shopper research: made in Australia - does anyone really care?

by: Sarah Kneebone

Today it is easier (and often cheaper) than ever before to buy international goods both online and in-store. Faced with endless choices and options, do Australian shoppers really make a conscious effort to buy local?
Many people say they prefer to support local production but do they put their money where their mouth is, or is it all just hype?
We’re delving into this debate as well as sharing our top considerations when it comes to testing your 'Made in Australia' claims, products and messaging with shoppers.
A word of warning: approach this kind of research with caution...

Times are changing

Although some brands have been using ‘Made in Australia’ labels for a long time, food and beverage manufacturers are now having to comply with new 'country of origin' food labelling regulations, which become mandatory as of July 1st 2018 (to find out more about this, read our blog on the topic here.)
Whilst it will become a legal requirement to display this information, does it actually add any value in the shoppers’ eyes? Is it worth making an effort to produce locally or even to scream and shout about the fact that your product is made in Australia?
According to Mintel, in 2017, 72% of metro-based Australians said they make the effort to buy food and drink products with the Australian Made or Grown logo. Three in ten say this is because the logo instills trust in the product.
Prior to this, in 2015 Roy Morgan stated: 


“89.2% of Australians aged 14+ said they’d be more likely to buy products made in Australia an improvement on 2013, when it was 85.6%."

Interestingly, this doesn’t just apply to food and seems to be part of a wider shift: 

Compared with the same time in 2013, increased proportions of the population say they’d be more likely to buy clothes, food, electrical goods, sporting goods and wine if they were labelled Made in Australia’.”


The generation game

Whilst 'Made in Australia' appears to be a popular position for many, it's worth thinking about how the upcoming generation feel about buying local.

Generally, older generations are more likely to opt for locally produced products, whereas younger consumers are more digitally savvy, aware of the options and perhaps more open-minded about the global market place.

Younger consumers were found by Mintel to care more about progressive policies such as the fight for gender equality than ‘Made in Australia’ claims.

“Just 19 per cent of urban Australian consumers aged 18-24 say that they are most likely to be influenced to purchase locally-made or grown products or services. Instead, bigger influencers for Australia’s iGens include products or services that provide convenience (40%), or are from their favourite brand (34%).” (Shelly McMillan, Trend and Innovation Consultant at Mintel)

It all comes back to trust. For the older generation this means local Australian brands but for the post-Millennial generation it’s more about companies doing good things’ for society and the planet. The younger generation are happiest when backing conscious, progressive and brave’ brands.

We asked our community of Australian shoppers how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement "I buy Australian made/sourced products from the supermarket whenever possible" and found that those aged 55-65 were much more likely to 'strongly agree' (41% vs. 28%).matthew-bennett-78hTqvjYMS4-unsplash

Making a point of it

If your business does sell locally made products, whilst it is important to be compliant with country of origin’ labelling legislation it can also be worth leveraging this message in your marketing.
Depending on your target market, going over and above the standard regulation to shout about your Australian product can do wonders for the brand.
If you think about beauty products for example, many shoppers seek out Australian made brands, as they often feel the products are more natural and ethical.

"It’s something that consumers do pay significant attention to. In addition to a country of origin statement, you can say extra on top of that… It’s going to attract those consumers who are interested in locally made products.” (Narissa Corrigan, founder of promotions business Ampersand & Ampersand)


Advice from the research buffs

Whilst there is lots of research showing that Australians often lean towards locally made products; the digital, borderless world we live in means that the prevalence and acceptance of international products is also influencing shoppers' purchase decisions.
It is important to consider factors such as your target audience, category and retail environment when weighing up the benefits for your business.

“Alongside our renewed enthusiasm for Australian-made goods, we are becoming increasingly open to, and comfortable with, the idea of buying foreign-made products. Online shopping has broadened our retail horizons, enabling us to purchase items made in all corners of the globe.” (Michele Levine, CEO at Roy Morgan Research)

john-schnobrich-2FPjlAyMQTA-unsplashWhilst we do believe that many shoppers look for and prioritise local products; in our donkeys years of experience we’ve found that a desire for ‘Made in Australia’ is often over-claimed by shoppers.

A lot of importance has historically been placed on it, largely as a result of focus groups which typically end up in heated, emotional debates. But are these statements really reflective of shoppers’ actions?
If you think about it, you’re much more likely to share strong beliefs, elevated patriotism and an intention to buy local products when faced with an open group conversation where you’re being paid to talk about the topic.
These statements might be your ideals, and perhaps they are a reflection of how you would prefer other people to think of you.
However, our experimental design approach has found numerous times that shoppers don’t always put their money where their mouth is.
This is not to say that people don’t care, but even when they say they have a problem with companies producing internationally (if the subject is brought to their attention), actual in-store behaviour often tells a different story.
If you ask, people will tell you they are outraged at the thought of a product being made overseas… even if in reality this is already happening - they have just never checked.headway-5QgIuuBxKwM-unsplash
Shoppers tend to repeat purchase many items and often shop on autopilot without much of a thought about the product’s country of origin. The reality is, most people are time poor when they’re doing the supermarket run and they just don’t consciously think to check each and every item. Further, price is often the deciding factor in store.
Whilst shoppers might prefer an Australian made product when presented with the choice or the opportunity to think a purchase through thoroughly, the point is that it’s often not a deal breaker when it comes to the crunch. (I know I personally don’t make time to check every baked beans can or t-shirt I pick up!).
Of course, as shoppers lose trust in big brands, become more conscious about the environment and legislation brings the subject to their attention on pack (amongst other factors), this could all change.
Don’t get us wrong, testing how shoppers feel towards your product’s origin is still very important.
We just offer this word of warning: be sure to think the methodology through and pay extra consideration to how you collect the data and interpret the findings. Above all else: keep things real.

Over to you

If you'd like to get to the bottom of how your shoppers perceive 'country of origin' labelling and local messaging, get in touch on 02 8097 0200 or email at any time.

We think differently, keep it real and won't give you a cookie cutter approach to shopper research. If you want to find out more about how we PLAY, click here.

P.S. Talking of shoppers, we've got a whole community of them (thousands in fact!) ready and waiting to divulge their thoughts on your brand or product. Find out more about how you can tap into this here.

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about the author

Sarah Kneebone

Sarah is PLAY’s go-to content writer with a passion for marrying creativity and communication with clever strategy. A former marketer with PLAY and for international brands such as QBE Insurance and General Motors, Sarah moved home to the UK to raise her little family and start a health coaching business. Luckily for us, she continues to share her talent for the written word with the team in Australia.

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