According to survey by technology and market research group Forrester Research, 12 percent of U.S, adults, or some 25 million Americans, are willing to pay extra for consumer electronics that use less energy or come from a company that is environmentally responsible. Forrester says these consumers, called “bright greens,” are the vanguard of an emerging consumer market segment that will be an attractive target for technology companies.
Not all is rosy in the land of green, however. An Energy Pulse study done the Shelton Group, a market research and advertising firm, shows that average response among consumers who think energy conservation is important in how it impacts their daily purchase choices and activities was down in 2007 by 5 percent (from 72.3 percent in 2006). Our purchases of green products also declined in 2007, as well as our intention to buy greener products or energy-efficient homes, according to the Energy Pulse survey.
As causes of this “green fatigue,” the Shelton Group cites “greenwashing,” or the marketing of companies jumping on the green bandwagon even when they or their products may not be so green, as well as the extra cost associated with greener or more energy efficient products.
In perspective, the 12 percent of early green adopters cited in the Forrester survey is still a small number compared with other market segments. Forrester identified three distinct segments of technology consumers in the United States. The 25 million bright greens who would pay more for environmentally responsible products make up 12 percent of the market. The 90 million “green consumers” who share concerns about environmental issues, but may not pay more for environmentally friendly products represent 41 percent of U.S. adults. And the largest segment is the 96 million “non-green consumers” who make up 47 percent of U.S. adults.
Clearly, the green movement has some educational outreach to do, especially in the field of consumer electronics. Still, the number of electronics buyers interested in the environment is a market waiting to be tapped. “We fully expect green technology consumers to further emerge as a target segment for style-conscious electronics manufacturers as the industry moves beyond beige-box design,” says Forrester Research senior vice president Christopher Mines.
Among the major PC brands, Forrester says Apple’s customer base is the greenest, with 17 percent of its customers in the bright green consumer category. HP’s Compaq brand ranks second, with 13 percent of its customers in the bright green category.
“Many of the major consumer electronic manufacturers, including Apple, Dell, HP, Sony, and Toshiba, have taken early steps to green their operations and products. But moving forward, marketers and designers of consumer technology products and services will change product marketing and product design to embrace green principles like energy efficiency, lower-impact manufacturing, longer product life cycles, and recycleability,” says Forrester.
Concludes Mines, “The green leadership position is open: Which manufacturer will create the iconic Prius product in consumer electronics?”
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates