies that have a positive attitude toward the formation of families, high birth rates, and disposable income are the kinds of attributes that would be attractive for makers of baby products.
  • According to Smart Cities.com, ethnic restaurants make cities in the U.S. more vibrant. Urban customers enjoy and patronize restaurants that are inexpensive, unusual, ethnically diverse, fast, and have great food. These are all social factors that are important to foreigners who want to migrate to the U.S. to open restaurants that feature foods from their home countries.

The social factors section of your PESTEL analysis is perhaps the most important aspect in deciding if there is a compelling market opportunity for your new business or for your existing business considering a new location, whether that location is in a new neighborhood or 5,000 miles away.

This is Part 4 of our series on PESTEL analyses. Go to Part 3 here. Our next post in this series will be on the Technological factors to be considered in a PESTEL analysis.

Jimmy Lewin

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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