Does 'Made in U.S.A.' Win Customers? 4 Explosive Insights for July 4th

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A mobile research study of 500 U.S. adults examines consumer sentiment over American-made merchandise. With retailers showing renewed interest in the subject, Field Agent set out to understand how appeals to Buy American affect consumer attitudes and spending. So, before the fireworks start this July 4, here are 4 important consumer insights just “Made in the U.S.A.”      

It’s America’s birthday! A time for fireworks, star-spangled music, and a patriotic quote or two from the founding fathers and mothers. Who can forget, for instance, the immortal words of Nathan Hale, who said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”?

But, this year, as retailers show renewed interest and commitment in stocking American-made merchandise, an unlikely quote from one of the greatest Americans—Mr. Mount Rushmore himself—seems strangely fitting. When asked about a particular tariff, President Abraham Lincoln supposedly said,

"I don't know much about [it], but I know this. If I buy a coat in England, I get the coat and England gets the money. If I buy a coat in America, I get the coat and America gets the money." - President Abraham Lincoln     

While experts and pundits will continue to debate the economic merit of Lincoln’s words, one thing is certain: His words sum up nicely the sentiment behind Buy American campaigns.

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee

For years Americans have been encouraged to purchase goods Made in the U.S.A. It’s an old idea receiving new attention from retailers.

But what, exactly, do shoppers think? To what extent do they value American brands? Do they prefer shopping with retailers who sell American-made merchandise? How does having "Made in the U.S.A." on a label influence shopper purchases?

Field Agent recently surveyed 500 U.S. adults to find answers to these questions and others. And here, just before our nation’s 239th birthday, we’d like to share 4 explosive consumer insights from this study.

1. Americans salute American-made products…and the retailers that carry them.

45% said it's "extremely" or "very" important for products to be made in the U.S.A

We asked agents how important it is to them personally to purchase products/brands Made in the U.S.A. 45% responded “extremely” or “very” important. An additional 34% said they consider it “moderately” important to purchase American-made goods and brands. Significantly, only 11% said it is “not at all important” to them to purchase products made in the United States.

The same goes for retailers. Our respondents told us they consider it important to shop at stores that demonstrate a commitment to American-made goods. 41% called it either extremely or very important, while 37% said it was moderately important. Here, too, only 11% said it was not at all important. Altogether, Americans say they value products and brands made here at home—and the stores that sell them.

2. That little “Made in the U.S.A.” tag does influence buying decisions.

Even if consumers value American-made goods and the stores that sell them, are such values reflected in their shopping and spending behavior? After all, respondents may say one thing, and yet their behavior may suggest something else.

Americans Value American-made products

To gauge this, we asked 500 adults, “Have you ever purchased one product over another because the one you purchased was ‘Made in the U.S.A.’?” In all, 63% answered “yes.” This suggests the American-made designation does have the ability, among many shoppers, to steer attention away from one product or brand and onto another.  

Have you ever purchased one product over another because the one you purchased was 'Made in the U.S.A.'? [CHART]

3. While important, country-of-origin is not top priority among shoppers.

But where does country-of-origin (i.e., Made in the U.S.A.) stand in the overall hierarchy of shopping values. Is it on par, for instance, with price or customer service?

 Country-of-Origin Priorities

We asked shoppers to rank five different shopping values by their importance, that is, when they shop for and buy goods and brands. Of five values, country-of-origin ranked fourth, behind (1) quality, (2) price, and (3) customer service but ahead of (5) environmental impact (i.e., “green” products).

At the very top of the list, quality and price were neck-and-neck—it could’ve gone either way. Significantly, in tier 2 of the ranking, customer service did not surpass country-of-origin by a large margin. In fact, while 23% named customer service a top two value, 22% identified country-of-origin as a #1 or #2 consideration when shopping for and buying merchandise. 

4. Retailer and brand efforts to reach “Buy American” shoppers may be suboptimal at this point.

How can shoppers intentionally buy American-made goods if they can’t readily, even quickly, identify goods as Made in the U.S.A.?

Identifying American-made Products

We asked agents to tell us how easy they find it to locate and identify merchandise produced in the United States. Their responses were captured on scale from 1-5, with 1 being “very difficult” and 5 “very easy.” The average response was 2.8. Only 20% of respondents registered a rating of 4 or 5, while a combined 31% responded with a 1 or 2.

Taken together, results suggest there is room for improvement among companies. Many shoppers find it either difficult, or at least not easy, to identify and locate American-made merchandise while shopping in stores. As seen, consumers value goods made in the United States, so retailers and brands might benefit from helping customers find American-made goods more easily.

The Grand Finale

Like 4th of July firework displays, every company is looking for a grand finale—whether a grand finale to Q2 or Q3, or simply a grand finale to a product release, in-store promotion, or seasonal sales push. Mobile audits and research have revolutionized the industry with smarter, faster, more affordable methods of collecting in-store information and consumer insights. For a grand finale, when you think research and audits…think Mobile.

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Happy 4th!  from Field Agent