Eco-friendly products boost customer satisfaction

Sustainable headphones (vs conventional ones) made people enjoy the same songs 12% more. Eco-friendly dishwasher soap made washing dishes 23% more “enjoyable”.

If you’re reading this on a post-2018 Macbook Air or Mac Mini, did you know that your device is made with 100% recycled aluminum? You’ll enjoy reading this more.

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Customers enjoy the experience more if your products are sustainable

Impacted metrics: Customer satisfaction | Customer acquisition | Customer spending
Channels: Customer experience | Product

Recommendation

Make your product eco-friendly (e.g. use recycled materials), or use sustainable products as part of your service (e.g. recyclable 3D cinema glasses, eco-friendly ecommerce delivery, zero-emissions web hosting). Your customers will enjoy the overall experience more.

Let customers try your sustainable product before they buy it. They’ll be more likely to buy it and pay more than a conventional product (doesn’t work unless they try it).

Clearly communicate how and why your product is sustainable.

Got friends that think sustainable products are bad for business?
Send them this, we’ll all be better off.

Effects

  • When we’re aware that the product we’re consuming is sustainable, we enjoy it and its associated experiences more. It doesn’t matter whether we chose the product because it’s sustainable or it just happens to be so.

  • For example, people enjoyed the same songs 12% more - using the same Sony headphones - when they were told their headphones were made with recycled materials. Eco-friendly detergent made washing dishes 23% more pleasurable, and a sustainable pen made writing 28% more enjoyable.

  • If we try a sustainable product before buying it, we are more likely to buy it and pay more compared to the same conventional product. The effect doesn’t hold if we merely observe it without trying it, and negative prejudices about the performance of eco-friendly products may have the opposite effect.

  • The positive effect is stronger when someone is feeling low social worth (i.e. not feeling valued or appreciated by others).

  • We need to perceive the product as truly eco-friendly for the effect to take place (e.g. it won’t work if only 5% of it is sustainable or it’s not communicated well).

Why it works

  • When we use an eco-friendly product we feel that we’ve taken a prosocial behavior. That makes us feel more valued by society, which gives us a ‘warm glow’ feeling. That positive feeling extends to how we judge the whole experience.

  • We are not very aware of this effect. We don’t expect to enjoy the experience more, but we do when we actually use the product. That’s why we’re more likely to buy the sustainable product (vs the conventional one) only if we try it first.

Limitations

  • The study focused on eco-friendly products. Similar effects likely apply to ethical products (e.g. fair trade) but this was not tested.

Fun fact: If this is not enough to convince you that sustainability is good, a new study found that people who choose sustainable products are more attractive.

Companies using this

  • The vast majority of companies don’t seem to (consciously) take advantage of this effect.

  • Sometimes companies offer eco-friendly products but miss the opportunity to remind customers during product consumption (e.g. Apple Macbook Air laptops are made of 100% recycled aluminum, but it’s easy to forget that) or make it an easy choice (e.g. Amazon gives the option to request non-plastic packaging, but it’s hard to know about it).

Steps to implement

  • There are vast opportunities to improve your customer experience with this effect. If you’re a SaaS, host your platform on a zero-emissions cloud provider. If you’re a restaurant, offer bamboo instead of plastic chopsticks. 

  • Remind customers they are using an eco-friendly product while they use it (e.g. show a green plant symbol in the corner of your site).

  • If you are worried that customers will be less likely to buy your product because it’s eco-friendly (and they can’t try it before buying it), you can avoid communicating your product’s sustainable attributes until after a customer has bought it (e.g. don’t communicate it on the outer packaging).

We’re running out of time to break the misconception that sustainable products are bad for business. Send this to your friends in marketing, product, and design.

Study type

Lab experiments, Canada

Source

Tezer, A., & Bodur, H. O. (September 2019). The Greenconsumption Effect: How Using Green Products Improves Consumption Experience. Journal of Consumer Research, 47(1), 25-39.

[Link to paper]

Affiliations

HEC Montréal and John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Canada

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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