Survey: Consumers Increasingly Concerned With Products’ Origins And Rate Of Release

A large survey of consumers and manufacturers from around the world has found a number of interesting statistics, though some are interesting not in and of themselves, but in what they imply about those surveyed.

For instance, 57% of consumers say they’re “always or usually” aware of a product’s country of origin. This seems rather generous, considering how incredibly complex the supply chain is, and how a given high-tech product might include pieces from 10 or 20 different countries, depending on how deep you want to dig.

And while 67% of people said that product quality is better today than it was 5 years ago, 75% think manufacturers don’t use the best-quality materials and don’t follow environmentally friendly procedures.

Perhaps most entertainingly, 97% of manufacturers consider themselves “ahead of the curve” in safety and reliability, and nearly that many think the same regarding sustainability and innovation. They can’t all be above average.

The full survey can be read here. The NY Times takes a few of the stats to suggest a “global gadget fatigue.” A generalization that isn’t really supported by this survey, but probably is true nevertheless. The amount of money and research going into consumer electronics has made product turnover much faster, and the nature of PR demands that products not be released all at the same time. So the results is a new “revolutionary” phone, TV, laptop, tablet, or what have you pretty much every week.

It’s a major shift from the slower-moving world of the 90s, when much common wisdom was established about computers and mobiles among the population at large.

The study also suggests that environmental concerns and consumer interest in the origin of their devices is going to be playing a major part in brand and marketing over the next few years. This may have to do with the simple flattening of the world that is the result of the internet and globalism in general. More products are being manufactured internationally, yes, but more people are aware of it, perhaps partially because of the continuing decline in manufacturing jobs in the US. But the 57% figure cited above is globally; in the US, only 46% say they’re aware of the country of origin, compared with 70% for India and 66% for China. Still, the number is probably far higher than it was ten years ago.

As I have argued, it’s unlikely that people will agree to an increase in price for “ethical” devices, as much as we would like to think so. And although labeling and regulation should be established regarding the country of manufacture, component manufacture, and material sourcing, that’s still something of a fantasy. But it’s a good thing that consumer interest in such things is growing.