Background: Creating transparency for consumers

Not all product features which are relevant to the consumer are easily identifiable

  • If information about relevant product features is missing, consumers often attempt to estimate it using other product features. For example, price and brand are often used as indicators of the quality of a product. This heuristic rule leads to good decisions if there is a strong relationship between price and brand on the one hand and quality on the other. If there is no such relationship, then the availability of other product information, such as the lifespan for example, is particularly important.
  • Qualitative research methods such as interviews, observations and focus groups help us to understand what product features are really relevant for consumers, whether this information is easily available, and how information should be organised from the consumers’ point of view.

Transparency makes informed consumer decisions possible

  • A prerequisite is that the relevant information is reliable, readily accessible, clear and easy to compare.
  • Note: more information doesn’t always mean more transparency. For example, a very detailed list of product features can make it more difficult to find the relevant information. As a result, an informed decision is made more difficult rather than supported.
  • Practical and understanding tests help to find the appropriate amount of information and a suitable presentation format, as well as to test and evaluate the effect.

Product labels are often used when transparency should be created, but they do not always fulfil their purpose to the same extent

  • In order to classify a new product label, consumers fall back on their knowledge of the product labels they know. This helps them to understand and use the information on the new label.
  • When developing new product labels, it can therefore be sensible to look to the design of established labels and thus promote quick and correct classification of the new information. At the same time, care must be taken to ensure that similarity to established information formats is not confusing.
  • Practical and understanding tests help to test and evaluate the effect of a specific label in advance.

Taking socially desirable response behaviour into account

  • Depending on the topic, people tend to give socially desirable answers to surveys. The responses reflect subjectively perceived social expectations, but do not necessarily reflect the actual behaviour of the respondents.
  • Particularly when it comes to social objectives like sustainable consumption, people have a strong tendency towards socially desirable responses. Surveys, even anonymous and/or representative surveys, in this area should be interpreted with particular care.
  • Field tests and tests under the most realistic conditions possible help to address the problem of socially desirable response behaviour.

These principles were applied in the lifespan labels on electrical products project.