Electrical and electronic product design: product lifetime

Start date:
September 2012
January 2013

This research was commissioned by WRAP to explore consumers’ current views, attitudes and perceptions of the lifetimes of electrical products, with a particular focus on providing insight into the nature and extent of ‘consumer pull’ for longer lifetimes.

Consumer interest in longer product lifetimes was explored with respect to two different types of electrical products:

  • Household appliances (fridges, washing machines and vacuum cleaners) – termed “workhorse products” since they are typically purchased for a lifetime of heavy and prolonged use
  • Consumer electronics (televisions and laptops) – termed “up-to-date products” since many consumers look to upgrade periodically to the latest technology in a fast-moving market

The research was comprised of three main elements:

  • A desk review of previous research into product lifetimes.
  • Six qualitative focus groups and ten accompanied shops with participants who had either recently bought or were intending to buy one of the six products under investigation.
  • A nationally representative survey of 1,104 consumers of household electrical appliances in England and Wales.

The findings illustrate that product lifetime is important to consumers – particularly for ‘workhorse’ products such as washing machines, fridges and vacuum cleaners. Although it is not generally a front-of-mind consideration, consumers see a long lifetime as a core requirement of these products and there is a clear interest from consumers in longer lasting products.

The research also suggests that on average consumers are willing to pay over 30% more for longer-life products that are backed by a longer standard guarantee or warranty. The research shows that there is potential for brands and retailers to improve their market share by effectively communicating longer product lifetime as a means of differentiating their products in the marketplace. Although the consumer purchase journey is highly variable, consumers are likely to be receptive to messaging and information on product lifetime at a number of stages.

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