I’ll be spending the next two days behind the glass at focus groups we’re doing in advance of our annual Eco Pulse study. Here are a few things we hope to learn, as well as some insights/questions gleaned from last week’s International Home and Housewares Show and our recent Utility Pulse:
- Interestingly, a higher than expected (and higher than feasible, honestly,) number of lower income Americans reported in our Utility Pulse study that they’re undertaking more expensive, “unnecessary” green behaviors, like purchasing solar generation, participating in a utility’s green power program and recycling harder to recycle items. We expect to see lower income groups doing things like turning off lights and turning down their thermostat — there’s an immediate cost benefit and there’s no investment necessary. So the idea that these folks would spend the money for solar or to participate in a utility’s green power program just doesn’t add up. It’s likely social desirability and peer pressure at play, but we’ll do more digging and get to the bottom of it.
- We also see in our studies — Eco Pulse, Energy Pulse and Utility Pulse — that minority groups consistently express a higher likelihood to buy green products and participate in green activities. especially Hispanics. Last week at Housewares, I asked a panel of retailers who all own stores primarily carrying green products if this was bearing out in their customer bases — are they seeing lots of people of color walk through their doors? In short, no. So, again, are we seeing desire but no action? And what’s in the way of action? Often it’s fear — fear of buying something that says it’s green that turns out not to really be green, or fear of buying something they hope will save them money that doesn’t. One thought posed by the panel back to me: how many green retailing web sites offer a Spanish language option? That could be a huge barrier to purchase for a population for whom English is a second language.
- Something we’ve seen pop up in our studies and studies for clients is the idea that green, for mainstream Americans, is the cherry on top — the tie breaker in mature product categories. A panel of green product manufacturers (two of whom also produce traditional products), confirmed this: they’re seeing that first a product must meet the customer’s need (it does what it’s supposed to), it then must be designed in an appealing way (it looks cool so people will want to buy it), and then customers will look to see if it’s green and perhaps choose product A over product B based on that if the first two criteria are equal. We’re going to explore this more in our focus groups over the next couple of days and see if this bears out across several product categories or if the priority and drivers are different by category. In other words, are there different priorities and drivers for purchasing organic food vs. all natural cleaning products?