NEWS31 July 2014

Price outweighs ethics in purchase decisions

News North America UK

UK/US — While 80% of consumers believe companies should behave ethically, price, value and quality are most important factors in purchase decision, says new research.

The ethical behaviour of companies and brands is deemed relevant to consumers in the UK and US: when asked in isolation, four out of five regard it as important, according to research from online sourcing and optimisation specialists, Trade Extensions.

But when ranked alongside other factors, such as price, value for money and quality in terms of its importance when making a purchase decision, ethics becomes less important. The most important factor is seen to be price – 40% of consumers ranked this number one.  Second most important is value for money – 30% ranked this number one. 16% of consumers ranked quality as the most important factor. Choosing an ethical company or brand when shopping is the most important factor and ranked number one for just 2% of UK and US consumers. 

The opinions of US and UK consumers were broadly similar, but with some differences.  Nearly twice as many US consumers – 14% versus 8% in the UK – say they will never buy a product or service from a company with a poor record on ethics or sustainability.  UK men were 40% more likely ‘not to care about ethics and sustainability’ than US men. Of the 5% of UK consumers who ‘do not care’ about ethics and sustainability, 81% were men. 

“It’s critical to understand the differences between what people think – their attitudes – and what they actually do  -  their behaviour,” said behaviour change and research expert, Dr Liz Nelson. “The fact they say they care about ethics and sustainability is important and it might make a difference given two otherwise equal choices. But this research shows that only a small number will actively go out of their way to act on those feelings.

“So the challenge for those trying to change behaviour towards ethical purchasing is to find what can prompt a behaviour change.  To do this, businesses have to understand the emotional components of behaviour, and that demands they develop a greater understanding of their consumers’ attitudes.” 

The research was conducted by Fly Research during May 2014, using a nationally representative survey sample of 1,010 UK consumers and 1,000 US consumers. Further findings can be found here.