In the end, price trumps all

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Here’s one of those “no duh” findings from a recent survey of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and 1,010 in the U.K.: despite 80% believing that it’s “important” for companies and brands to “behave ethically,” the single most significant factor to them when shopping for goods is … wait for it … price.

Not surprisingly, this poll – conducted by online retail research firm Trade Extensions – found that consumers rank corporate “ethics” and “product sustainability” practices high in importance only when such values are discussed in isolation. That is, when you add in things such as price, value, and quality, suddenly “ethics” and “sustainability” fall right off the chart:

  • When asked to rank the three most important attributes when shopping, the most important factor is price: 40% of consumers ranked this number one.
  • The second most important factor is value for money: 30% ranked this number one.
  • The third most important factor is quality: 16% ranked this number one.
  • Convenience is more important for shoppers than ethics with “easy to find/shop/delivered” appearing in the top three rankings of 17% of consumers compared with ethics appearing in the top three of 12% of consumers.
  • When all of those factors are included, choosing an ethical company or brand when shopping gets ranked number one for only 2% of U.S. and U.K. consumers.

“It’s critical to understand the differences between what people think – their attitudes – and what they actually do – their behavior,” noted Dr. Liz Nelson, a behavior change/research expert who worked with Trade Extensions on this survey.

“The fact they say they care about ethics and sustainability is important and it might make a difference given two otherwise equal choices,” she added. “But this research shows that only a small number will actively go out of their way to act on those feelings.”

OK, fine … but what does any of this have to do with vehicles? Glad you asked because a new report authored by IDC Manufacturing Insights dubbed Business Strategy: IDC's Connected Vehicle Study Highlights Value of Safety and Convenience found that consumers may be very leery about purchasing the “next generation” of technology-packed cars and trucks because (surprise, surprise!) they’re probably going to be too expensive.

IDC’s found that while consumers are looking for safety and convenience, they aren't necessarily able to determine the “value” such “connected vehicles” can deliver. Indeed, more than half (53.8%) of consumers in IDC’s poll said they don't think they’ll get a “connected vehicle” because they won't be able to afford it, don't want it, or don't think they should pay for it.

Here are some other key findings from IDC’s report:

  • The cost of connected vehicle technology remains a sore point with consumers. Safety may be a powerful benefit of connected vehicles, but that doesn't always translate into consumer value.
  • Safety isn't necessarily a given with all connected vehicle capabilities, and OEMs will need to ensure that new functionalities, including Internet-enabled infotainment systems and navigation systems, allow the driver to operate with minimal distraction.
  • Connected consumers don't plan to adopt connected vehicle technology significantly faster than other consumers. Although 46.2% of consumers expect to have the capabilities in their next vehicle, 35.5% still believe they won't be able to afford these capabilities.
  • Connected vehicles and connected devices must go hand in hand, so alliances between OEMs, hardware and software vendors, plus “digital infrastructure” providers will be essential to serving customer and consumer expectations.

"Our research shows that consumers are looking for safety and convenience but aren't necessarily able to value the improvements connected vehicles can deliver," noted Kimberly Knickle, IDC’s research director. "Successful OEMs will be those that are able to define value appropriately and entice consumers with connected vehicle technology at the right price point."

[For fun, here’s an interview with Cisco engineers working on a variety of connected vehicle systems.]

She added that one of the major challenges ahead for vehicle OEMs revolves around to the capabilities of the connected devices more and more consumers rely upon. According to, consumers place high value upon their smartphone as the enabler of what the firm calls their “digital identity,” as it found a majority of respondents in its poll indicated they would prefer to utilize their existing mobile devices when it comes to accessing digital services such as online radio, Internet, or navigation services.

“To be successful, connected vehicles must leverage the capabilities that consumers already have on their smartphones and other connected devices today,” Knickle stressed.

That and it better not cost a lot.

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