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Manufacturer vs. Consumer: The Mismatched Product Game

High-tech companies like to think that their product designs are in sync with consumer requirements, thought processes, and whims, but that's not always the case.

The two mindsets are frequently misaligned on some key criteria, according to a recent report released by UL, a global independent safety science company.

In its third year, The Product Mindset study, which examines how manufacturers and consumers think and feel about the products made, sold, purchased, and used, found that quality, safety, and innovation remain the most important factors driving manufacturer and consumer behaviors. But, here's the rub — there are significant gaps in how each segment perceived these areas.

Likewise, concerns about supply chain transparency and outsourcing/country of origin are increasing, noted the company's press release. Again, though, there's a notable rift in who sees what and how they see it.

The survey of 1,528 consumers and 1,521 manufacturers in the high-tech/consumer electronics, food, home, building materials, and smart appliances sectors across five countries (Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the United States) show vast differences in opinion.

For instance, 95 percent of manufacturers said they believe product quality is important, making it the No. 1 overall manufacturing consideration. However, 51 percent of consumers think manufacturers use the lowest cost materials in their products regardless of quality.

On the innovation front, 91 percent of manufacturers reported innovation is becoming more important as opposed to 63 percent of consumers who said they feel new products are brought to market faster than they're needed.

What should we make of these splits? Eighty-four percent of manufacturers report that internal and external stakeholders are increasingly demanding more supply chain transparency, while 42 percent of consumers believe that manufacturers do not provide sufficient transparency. And during a time when there's much focus on conflict minerals, country of origin sourcing, and procurement practices and counterfeit parts monitoring, the report shows that 69 percent of manufacturers agree that it is very important to clearly show consumers which components are included in their products. At the same time, 43 percent of consumers feel that manufacturers do not make it easy.

The report lists other point-of-view departures on other important themes, such as product safety, environmental impact, the ethical treatment of workers, and regulation. More or less, the numbers follow a similar pattern. Manufacturers have the higher percentage of respondents who believe that certain issues weigh pretty heavily on their minds and that they are addressing these things adequately. Consumer stats come in lower, with opinions leaning towards criticism of companies choosing sales and profits over most everything else.

The responses vary so much, it seems logical to ask who's right or wrong in all this. Are manufacturers really doing enough? Are consumers quick to point fingers of blame on the “big guys”?

Then, again, maybe it boils down to the simpler question you may hear parents ask their kids: Who has their listening ears turned on?

14 comments on “Manufacturer vs. Consumer: The Mismatched Product Game

  1. Alison Diana
    October 22, 2013

    Are manufacturers using social media to help convey their emphasis on quality, I wonder? As a consumer, I fall squarely in the majority for many manufacturers but seeing the quality controls — YouTube videos, Instagram and FB pictures of quality-control employees at work — could be one way to emphasize what goes on behind the scenes to ensure items are made and packaged with the consumer in mind. It would also help humanize controls — beyond “Inspected by No. 48” or “Inspected by Flo.” 

  2. SP
    October 22, 2013

    Nice story. Manufacturer and consumer think from different perspective. Ofcourse one has to sell and other is a buyer. But mfr definitely has to study consumer priorities to make a sales strategy. And then the region mfr is focusing on matters too, if its global then consumer behavior are far too different.

  3. Jamescon
    October 22, 2013

    I think it might be nice to have manufacturer videos focused on their quality controls out on the web. However, I believe it is more important that manufacturers really listen to what people are saying in social media, on their tech support lines, and in email. The traditional approach of a “how are we doing” survey once a year — particularly if the questions are phrased in such a way that they don't invite honest criticism — just doesn't cut it these days. You have to know what consumers are telling the people you have in the field, including sales reps, distributors and support professionals. Plus, you have to be monitoring Facebook and other social media outlets.

    Too many companies in every industry sector focus their “listening” on collecting the good stories, not on what customers really think.

