Describing product properties

To describe a product, the starting point is to describe its properties.

Product properties can be divided in three groups depending on their importance for the customer:

  • Obligatory properties are the properties that the product must have in order to be at all considered as a relevant alternative. These are the properties that should always be included in the functional unit. Example: A beverage container must not leak.
  • Positioning properties are those considered attractive by the customer and which may therefore position the product more favourably with the customer, relative to other products with the same obligatory properties. Example: A beverage container may be more or less easy to handle or have a desirable design.
  • Market-irrelevant properties that do not play a role in determining the customer’s preferences. Example: A (refillable) beverage container may be more or less easy to clean.

Properties that are positioning properties for the majority of customers in a market segment can in fact become obligatory for other costumers in a so-called niche market. Niche costumers do not allow substitutions between products from different niches in the same market segment. Long life of batteries is an example of a positioning property in the general market for batteries, which has become an obligatory property for an identifiable group of niche consumers that put high value on avoiding frequent battery replacements.

Both positioning and market-irrelevant properties may be of importance for the reference flows and thereby for the environmental impact of the product system.

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How to cite this: 
Consequential-LCA (2015). Describing product properties. Last updated: 2015-10-27. www.consequential-lca.org.