Marketers have discovered the advantages of positioning their products as "green," and a new study released by Information Resources, Inc. does in fact show distinct variations in buying behaviors even among those consumers who claim to be concerned with the environment.
But the analysis of numerous "green" product purchases across a variety of categories revealed significant disparity in how well environmentally conscious consumers actually follow their convictions by purchasing environmentally friendly products, the researchers said.
By analyzing survey responses, TNS segmented consumers into eight distinct attitudinal segments based upon environmental concerns. By applying the TNS Shades of Green segmentation to its U.S. Consumer Network purchase panel, IRI was able to link the attitudes that individuals have toward the environment with their actual CPG shopping and purchasing behavior to determine whether "concerned" individuals actually follow through by purchasing environmentally sound products.
"This analysis proves not only the efficacy of the Shades of Green segments in defining consumers to target, but also the undeniable importance of green positioning to manufacturers and retailers," said IRI President of Consumer and Shopper Insights Robert I. Tomei. "Eighty-two percent of the population claims to make going green a priority, but as this data proves, the behaviors of those consumers vary drastically. While certain green conscious consumers do make a concerted effort to buy green products, there are certain segments of the population that are environmentally sensitive but that does not necessarily translate into their actual behavior. This inconsistency is the real challenge for marketers and retailers in order for them to fully understand the nuances of green consumers and how to market to them effectively."
The analysis reveals that despite containing individuals who claim eco-friendly beliefs, two key environmental attitudinal consumer segments -- the "Eco-Centrics" and the "Eco-Chic" -- show extremely different behavioral patterns related to green product purchases.
While Eco-Centric consumers have shown a willingness to change their buying behavior and a commitment to use of environmentally-friendly products, the Eco-Chic segment, comprised of younger, more trend-influenced consumers, appears more interested in riding the wave of environmental consciousness by claiming to embrace environmental concerns, but not following through with their dollars.
Eco-Chic consumers did show a willingness to try some green products at a comparable rate to the Eco-Centrics, but unlike the Eco-Centrics, the Eco-Chic consumers ultimately returned to their favorite non-green brands.
For example, the Eco-Chic group was quick to purchase products from a recently launched eco-friendly household cleaning line, but their repeat rates for the same products were well below the general population average.
In addition, when asked to choose between taste and perceived quality versus environmental friendliness, they ultimately chose the former as seen by lower than average purchasing of eco-friendly food and beauty items in categories, such as cereal, milk, oral care, and skin care.
In contrast, the Eco-Centric segment, comprised of high-income, educated urbanites actively doing their part to protect and improve the environment, truly appears to follow through on their environmental beliefs with purchases of eco-friendly products. In 15 of 16 eco-friendly product groups analyzed, the Eco-Centrics tried products at a rate above the general population.
Their willingness to try eco-friendly products spans from their food and beverage purchases, including cereal, yogurt, and milk, to their personal care and cleaning product purchases, including oral care, skin care, and laundry detergent. Perhaps more importantly, they continued to purchase these eco-friendly products -- with especially high repeat indices for light bulbs and dish detergent -- illustrating their long-term environmental commitment.
In terms of retail shopping, the Eco-Centrics were more likely than average to shop in Trader Joe's and the club store outlet, the latter possibly an attempt to save gas by combining needs into a larger stock-up trip. They also shop pet specialty outlets, extending their eco-consciousness to their pets though purchases of eco-friendly pet food and pet care items, such as dog and cat food.
Eco-Centric and Eco-Chic consumers also differ outside of product purchasing, with a significant disparity in these Shades of Green segments' health attitudes revealed by their responses to the IRI MedProfiler Health and Wellness Survey.
Unlike the Eco-Chic segment, the Eco-Centrics read nutrition labels, are concerned with ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and trans-fatty acids, and avoid refined and processed foods. They practice healthy habits, such as eating organic foods, whole grains, omega-3 and antioxidant rich foods, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. This segment is also more likely to be on a vegetarian, gluten-free, high- fiber, low fat, low salt, or low-sugar diet.
On the other hand, Eco-Chic consumers are much less concerned about their health across the board. Although they are less likely to practice any kind of diet, read nutritional labels, or engage in healthy habits, they generally feel they are doing enough to stay healthy. They also indulge in fast food more than the general population.