For retailers, the consumer experience might be front of mind, but in addition to demanding a personalised, frictionless purchasing journey, customers are also increasingly conscious about the products they buy and the brands they purchase from.
From sustainable to ethical, here’s a guide to catering to the conscious consumer.
Who is the conscious consumer?
It’s tempting to think ethical consumerism is a fad driven by younger generations, but that’s not the case according to research by Australia’s Monash University.
Although numerous studies indicate ethical consumerism is a priority for both millennials and Gen Z, they note 91 per cent of all consumers want brands to use sustainable ingredients or material, and 92 per cent believe sustainable business practices should be standard.
“More than half of people think it’s important that products are fully made from recycled materials,” Monash’s research has found.
And in good news for retailers, it’s apparent customers are willing to pay more for these options.
Two-thirds of consumers are willing to splurge on products from a sustainable or socially conscious brand (this rises to 73 per cent for millennials), while 70 per cent will pay more for products that don’t infringe on human rights.
“Consumers today find less joy in excessive spending, and choose to spend money on experiences rather than material goods,” Monash Business School’s lead researcher Dr Eloise Zoppos explains.
“The modern shopper is constantly searching for meaning, not only in how they live but also how they consume.
“Price and convenience aren’t the only purchase drivers anymore; consumers want to buy ethically, with global impact being front-of-mind.”
So, how do retailers cater to this trend?
Authenticity and transparency
One of the key features of ethical retail is trust, transparency and authenticity. This means offering sustainable and ethical products and manufacturing which resonate with the conscious consumer and explaining exactly what they are.
It involves peeling back the veil on how products are manufactured, sourced, and sold, and illustrating how the consumer’s purchase makes a difference in the world.
In Australia, grocery retailer IGA is a timely example of how this works. Their advertising tells the consistent story of the products they source locally and the food producers they work with.
Taking a stand
Sometimes there are trends which are obvious, like the growing call to eliminate animal cruelty in fashion and the rising push for retailers to reduce their packaging, and that’s seeing some retailers willing to take a stand.
In 2017, Gucci was among them, announcing that it would ban the use of fur from 2018. It joined a growing list of retailers going fur-free including the likes of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Armani.
Meanwhile, in June this year Australian retailers David Jones and Country Road Group indicated they were looking to embrace more sustainable packaging as part of a Collective Action Group (CAG) working towards the National Packaging Targets the Australian government set in 2018.
Inside Retail notes: “The targets stipulate that all packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025; 70 per cent of plastic be recycled or composted; and all packaging contain an average recycled content of 30 per cent by 2025”.
One of the biggest trends many retailers are taking on is recycling, and it’s applying across all sectors.
H&M is one retailer doing this particularly well, with a global initiative that works to prevent customers’ unwanted clothes and textiles going to landfill.
Introduced in 2013, the program sees H&M outlets accept unwanted clothes by any brand, in any condition, at any of their stores, every single day of the year.
Consumers hand their clothes in at the cash desk and receive a voucher to use towards their next purchase.
The retailer notes: “All clothes collected by H&M are either re-used, re-worn or recycled with 0 per cent going to landfill”.
The final word
These are just some of the ways retailers are catering to the conscious consumer, but each brand has the opportunity to develop and foster their own values and build a tribe of loyal customers as a result.
As Monash University notes: “Retailers need to become an ally to the new consumer by enabling them to make consumption choices that align with their values”.
“This is more than just providing shoppers with a memorable or personalised in-store experience.”