By Chengyan Yue, Manlin Cui and Eric Watkins, University of Minnesota; and Aaron Patton, Purdue University
There are clear environmental and social benefits to increasing the use of low-input turfgrasses in home landscapes; however, to increase the market share and use of these grasses, it is crucial to understand the factors that influence consumers’ adoption decisions. Using data from an online survey of 2,194 randomly selected U.S. homeowners with home lawns, we wanted to answer the following questions:
- Will consumers be willing to adopt low-input turfgrass species?
- How important are the turfgrass attributes in shaping consumers’ adoption decisions?
- What are the barriers that prevent consumers from adopting low-input turfgrass species?
- What strategies can be used to improve the adoption rate of low-input turfgrass species for different consumer segments?
In the survey, consumers’ willingness was measured in their beliefs and attitudes towards the adoption of low-input turfgrass species. In general, consumers are willing to switch to low-input turfgrasses, and they are more inclined to do it gradually (i.e., increase the amount of low-input species throughout overseeding year after year rather than a complete lawn renovation). They believe low-input turfgrasses have more advantages and can save money. However, they think converting home lawns to low-input turfgrasses would be relatively challenging.
We further segmented consumers into two groups based on their attitudes toward the adoption of low-input turfgrasses: Willing Adopters (66% of respondents) and Reluctant Homeowners (34% of respondents). There is a high percentage of Willing Adopters in the west U.S. areas, which may be due to water scarcity and high water prices. Moreover, compared to the Reluctant Homeowners, Willing Adopters are younger, more likely to have children under 12 and pets, have a larger household and higher income. Willing Adopters also maintain their lawn more frequently.
We also characterized multiple turfgrass attributes into three groups: (1) Performance Attributes, (2) Maintenance Attributes, and (3) Appearance Attributes. Valuing maintenance attributes is positively associated with willingness to use low-input turfgrasses for both types of consumers. Reluctant Homeowners, who regard appearance attributes as more important, are more reluctant to adopt low-input turfgrasses. In a previous study, we found that more than one third of both U.S. and Canadian consumers were considered “appearance-conscious” consumers; this suggests that many consumers might perceive the appearance of the low-input turfgrasses as less desirable than that of conventional species. Turfgrass breeders should continue to keep in mind that a significant number of consumers demand turfgrasses that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
After analyzing survey results, we were able to identify a number of barriers and ways that turfgrass seed and sod sellers could overcome those barriers:
|Lack of promotion||Promote low-input turfgrass to increase consumers’ awareness of lower-input options. Sellers of turfgrasses could expand the market substantially by promoting through stores/traditional media/social media/government agencies.|
|Unknown benefits||Provide university Extension-developed resources on benefits and advantages of low-input turfgrasses.|
|Peers aren’t using low-input turfgrasses||Trigger communication between users and non-users on the benefits of low-input turfgrass on social networks can generate positive word-of-mouth. Provide opportunities for the public to see influencers’ use of turfgrasses.|
|Unaware of how low-input turfgrasses look||Provide photos or create an in-store exhibit of low-input turfgrasses. Large garden centers, local garden stores, large home centers and retailers can be appropriate places to exhibit grass samples.|
|Lack of knowledge of how to maintain low-input turfgrasses||Extension programs and retailers can develop educational programs to educate the communities and convey the proper information and improve homeowners’ knowledge about the low-input turfgrasses.|
|Perceived high price||Provide incentives such as giving free samples of seed, providing monetary incentives to use low-input lawns, and contrasting establishment and maintenance costs of traditional and low-input turfgrasses.|
Yue, C., M. Cui, E. Watkins and A. Patton. 2021. Investigating Factors Influencing Consumer Adoption of Low-input Turfgrasses. Working paper.