What's Really Going On at the Store: Inside the Mind of Today's Consumer

Cross posted from Sustainable Marketing Blog

Hardly a day goes by without another consumer research study coming out pronouncing record growth in green markets. You could spend all day just reading press releases touting new consumer insights. It is important to distinguish between surveys that are done more to influence public opinion than to report on public opinion. In the market research field, studies that are commissioned for marketing purposes are sometimes called For Public Release, in that the purpose of the research is to promote something newsworthy about the sponsor’s product or policy. Just because the research is sponsored, however, does not automatically mean it is biased.

There are a number of leading research and consulting firms that do research that is free of any potential sponsor bias. Although you may have to pay a hefty fee to purchase a syndicated report, or be a client to access the full range of insights that the firm may have, there is a wealth of top-notch research available for free.

Natural Marketing Institute, Hartmann Group , EarthSense, Boston Consulting Group, and Deloitte (sponsored by the Grocery Manufacturers Association) have all released detailed studies recently. Deloitte has found that green shoppers in the grocery store are diverse demographically who buy more products on each trip, visit the store more regularly, and demonstrate more brand and retailer loyalty in their purchasing behavior. And, ka-ching! They are less price sensitive than the average shopper and they are generally not bargain hunters.

People are still on a learning curve that can be bewildering. Even after all these years, the paper vs . plastic (grocery bags) or the cloth vs. disposable (diaper) debates are not resolved or well-understood. Though widely used in business circles, the term “sustainability”is little used in consumer circles. Hartman found that only 54% of consumers claim any familiarity at all with the term “sustainability” - and most of these consumers could not define it appropriately upon probing. Ecolabeling.org has identified 272 different eco-labels - no wonder we are confused! It is highly unlikely there will be any consolidation of eco-labels (USDA Organic and EPA Energy Star are notable exceptions) , although the rise of rating sites like goodguide.com and EWG Sunscreen guide that provide Consumer Reports-type ratings can help consumers navigate this bewildering maze.

It is important to remember that interest in, and purchases of, green products has held up rather well through the greatest recession since the Depression. Look for an increase in demand and desire as the economy recovers and people feel safer about spending. The next 3 years will see an explosion of high-mileage cars and stimulus-fueled improvements in everything from refrigerators to smart-grid electric meters. Even though today’s hype may exceed the actual reality, in a few years we may look back and see the recession was the tipping point for widespread consumer adoption of environmentally-preferable products!


Very interesting stuff...

Let's hope that your right when you say we will look back and see that this recession was a tipping point.

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It's a truism that hype always outstrips reality in the early days. It would seem that the bigger the gap, the harder it is to eventually close. This reminds me of research I read years ago about reputations of universities - that they lag five years behind reality. A particular programs may be great, but it takes years of being great before the world notices. And it takes years of sliding into the abyss of mediocrity before the world notices that too. :)

Good stuff. Thanks for joining us. If you'd like to write more about this area, I'd welcome that and would be happy to make your posts a regular feature ... especially if you have ways of bringing the content home with some North Carolina angles from time to time.

regular blog submissions

James, I have a regular schedule of content coming out over the next 8 weeks and plan on having more after that. When I have stuff, I will post it here and let you know. I am active in Sustainable North carolina, which focuses these issues at the state level. I will work on local angles whenever possible. Thanks.

Jim Jubelirer - Sustainable Futures.


I've bookmarked Sustainable Marketing ... have been a big fan of triple bottom line ever since I first heard the concept when I was consulting with the business school at UNC.