  4. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Jimc,

    I agree with you on that, you made good point there.

    Some wise manufacturers do listen to what consumers have while their competitors see that as a good avenue to know where and how to improve on their own product.

    I also agree with you on that fact that manufacturers majorly capitalise on the good stories but in my opinion, I feel a successful manufacturer is one that also make something positive  out of critics made by consumers.

    while some of the critics may be a mixed feelings, yet it worth knowing.

  5. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Sp,

    You ae right, its a waste of time and resources for a manufacturers to produce what the consumers does not need.

    Moreover, consumers's behaviours are not widely different from each other, we seldome react to things differently.

  6. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @ Alison,

    Social media has become an effective avenue through which much can be known about a product and also consumers's responses to a product can also be known.

    Its just that sometimes responses from consumers differs and full of mixed feelings.

  7. SP
    October 23, 2013

    @jimc, quite agree on the importance and influence of social media thesedays. People have these social media sites on their phones tghese days and any feedback whether positive or negative goes right on their walls and then therez no stopping of comments, it just goes viral. I would say consumers have strong gun they just need opportunity and subject to shoot.

  8. SP
    October 23, 2013

    @Adenji, mfrs who produce things that arenot needed by consumers won't stay in business for a long time or gets acquired by a tough management who can take tough decisions. Sometimes some mfrs keep producing even they don't have strong consumer base because they want to remain in that product line of business and just want their bread and butter coming.

  9. Ross Bernheim
    October 23, 2013

    Does anyone remember the Ford Edsel

    Ford asked what people wanted in a car. They built it and almost no one bought one.

    The question should have been what would you pay for in a car.

    Consumers always say one thing but vote differently with their wallets.

    “Buy American!” but they voted with their wallets to buy the least expensive, which is the made in China product at Wallmart.

  10. Lavender
    October 23, 2013

    Overall, consumers response is the whether wane of market, deciding market trend. So whether for the sake of reputation or for market shares, manufacturers should place emphasis on consumers. 

  11. Daniel
    October 23, 2013

    “Manufacturer and consumer think from different perspective. Ofcourse one has to sell and other is a buyer. But mfr definitely has to study consumer priorities to make a sales strategy.”

    SP, I believe that most of the merchandiser peoples are mirrors or face of the manufactures. They knows the pulse of market well and hence they can provide/update with good feedback to manufactures about market requirements and priorities.

  12. ahdand
    October 23, 2013

    @ Lily: Indeed consumers should be given high priority here. Its just a matter of fact where how well you approach them since if not they will not come to you thereafter.

  13. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 24, 2013

    @Ross, you make an excellent point. Consumers like the idea of many things–but are unwilling to pay a premium and more often than not innovation costs more. At some level, it requires a more engaged questioning–and also to some extent more cosumer education.  Do you have any great examples of how electronics organizations are listening to the consumer and the consumer is actualy stepping up and buying the product? 

    Recently, i saw a cool example of listening to the customer.  My husband is a left-hander and a mouse comany said they would make a new gaming mouse for lefties if they had at least 1,000 people commit to buy one. The call went out on facebook–he committed. Six months later he had his mouse. THey woulnd't make the product wihtout a financial commitment. 

    Do you have any other great examples of how electronics organizations are listening to the consumer and the consumer is actualy stepping up and buying the product?

  14. SunitaT
    October 28, 2013

    The consumers feel that the technology isn't needed because they aren't being educated fast enough for the manufacturers. HTC recently released the One Max, and people are still clinging on to their HTC One's. Similarly Samsung rolled out a line of new handsets that look identical, and only differ in size. If consumers cannot tell what they need for their day to day activities when they are brought into the sea of apps, they always get confused and select something that is not current-gen. The Windows Phone market is picking up because of its simplicity when it comes to strengthening the basic pillars of mobile computing, and also because of the fact that there are less handsets to choose from, and the consumers can decide what they will need.

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