Posts Tagged ‘bedroom suits’

UPDATE: Researchers say Consumers don’t know what ‘green’ means

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

New findings presented at AHFA’s Sustainability Summit
Heath E. Combs — Furniture Today,

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Green and sustainable product still faces an uphill battle when it comes to reaching a wide audience of consumers, according to new market research.

In fact, they’re still pretty confused about what exactly “green” means and aren’t dying to rush out and be green, said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group, a specialist in researching environmental issues.

Shelton presented some of her recent findings at the American Home Furnishings Alliance’s second annual Sustainability Summit, held recently at the Proximity Hotel here.

The AHFA commissioned the research to measure the importance of environmental attributes in home furnishings purchases. Shelton also reported on related research her firm has done.

She said the AHFA study sought to learn what mainstream consumers care about and respond to in green purchases. The findings are aimed at aiding green marketing messages.

Shelton said that green is a mainstream concept and there is a broad desire – by 60% of the population – for greener product. However, consumers still know very little about what green claims mean and what to believe, she added.

The average consumer knows only enough about green to get through a cocktail party conversation, Shelton said.

“They can cough up a few things just enough to make you think, ‘Oh they know what they’re talking about.’ Yeah, not so much.”

She said that when mainstream consumers were asked to name a feature of a green home, only 53% could. That low percentage was surprising considering that low-wattage light bulbs, flooring from sustainable woods, and solar panels are mainstream examples of green features, she said.

“We’ve thrown a lot out at them today, particularly as it relates to certifications. There’s a whole alphabet soup of stuff out that that means absolutely nothing to consumers. So know that and know that it’s your job to educate them,” said Shelton.

Of the plethora of certifications, she added, the only one with high brand recognition is Energy Star, recognized by 75% of consumers.

For furniture items, 24% of consumers recognize Rainforest Alliance labels, followed by Sustainable Forestry Initiative and GreenGuard certifications, Shelton said. But 60% didn’t know any of the labels shown to them.

“Labels are important. Certifications are important. But we’ve got to have one right at the top again that is supported by a lot of marketing dollars,” Shelton said.

For the majority of consumers, companies that recycle get nearly the same credit for being eco-friendly as if they use renewable energy, produce zero waste and make green products, Shelton said. Consumers understand throwing bottles and newspapers in recycling bins because they’ve probably done it themselves.

“For the vast majority of consumers green equals recycled,” Shelton said.

There are also widespread misperceptions about product claims, she said, citing the terms “natural” and “organic.” Consumers would rather see a product that is “natural” rather than “organic,” but they don’t really the difference between the two, the survey found. Lower middle class income earners believe organic is a fancy marketing term that allows companies to charge more money

“What we hear over and over in focus groups is two things: One, a giant misperception that ‘natural’ is actually the regulated term, and ‘organic’ is not regulated. Which is exactly the opposite of how it is,” Shelton said.

She said companies hoping to market green claims need to understand their audience, and must realize that it will take significant marketing dollars to inform their consumers.

Green features, however, can serve as a tiebreaker in mature industries, she said. For example, she said that in facial moisturizers, if consumers are faced with two equal brands at the same price, sustainability features would likely help influence a purchasing decision.

In sofas, fiber typically is one of the top categories that consumers consider in judging a product, she said. That is good news for organic fiber, which at higher price points – say $1,599 and up – would likely help sway a consumer, Shelton said.

“Green features from furniture are important. It’s not most important thing, but it’s important in a tiebreaker,” she said. “And it commands a higher price point. So that’s great news as a marketer. It’s mainstream and people will pay more money for it.”

Shelton said many consumers also are confused about what’s bad for them. Shelton said 67% of consumers said they were concerned about chemicals in skin care products, but when the identified what they were concerned about, 48% identified formaldehyde, 22% said phthalates, 11% said lanolin, 15% said paraffin and 13% said glycerin.

Also, she said, 97% of consumers didn’t know that the biggest cause of global warming is coal-fired power plants and that most believed cars and trucks were the biggest contributors.

While green is important to consumers, companies have to “connect the dots,” for them, Shelton said. A trick is finding what advertising consumers will respond to and understanding that they won’t respond to guilt.

“Some of this environmental advertising is so holier-than-thou and preachy and so specific on the negative and what’s bad…. Most consumers don’t respond to that,” she said. “They want to see something a little more positive, a little more light, something that doesn’t seem like the entire future of the free world depends on them.”

Some of the most effective green marketing messages appeal to what consumers aspire to, messages such as comfort, control and beauty.

She presented examples, including a billboard for insulation showing a house wrapped in a scarf, which appeals to the desire for comfort; rain barrels mixed with flowers as appealing to a desire not to be wasteful; and LED lighting that beautifies a dark room.

Consumers don’t want to be pushed as much as gently led to green purchases, she said.

A misconception is that consumers go green to save the planet or to save money. Consumers make rational decisions and companies selling green features must tap into the reasons why consumers want those products, she said.

Appealing to consumers’ humanity or sense of what’s best for the planet and themselves might not win sales because people do bad things to themselves and know they are bad, she said. So consumers might voice concern on many eco-fronts, but don’t necessarily reflect that attitude in their actions.

