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Attributes Impacting Consumer’s Purchasing Behavior

We now focus on the accompanying attributes (factors) that consumers would consider in their decisions when purchasing a sustainable product, a product that has been manufactured or rendered with TBL considerations; responsibly sourced-made-delivered, environmentally friendly, and socially beneficial. To narrow down the number of articles, additional keywords/phrases were used, including demand and sustainability, consumer green demands, circular economy, fair trade products, green and organic products, and eco-labeling/designs.

After successive searches, 80 scholarly papers that met the criteria were extracted. The content of these articles was analyzed and evaluated to gain understanding of the accompanying decision factors consumers use when purchasing sustainable products. These selected papers were subjected to critical appraisal and evaluation. Each article was reviewed to determine its fit within one of the five categories (purchase price, derived utility, product quality, product support services, and returns policy) and relevance to product sustainability. Table 7.1 lists 20 of these papers chosen as the most supportive examples for our discussions in this review.

Consumer behavior, an interdisciplinary branch of the field of marketing, emerged in the mid-20th century and keeps evolving with the changing dynamics of consumers, and the products. The study of consumer behavior focuses on the consumer’s emotional, mental, and physical responses for pre-, during, or post-purchase, use, disposal, or return of the product. Each buying factor category (price, utility, quality, services, and return) is presented along with a detailed description of its relevance to the research question.

Purchase Price

Purchase price is perhaps the most influential decision attribute for the majority of consumers. However, there is a “value-action” gap (Young et al. 2010) when it comes to purchasing green products: many consumers are very concerned about environmental issues, but they are reluctant to purchase greener products. While many underlying factors influence the price of a product, many of the selected articles that were reviewed, justifiably, focused on consumers’ willingness to pay in relation to

Sample Articles Categorized by Buying Factors

TABLE 7.1

Publication

P

U

Q

s

R

Notes

Enger and Lavik (1995)

/

Studies consumers’ attitudes toward eco-labeling in Norway and their perception of quality goods.

Florida (1996)

/

/

Studies the creative responses that manufacturers have come up with to improve product utility and at the same time reduce production costs.

Schlegelmilch et al. (1996)

/

Studies the link between green purchasing decisions and the measures of environmental consciousness.

Emmons and Gilberts (1998)

/

/

Examines the effects of return policies on the entire supply chains profits.

Thpgersen (2000)

/

Studies the importance of labeling and its impact on quality and consumers’ decision.

Jarvenpaa and Staples (2000)

/

Talks about the issue of the media as a means of information sharing to consumers.

Roe et al. (2001)

/

Analyzes green electricity in the US and suggests that a wide array of product features cause price premiums.

Tibben-Lemke

(2002)

/

/

Studies consumer’s return policies and the effect on the quality of the products in question.

Evanschitzky et al. (2004)

/

/

Studies consumer’s price knowledge in the German market and the benefits of discounts and promotions.

Yao et al. (2005)

/

/

Studies the effect of return policies on manufacturers and retailers’ upstream dynamics.

Choi and Parasa (2006)

/

Demonstrated that many customers are still unwilling to pay premiums for green products, a sign that consumer sensitivity should be considered.

Dornfeld and Wright (2007)

/

Highlights companies that followed the concept of “green business” and policies they put forward regarding the concept.

Al-Salem et al. (2009)

/

Studies the recycling and recovery routes for plastic solid waste as a sendee to the community and environment.

Owusu (2013)

/

Takes quality as a different concept when it comes to tangible products versus the quality of services.

Young et al. (2010)

/

/

Emphasizes the value of product information and green labeling in purchase decisions, and impact of purchasing decisions on sustainable consumption patterns.

Bartels and Onwezen (2014)

/

Examines consumers’ willingness to pay for food products claiming ethicality and greenness.

Scholz et al. (2015)

/

Elaborates on different estimation methods used to estimate the utility of a product with some proving superior and others having shortcomings.

Ulkii and Hsuan (2017)

/

/

/

Highlights the competitive pricing of modular products for green consumers as the concern for sustainable development is peaking.

TABLE 7.1 (Continued)

Sample Articles Categorized by Buying Factors

Publication

P

U

Q

s

R

Notes

Ulkti and Giirler (2018)

/

/

/

Studies the impact of consumer behavior of deliberately taking advantage of return policies on stock management

Bhavsar et al. (2020)

/

/

/

Investigates how fair-trade products can be better integrated to retail stocks for catering green consumers and sustainment and well-being of suppliers in developing countries.

