Product transparency promotes sustainability

inRiver study: 71 percent of German consumers prefer sustainable products if retailers ensure complete transparency / 49 percent are willing to pay more for sustainable products

Munich, August 1, 2019inRiver, the leading provider of Product Information Management (PIM) services, surveyed 1,506 German consumers aged between 16 and 44 on the subject of “Sustainable Products”. 19 percent of Germans buy only sustainable products; 71 percent at least occasionally.

The study shows that retailers can use Product Information Management (PIM) to exert massive influence on their customers’ purchasing decisions and thus on the sale of sustainable products: 71 percent of respondents stated that detailed information about the sustainability of a product increases the likelihood that they will buy it. 58 percent rethink their purchasing behavior in favor of sustainable products when retailers provide complete transparency on a product’s “ecological footprint.

But that’s not all: 49 percent of consumers are even willing to pay more for a product if it is clearly labeled as being made from recycled materials or fully recycled. Transparency also has positive effects with regard to the issue of returns, which is annoying for many online retailers: 57 percent of respondents would return fewer articles if retailers provided more information about the “ecological footprint” of a return.

Online shops as the most important source of information

Most consumers inform themselves about the sustainability of a product on the websites or online shops of the suppliers (48 percent). For consumers, packaging material (42 percent) and labeling (36 percent) also play an important role in deciding whether a product can be classified as sustainable. On the other hand, information from advertising (18 percent) or from influencers (13 percent) is relatively unimportant to the respondents.

When it comes to the properties of a product from an ethical perspective, 75 percent of respondents consider the type of material more or less important. This is followed by shipping (70 percent) and the manufacturing process (59 percent). Consumers do not seem to care very much whether the product is vegan or not. Only 25 percent think this aspect is important or somehow important, whereas 47 percent think it is not important or not important at all.

Show stance

A stance on the topics of environmental protection and sustainability is in great demand today. 68 percent of respondents would turn their backs on a company if it became known that it uses questionable practices, such as the British fashion label Burberry, which destroys unsold goods worth millions every year in order not to jeopardize the “exclusivity” of its products through price discounts.

Retailers have the opportunity here to advocate more sustainability: If they ensure a high degree of transparency and provide their customers with comprehensive information, for example on where a product comes from or which materials it is made of, many customers tend to prefer sustainable products – and possibly pay more for them than for a “conventional” product.

“Our study shows that the topic of sustainability concerns many people in Germany,” says Steve Gershik, Chief Marketing Officer at inRiver. “The willingness to buy sustainable products, however, is strongly related to how much transparency retailers offer their customers on the subject of sustainability. If consumers receive the right information, this has many positive effects: They tend to opt for sustainable products, are willing to pay higher prices and send less back. The magic word is Product Information Management.”

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*Methodology
In order to understand the motivations and buying habits of consumers around sustainable products, inRiver commissioned a survey of a total of 1,506 online shoppers from Germany.