Visual media archive Getty Images has this week launched an innovative new approach to understanding consumer priorities on key issues such as sustainability and technology, aiming to illuminate what shapes consumer priorities and how firms can use visual imagery to help address their concerns.

Getty’s new system – which it names “Visual GPS” – combines insights and analysis from the company’s own “expert creative visual team” with search data from the firm’s photo archive and external market research from YouGov. Getty compiled the first outputs from this new research tool in a report, published this week, which identifies how consumer decisions are influenced by what the firm refers to as “four key Forces”: technology, sustainability, realness and wellness.

The report finds a striking disconnect between intention and action around sustainability, highlighting a fundamental tension between convenience and embracing environmentally-friendly practices. Of over 10,000 people surveyed, 92 per cent said they believe the way we treat the planet today will have a significant impact on the future. But 48 per cent said that while they should care more about the environment in their purchasing habits, for them, convenience takes priority.

Similarly, while 81 per cent of those surveyed said they saw themselves as ‘eco-friendly’, only 50 per cent actually go out of their way to buy products from firms with strong green credentials.

“We’ve found evidentiary proof that sustainability is important to consumers of all ages across geographies and cultures, but sustainability issues collide with purchases that bring enormous pleasure and help improve wellbeing,” said Dr Rebecca Swift, global head of creative insights at Getty Images. “Our research shows us there is an opportunity for companies and brands to help consumers bridge the gap between their attitudes and their actions.”

Getty’s research breaks down consumers into groups that are particularly passionate about each of the four “Forces” it identifies. Consumers identified as being passionate about sustainability said they were willing to pay 10 to 15 per cent more for products or services from companies that prioritise using sustainable services and maintianing transparent and socially conscious business practices.

Of those same consumers, 87 per cent highlighted their concern with the state of the oceans and 85 per cent said they were worried about air pollution. Their behaviours reflect those concerns, the research shows, with 80 per cent prioritising cutting down on plastic, 75 per cent always recycling, and 66 per cent doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint.

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