For example, Shelton said when consumers were asked to name an item they would give up if it was hurting the environment, 42% said an iPod, 38% the dishwasher, 28% the microwave, and just 7% their car. Consumers don’t want to sacrifice convenience or comfort, she said.

“This speaks to just how important comfort means to our life. ‘I’ll save the plant, as long as I don’t have to give up my stuff.’ That’s how it reads,” she said. “If we had to choose between our comfort, our convenience or the environment, we would pretty much throw polar bears under the bus.”

Shelton said there are also multiple audiences for green product, so targeting consumers with just one message won’t reach everyone. The two major groups of green consumers, she said, are “engaged” and “mainstream” greens.

Engaged greens see themselves as optimistic leaders, up-to-date on current events, extroverted and secure in their feelings, she said. The group is likely to be purchasing green products right now.

“They’re going to experience things. They just want to want to get in the middle of something, to try it,” Shelton said.

Mainstream green consumers are less likely to be extroverts, more likely to go along with the crowd, like what they use, are brand loyal, don’t necessarily follow current events and think about decisions for a while before making them.

“They’re going to wait and see what happens,” Shelton said.

Messages with themes like community, idealism and altruism appeal to engaged greens, she said, while mainstream greens are drawn to messages focusing on duty, piety, reliability, proven success and logic.

When consumers have made an effort to purchase green products, like Clorox GreenWorks, it’s because the product is a low-risk trial from a well known brand in the same aisle as other cleaning products. Shoppers don’t have to “schlep across the store to the special, you know, weirdo green section to buy it,” Shelton said.

When asked why companies “go green,” findings showed that consumers don’t really trust manufacturers’ motives. She reported that most consumers believe it’s an act, while other believe it’s to make money or because of government regulations.

However, she said that a third of customers trust manufacturers’ label claims on why their product is green.

“So, I’m going to read your label and hope you’re telling me the truth,” she said.

How to make 2010 a real ’10’

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Ray Allegrezza, Editor in Chief — Furniture Today

Happy New Year! If you’re like me, you are probably delighted that 2009 is behind us. As we head into 2010, I believe that we’ve found the bottom and are on our way to a slow, steady recovery.

Statistically, there appears to be evidence to support my observation. On the day before Christmas, the Commerce Department reported that orders for durable goods were up almost 3% in November.

That was followed by a report from the Labor Department indicating that the number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped during the week ending Dec. 19 to the lowest level since September of 2008. Based on that positive news, economists, including Goldman Sachs and Macroeconomic Advisers, each called for U.S. fourth-quarter 2009 growth of 4% or better.

Even so, we all know that much is riding on the consumer and as best as I can tell, she’s still skittish. But I can tell you that based on the results of a survey we recently conducted with HGTV, while the recession has caused her to rethink how and where she shops, she still wants a lovely home.

So, with that in mind, here are 10 tips to tune up your business in 2010.

Reach out to the consumer. She must believe that you have the solution to her decorating task. Whether it is an e-newsletter, postcards, or an invitation to an in-store event, make her feel that you can help her.

Invest in your employees. Turn your order-takers into selling consultants.

Exceed your customer’s needs. If you implement tips 1 and 2, this will be easy.

Invest in customer incentives. She’s got other places to shop. Make it worth her while to shop you.

Present a readily understandable value proposition. She wants beautiful furniture, but she’s also looking for value.

Be product experts, not product pushers.

Update your Web site. She’s shopping online, so you need to be where she is with a site she can’t resist.

Take a page from Burger King. Let her have it her way. In other words, accommodate her.

Know what your best customers like, then shop for them. Call her and tell her you ordered some accessory pieces that she’ll love.

Invest as much time evaluating your competition as you do your customer.

Here’s hoping you make 2010 a real “10”!

Broyhill Launches WOW Sales Strategy

Monday, January 4th, 2010

LENOIR, N.C. — Case goods and upholstery resource Broyhill is set to launch a sales strategy it calls “WOW,” which is aimed at improving relationships with retail customers through a variety of merchandising, promotion and pricing initiatives.

The WOW strategy eventually will be rolled out by all brands owned by Broyhill’s parent Furniture Brands International, according to company officials.

“Broyhill is the perfect place to launch this strategy at the brand level,” said Ralph Scozzafava, FBI’s chairman and CEO. “Broyhill’s customer base ranges from single location independent dealers to national accounts. The consultative, fact-based sales approach that is the foundation of the WOW strategy works with customers at every level, and we maximize the upside leverage of this proven sales strategy by starting with Broyhill.”

The strategy consists of three core elements, which the company describes as Win at the Store, Own the Customer, and Work Together.

Mark Stephens, formerly vice president of national accounts at Furniture Brands, will shift to Broyhill to lead the sales team there.

“Mark has been the point person for rolling out the WOW strategy to Furniture Brands’ five national account teams, and their early success has been impressive,” said Broyhill President Jeff Cook. “It just made great sense to leverage his knowledge and experience to lead the Broyhill sales team in implementing the WOW strategy.”

Stephens is replacing Don Webb, who is leaving Broyhill to return to the West Coast to pursue other business interests in the furniture industry.

In addition to Broyhill, FBI’s key brands include Lane, Drexel Heritage, Henredon, Maitland-Smith and Thomasville.