Shelton Group’s Research: The Green Tipping Point is Here

According to Shelton Group, “a tipping point in American consumer interest in green products has occurred with 70% of consumers in our surveys saying they are searching for green products where green is defined as more energy efficient, natural, sustainable, etc.” Specifically, a few of Shelton Group’s market research findings in support of this green tipping point are:

Recycling: Growing in popularity with 64% of Americans saying they regularly recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles  and newspapers

Energy Efficient Lighting: 55% said they’ve replaced most of their incandescent light bulbs with compact  fluorescent or LED bulbs

Energy Efficient Appliances:54% said they’ve purchased an Energy Star qualified appliance

I interviewed Lee Ann Head, VP of research for Shelton Group on the green tipping point and its implications for targeted green sales messaging:

TriplePundit Why are such a huge percentage of American consumers going green?

Lee Ann Head: Consumers now view going green as a pragmatic answer to their needs. They see it as a path for them to save money. They see it as a path for them to enhance their personal health. They see it as something important to their family’s health and wellbeing.

3p: Implied in that answer is that they are not going green to stop global warming.

LAH: For a majority of consumers, absolutely correct. In fact, many consumers who do not believe that mankind is contributing to global warming are still going green. For many consumers going green has evolved from a focus upon what’s best for the planet to a search for solutions that work for “me.”

3p: How has the economy’s recession and now slow growth impacted this shift?

LAH: A key insight of our research is that fewer people are now saying they do NOT buy green products. Since 2009 we have seen this segment of consumers drop to where today they represent only about 13% of consumers. This is an indication that going green has shifted into being part of the solution for enhancing a consumer’s life even during the Great Recession economic downturn.

3p: So what best practices does the Shelton Group’s research suggest for messaging and selling to the 70% of consumers going green?

LAH: More than ever the key to selling green is to understand there is not one “green” customer type. Shelton Group categorizes consumers into four categories: Indifferents, Skeptics, Seekers, and Actives. They key point is that ALL four groups have significant numbers of consumers searching for green products.

3p: So Skeptics are searching for green products?

LAH: Yes! But the message you would use to convince them to buy your green product is very different from one you would use to convince an Active. For example, Skeptics are very “right vs. wrong” in their analysis and they need to see a rate of return on their purchase decisions. One great path to Skeptics is to show how your green product aligns with their patriotism. Another way is to provide compelling testimony on the rate of return or performance generated by your green product.

3p: How does this compare to marketing to Seekers?

LAH: The Seeker’s decision-making is very relationship driven. They seek input from their trusted peer group. A key point from our research is that many in this group have been dissatisfied with the green products they have tried. Often we heard them complain that the green product didn’t work as well as their old, non-green product. This is especially so for cleaning products. So to sell to Seekers your green product must work well and enhance their lives and that of their families.

3p:Is there a common point among this diverse group of consumers seeking green products?

LAH: Price. Maybe less so for Actives who may pay a little more for a green product. But all consumers seeking green are more inclined to buy the green product if it is price competitive with the non-green product. Another commonality is convenience. Approximately 40-50% of Indifferents, and Skeptics say convenience is important. Seekers say given a choice between their comfort, convenience or the environment, convenience usually wins. Even approximately 1/3 of Actives say convenience is important.

3p: So what are the key summary points of Shelton Group’s research?

LAH: A green tipping has been reached. Going green is a trend growing in importance to consumers searching for solutions that enhance their lives and their families’ lives. But what motivates individual consumers to buy green varies greatly.  Not everyone is interested in every green product. There is great variation among consumers on what is driving them to make a green product purchase. And broadcasting just one green message has very limited value compared to the ability of a business to offer messaging tailored to the various types of consumers seeking to buy their green products.

This green tipping point is a milestone opportunity for businesses. It is at the very core of my economic analysis projecting as early as 2017 a $10 billion global annual revenue economy for sustainable goods and services.


Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, a company that helps companies connect with their customers and associates who are searching for smart, healthy and green solutions. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles businesses making money going green. Bill is currently implementing Green Builds Business, a 11-city national coaching program created by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with funding from Walmart.

Founder of Earth 2017. Author of The Boomer Generation Diet: Lose Weight. Have Fun. Live More that Jen Boynton, Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit , says is "Written in Bill Roth's lovable, relatable tone. A must read for any Boomer who is looking to jumpstart their health and have fun at the same time. I hope my parents read it. "

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