Putting the customer first
There’s disappointing news from the world of low emission vehicles (LEVs) – while sales of all cars were up 10% last year in the US, alternatively fuelled vehicles (incl hybrids) only rose 2.3%. In the UK, however, road fuel sales were down. This broadly suggests that people are simply driving less rather than investing a premium in a vehicle which would cost less to run overall. But it may also be fear of the new – will that electric car run out of charge half way down the M1?
The relationship between green products of any type and consumers has always been complicated – for example organic food dominates baby food sales but not ‘adult food’ – we’re happy to eat cheap crap ourselves but won’t feed it to our kids. There are many reasons for consumers being lukewarm on green products:
- Habit/comfort zone
- Costs – perceived or otherwise
- Perceived low quality
- Lack of understanding/fear that a new system will be complicated
I’ve argued for a long time that it is retail which is acting as a gatekeeper for fast moving consumer goods. Their huge buying power can both drive innovation, ensure quality and keep costs reasonable. The consumer can then trust the retailer to get it right on their behalf.
But what for other sectors? The golden rule is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you are aiming for a green niche then you can compromise on performance or price for a very green product. However if you want to go mainstream, you must compete on performance, price and planet.
Of course the ultimate goal is a green product that people deeply desire. MP3s and e-Books aren’t marketed as green, but they are – and they sell in their millions. It may be that the auto industry needs to go through another couple of iterations before they hit that level of customer pull for LEVs – after all one technology has dominated the industry for 120 years and that it take some shifting.