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RESEARCH BRIEF: High prices and low product expertise dissuade customers from going green

Takeaway: High prices and a lack of product information are the two greatest barriers dissuading consumers from purchasing green products. In order to educate customers about green products, retailers should use detailed verbal, rather than numerical, cues. And lots of them.   

Researchers were interested in what stops customers from buying green products. 

In their first study, they asked 330 participants to recall a recent shopping experience where they considered buying a green product, but ultimately did not, and asked them why. The reasons cited are listed below, in order of frequency. 

1. Price (42% of respondents)   
2. Perceptions of low or uncertain quality (14%)
3. Lack of product expertise (11%)          
4. Lack of trust in company or product’s green credentials (10%)
5. Availability issues (10%)                           
6. Environmental apathy (6%)   
7. Brand loyalty (3%)
8. Miscellaneous reasons like climate change skepticism, or lack of product recognition (4%)

In their second study, researchers surveyed 581 participants about their green purchasing attitudes. They divided the participants into four groups based on their satisfaction with, and purchase intentions towards, green products: “red” (least green), “orange”, “yellow”, and “green” (most green). The complete results of the study are shown in the graph below, but, in short, they reaffirm that price and, notably, consumer expertise are key impediments to green purchasing intentions.   

The third study explored the most effective ways of educating consumers about green products, thereby overcoming the ‘lack of product expertise’ barrier to purchasing. This study divided 201 participants into seven groups, each of which gave its members information about a “green” bottle of shower cleaner in a different way. Researchers were interested in altering the number and form of informational cues. They found that detailed verbal cues, as opposed to numerical cues, as well as a greater number of cues, have the greatest positive impact on purchasing intentions. This suggests that retailers should make many detailed points when educating customers about their green products, but avoid numbers. If they do use numbers, retailers should only make a few key points, so as to avoid quantitative overload. 

Barriers for different segments: The below chart shows the greatest barriers to green consumption for each group. “Comply SN” refers to willingness to comply with social norms, whereas “Social Norm” refers to perceptions of social norms, and “Pers Norm” refers to personal norms. “Ad Trust” refers to the trust consumers place in advertisements of the product, and “Org Trust” refers to the trust placed in the organization. “PCE” is perceived consumer effectiveness, referring to how much the consumer feels their purchase actually helps the environment. “Inertia” refers to entrenched consumer habits.   

 Most Effective Ways of Educating Consumers: The below chart shows which ways of conveying information are more, and less, effective at increasing purchasing intentions.


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