P. purchase price; U, derived utility; Q, product quality; S. support sendees; R, return policy.

the purchase price (e.g., Choi and Parasa 2006; Ulkii and Giirler 2018). For example, Bartels and Onwezen (2014) noted consumers’ growing awareness of ethical concerns related to the environment and society. They conducted a study on consumers’ willingness to buy food products that make environmental and ethical claims. Participants provided demographic information (mainly education and income levels) and completed the online questionnaire. Their results demonstrated that consumers who fully supported sustainable agriculture and had the financial means were more willing to buy environmentally friendly and ethical products. In another study on sustainability and pricing, Ulkii and Hsuan (2017) highlighted consumers’ escalating concerns for unsustainable product development and the need for competitive pricing on modular products for green consumers. Similarly, Chen and Liu (2014) studied the theoretical and empirical analysis of pricing and design decisions for green products in a market that contains nonenvironmentally conscious products (brown products), they concluded that both environmentally conscious (green) and nonenvironmentally conscious (brown) consumers, under price leadership, play a role in product quality and pricing. Using a quality-based approach, Owusu (2013) also studied consumers’ perception of quality in relation to price while Chang and Wildt (1994) suggested that product features and price are major decision variables influencing purchase behaviors. In fact, Smith and Nagle (2002) concluded that consumers are willing to pay if they receive value or benefit from using a green product versus a cheaper competitive substitute. Erickson and Johansson (1985), however, stated that the price of a product is viewed as a constraint as it results in a reduction of consumer wealth despite its signaling of the product quality.

According to Poelman et al. (2008), credence attributes are usually close to impossible to identify, and if identified on a product, their measurement has a very high cost, as it frequently requires previous analysis or appraisals. For example, “fair trade” and “organic” are recognized credence attributes that are also associated with high price premiums. An analysis of green electricity in the United States (Roe et al. 2001) suggested that a wide array of product features were the main causes of price premiums. The premium price structure, however, can be explained by the use of newly invented renewable energy generators to supply power as well as by other credence attributes via required certifications, licensing, and brand name registration. Unfortunately, as evidenced by other research findings, some corporations charge excessive prices for green products in an unjustified and nontransparent way, which discourages consumers from becoming involved in buying green products and in sustainable consumption (Koufmann et al. 2012). According to Choi and Parsa (2006), many customers are hesitant to pay premiums for environmental-friendliness, a sign that perhaps the pricing of these products is not sensitive to consumers’ expectations and ability to pay additional costs for green initiatives.

Borden and Francis (1978) noted that people are more likely to act ecologically when they have the resources (time, money, and energy) to deal with social and proenvironmental issues and can pay the price premiums that come with sustainable goods. While Degeratu et al. (2000) found that consumer price sensitivity was linked to household income, Tsen et al. (2006) showed that there is a positive relationship between consumer’s willingness to pay for environmentally friendly products and their attitudes, behaviors, and values. Customer value-based pricing has been linked to perceived customer value of the product as the final price determinant (Hinterhurber and Liozu 2012). However, Kang et al. (2012) disagreed, noting that the relationship between consumers’ perceptions of corporate social responsibility and their purchasing behaviors is not fully known, because consumers do not have the necessary information to compare ethical practices to products. Roe et al. (2001) concluded that the success of green products is determined by how they perform during market upheavals. If green offerings could survive when household electricity bills were spiraling upw'ard and consumers were seeking cheaper alternatives, then consumer-driven purchases are inevitable.

Another factor that impacts the (strategic) consumers’ purchasing decisions is temporary price reductions through seasonal promotions and discounts. Consumers consider their budget in buying and want to maximize the value they get from their purchases. It is very likely that w'hat the consumer “wants” to buy (e.g., a sustainable product) wdll be different than what “can be afforded,” for example, nonorganic food at a cheaper price (Evanschitzky et al. 2004). In such cases, a discount on the organic food may be regarded a service to not only consumers but to the environment as well. According to Aschemann and Zielke (2017), many European countries have set a goal to increase organic farming w'hich in turn should increase consumer demand for organic food consumption. This is possible because the higher the supply, the lower the price, and thereby, the higher the demand, building toward a market equilibrium. Aydinliyim and Pangburn (2012) demonstrated that leveraging discounts and reducing packaging, as important steps in reducing the product’s carbon footprint, may drive both demand and profit. Tseng (2016) also studied the effect of price discounts on green consumerism, by giving the example of reducing disposable cup use at coffee shops, stating that

The major difference in buying take-out beverages from a green setting and a general

setting is based on whether consumers are willing to make the additional efforts to

bring their own cups, which is considered a perceived non-monetary sacrifice.

Perceived sacrifice, derived from the consumers’ perception of both monetary and nonmonetary sacrifice, is w'hat must be given up or paid to exhibit a certain behavior.

As discount-pricing may influence consumers toward sustainable consumption, it was included as a potential purchasing attribute in our analysis.

 
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