Being Innovative While Being Green

Being Innovative While Being Green

Being Innovative While Being Green: An Experimental Inquiry into How Consumers Respond to Eco‐Innovative Product Designs

Nicholas G. Paparoidamis, Thi Thanh Huong Tran, Leonidas C. Leonidou and Athina Zeriti

Originally published: September 6, 2019 (PDMA JPIM • Vol 36, Issue 6 • November 2019)
Read time: 46 minutes

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Eco‐innovations are an effective way for companies to strategically align themselves with customers’ growing environmental concerns. Despite their crucial role, scant research has focused on eco‐innovative product designs. Drawing from the sustainability and innovation literature, this article proposes that in the design of an eco‐innovation, its degree of innovativeness, level of eco‐friendliness, and detachability significantly affect consumers' adoption intentions. This article develops various conceptual models tested through three independent online experiments with U.S. consumers. The findings support the hypotheses and provide useful insights into the underlying mechanisms of how and why consumers respond to eco‐innovative product designs across various high‐tech product categories. Specifically, the results show (1) a positive effect of innovativeness degrees of eco‐innovative attributes on consumers' perceptions of product eco‐friendliness and on their adoption intentions as well as a significant moderating role of consumers' need for cognition (Study 1); (2) a positive influence of eco‐friendliness levels of eco‐innovative attributes on consumer adoption intentions in the case of high‐complexity products but not for low‐complexity products, emphasizing the need to adopt different approaches when developing eco‐innovations to ensure favorable consumer reactions (Study 2); and (3) a significant impact of the detachability of eco‐innovative attributes on consumers' perceptions of trade‐offs between environmental benefits and product functionality and on their intentions to adopt eco‐innovations (Study 3). These findings add to existing theoretical knowledge, provide actionable managerial implications, and identify fruitful avenues for future research.

Practitioner Points

  • Increasing innovativeness degrees of new eco‐friendly attributes should be a key priority for firms aiming to encourage high eco‐innovation adoption rates.
  • Need for cognition (NFC) is an important criterion when identifying target market segments with heterogeneous consumer response functions to eco‐innovation introductions.
  • Managers need to focus more on product eco‐friendliness by investing in specific types of eco‐innovations that are more likely to trigger positive consumer responses. For high‐complexity products, communication campaigns should highlight different types of eco‐innovations, while for low‐complexity products, they should concentrate more on general environmental claims.
  • Firms should consider developing eco‐innovative attributes as optional/detachable accessories because consumers are often uncertain about their new eco‐friendly product purchases. It would be useful to employ experiential marketing techniques to highlight the detachability of eco‐innovative attributes.

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