Enhancing the Consumer Experience with the Power of Green Consumption
Consumer experience and green consumption are not typical topics that are discussed together. Most research on green consumption to date has focused on the intention-behavior gap. Therefore, significant efforts by psychologists, marketers, and consumer insights professionals has been spent to understand the drivers of green product purchases to include: the role of environmental values, price sensitivity, accessibility, generational differences, and more.
But what were the effects on consumers during and post purchase? How can you keep these consumers loyal? How could you attract more consumers to this “type” of consumption?
Green consumption is related to the notions of sustainable development or sustainable consumer behavior. By now, most if not all consumers have used, bought, or are well aware of this growing trend. In the 1980s, the first “green” products began to appear in America, experiencing slow growth in the 1990s, and having really taken off in the last decade.
However, an understanding of how green products influenced consumer behavior remained very limited. Then in 2019 marketing science researchers, Ali Tezer and Onur Bodurm, posed a central question.
How does using a green product influence the consumer experience?
More specifically, their aim was to understand the level of enjoyment of the accompanying green consumption experience compared to conventional product usage.
To explore that question, they relied on the literature and economic theory of warm-glow.
Warm glow is actually an economic theory describing the emotional reward of giving to others. Research on warm glow was initially conducted to challenge the wide held belief that pure altruism is the prime mechanism driving good deeds.
Earlier research from two decades ago showed that humans typically feel warm glow when performing a pro-social behavior such as donating to a charity they believe in (Andreoni, 1990), or spending money on others (Dunn, 2008).
More recent research has shown that pro-environmental behavior leads to warm glow feelings (Steg, 2015). Additionally, customers who participate in a green initiative such as purchasing a reusable product end up feeling warm glow and interestingly enough report a higher level of satisfaction with the service they are being provided with.
Most previous research on warm glow engaged with people who deliberately made pro-social behavior such as consuming green products and donating to charity. In one recent study (Tezer and Bodur, 2019) it was predicted that using a green product will elicit warm glow feelings even when consumers do not deliberately choose to use or purchase the product.
They argued that green products possess inherent pro-social attributes and therefore merely using a green product without the deliberate intention to do so will evoke the warm glow feeling with the implicit implication of doing a good deed.
To prove their hypothesis, the researchers designed an experiment using green versus non-green products. They predicted that when a green product (e.g. headphones) has an accompanying consumption experience (e.g. listening to music), the warm glow feelings that arise due to using the green versus the conventional product will enhance the accompanying experience, referred to as the green consumption effect.
Merely using a green product makes consumers perceive an increase in the extent to which they are valued as individuals by society, which leads to warm glow feelings, and consequently enhances the enjoyment of the accompanying consumption experience.
They designed five experiments in actual settings testing various variables including green versus conventional products, the robustness of the green consumption effect, the process and drivers of warm glow, the impact of moderation, and the effects of lowering the perception of the product being green. It was a very robust experimental design to understand this “cause and effect”.
Across five experiments the researchers demonstrated that using green products enhances the enjoyment of the accompanying consumption experiences compared to using conventional products. In fact, consumers perceive an increase in their social worth when using green products and feel warm glow which then enhances the enjoyment of the accompanying consumption experience.
The findings of these experiments, the green consumption effect, has substantial ramifications for consumer insights. There are proven positive effects on consumers from using sustainable, environmentally friendly products.
There are opportunities for brands to edit their messaging, research new product ideas, or update current products to meet this ever faster growing consumer trend. A stronger relationship with your customers increases retention and overall brand health. Not things to take lightly, especially in an economic environment that is so fragile.