The Effect of Information on Consumer Preferences of Indoor Plants

This study primarily focuses on the effect of information on consumers’ purchasing behavior. If consumers are provided with information about a specific product they may change their beliefs about that product. This distribution of information may lead the consumer to make the decision either to purchase or not purchase, or the consumer may increase or decrease the amount he or she is willing to pay. Here, the impact of information about indoor plants’ ability to reduce indoor air pollution on participants is analyzed. This research will add to the literature on consumer behavior and will also benefit the floriculture industry within the state of Florida. Florida’s floriculture sales have fluctuated during the last ten years. From 2000 to 2003 the industry experienced an increase in sales; however, the hurricanes of 2004 and 2006 had a negative impact of these sales. In early 2007 the industry began to recovery. By late 2007, though, the recession had begun and floriculture sales declined. This decrease continued through 2008. In 2009 and 2010 there was some recovery but sales were not up to their pre-recession level. To improve these sales the industry has been searching for a new way to market indoor plants. One possible avenue is to market indoor plants as “green” or natural indoor air cleaners. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) buildings, including homes, often contain pollutants such as dust, dander, smoke particles, and Volatile Organic Compounds/Chemicals (VOCs). VOCs include the chemicals benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, all of which can cause health problems including sick building syndrome (SBS) and some cancers. Scientific research has shown that specific indoor plants can remove indoor air pollution. NASA scientists investigated specific indoor plants’ ability to remove indoor air pollution. The researchers found that many plants that are common household plants, such as English Ivy, have the ability to remove VOCs from indoor air. Much research has been devoted to examining the link between indoor plants and the reduction of indoor air pollution. Several indoor plants have been identified as having the ability to remove indoor air pollution but despite the amount of research consumers may not be aware of the benefits. To help determine if information about VOCs and the ability of specific indoor plants to reduce them had an impact on consumers’ opinions and which additional attributes were important to consumers focus groups were conducted with both Florida residents and University of Florida graduate students. Participants were provided with information about VOCs and nearly all of them said they preferred an indoor plant that could remove VOCs. Also, many participants stated they preferred an indoor plant that “did something.” In this study the plants performed a specific function, reducing indoor air pollution. If indoor plants are able to perform a function that is beneficial to human health then consumers may feel these plants are useful instead of being used for decoration alone. Participants were then asked which attributes of indoor plants they believed to most important. These attributes included the level of care needed (or hardiness), the height of the plant at maturity, the amount of sunlight needed, toxicity of the plant, the plant’s ability to flower, and tags that clearly identified the plant. Of these six attributes hardiness, the amount of sunlight needed, and the ability of the plant to flower were chosen as the most important attributes. Several participants stated that they would like an indoor plant that required little care as it would take less effort to keep the plant alive. Some participants lived in homes that did not allow for much sunlight to enter and preferred a plant that survive on little or indirect sunlight. Flowering was chosen as several participants preferred plants that could be used as decoration and that performed a function. These attributes were then used in surveys which included 2,280 respondents. In order to determine if the information about VOCs had an effect on consumers decisions to buy indoor plants a choice-based conjoint (CBC) analysis was used in the form of an online survey. CBC analysis is a commonly used marketing tool and is most often in a survey form. This method allows participants to choose one hypothetical product among other hypothetical products, simulating a marketplace environment. A “none” option is also included in CBC. One of the surveys constructed for this study departed slightly from the standard CBC. Usually the attributes are chosen by the researcher and/or a marketing manager and the hypothetical products are constructed from the attributes and their levels. One survey constructed did contain attributes chosen by the authors. For this survey the attributes included those which were considered as most important to the focus groups: the level of care needed (Hardiness), the amount of sunlight needed (Sunlight Needed), and the ability of the indoor plant to flower (Flowering). The ability of the plant to remove indoor air pollution (VOC Removal) and the price of the plant (Price) were also included. However, the majority of participants were allowed to select the attributes they preferred. In this second survey participants were allowed to choose three attributes from a set of six. This set of six attributes included Hardiness, Sunlight, Flowering, the toxicity of the plant (Toxicity), tags clearly identifying the plant (Tags), and the height of the plant at maturity (Height). If a participant received a survey allowing attribute selection he or she was able to choose the three he or she preferred most. For example, a participant could have selected Flowering, Height, and Sunlight Needed as the attributes that he or she most preferred. Again, Price and VOC Removal were included. Participants who received either of the two surveys were then presented with twelve choice sets, each containing five choices, or hypothetical products composed of the attributes and their levels, and a “none” option. In addition, to determine if information has an effect on consumer behavior, information about VOCs and the ability of specific indoor plants to remove them was randomly provided to participants. To determine if this information had an effect conditional logits were used to analyze the data from both surveys and the results were compared. This logit analyzes the probability of the participants’ choices based on the characteristics (attributes and their levels) of the choices. The logit parameters were then used to calculate the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for each attribute. The WTP estimates of the attributes from the surveys where the information was not provided were compared with the WTP estimates when information was provided. The results demonstrate that VOC information did make a difference in participants’ choices. Participants who were given this information were willing to pay more for an indoor plant if it had the ability to reduce indoor air pollution. WTP for the other attributes changed as well if participants were given this information. Height, Sunlight Needed, and Hardiness generally experienced increases in their WTP estimates though these estimates were negative. WTP was positive for Flowering and Tags but generally decreased. Toxicity had negative WTP estimates and experienced both increases and decreases. Providing information to consumers may have an effect on purchasing behavior. In this study participants who were given information were willing to pay more for indoor plants that remove VOCs. This information also had an effect on how much they were willing to pay for other attributes. When consumers gain this knowledge they can make better and more informed choices.

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Poster 1050

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-26

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