The UK’s ministerial Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a study last month into product recall effectiveness. Designed to provide insights to support increasing the effectiveness of product recall in action, the study researched and tested behaviourally informed product recall messages with a consumer panel.
This is not the first time a ministerial department has looked to behavioural science to better understand why some forms of messaging work better than others in a recall situation. In April 2019 the European Commission produced a similar survey – Consumer Behaviour and Product Recalls Effectiveness - which was the first large scale EU study to investigate product recall effectiveness. Its main aim was to deepen the understanding of consumer experiences and attitudes and behaviour concerning product recalls.
Survey topics included awareness, product registration, exposure to recall, consumer responses and impact of recalls. It found that almost a quarter of EU consumers (24.5%) were either unaware or did not believe that manufacturers were obliged to recall dangerous products. But also that consumers are more likely to say that products including cosmetics and products for children can be subject to recalls. Regional differences also played a key role in recall effectiveness, with consumers living in the South (69.1%) and North (72.2%) reporting fewer cases of manufacturers’ obligations to recall dangerous products.
Lowest levels of awareness are reported in Bulgaria, Spain and Malta. As experts in recall, we know the nuances of awareness levels across different countries, and as a result, work harder in certain regions to ensure recalls are successful.
When putting together a recall strategy, our first priority is to understand the behavioural motivations and awareness levels market by market. There is no one size fits all approach to recalling products at scale, which is why it is so important that manufacturers lead the charge in getting the message out in the right place, at the right time using the right tools.
Like both of these reports, we agree that a recall strategy has to be sector-specific. And that means for instance if a product is within a sector with many low-value products then it is highly unlikely that a consumer will have registered that product with the seller or manufacturer which means there is no direct line of communication between the two. In a case such as this one, blanket consumer awareness campaigns are most effective.
It is also crucial to use a mix of communications channels, both on and offline because the way in which people gain information varies from person to person.
Consumers do not always act on a recall notice, and that is a significant challenge for manufacturers and sellers. Through our own research we know behavioural responses depend very much on certain conditions such as: If they see it as being relevant to them, does the value of the product merit an action, is the risk serious and is the action clear.
To spur consumers into action it takes a collaborative and sustained effort involving many partners. Both national authorities and manufacturers must work together and sometimes incentivisation is needed to get target audiences to act upon a recall.
We often talk about the impact of a product recall on brands, and the reality is that more than half of Europeans agree that they trust a brand more post recall. And while recalls are not something you want to happen, they do. But you can emerge from them with consumer confidence at your back.