Price, product quality and customer experience have long been key differentiators in the retail landscape. Now, they can be viewed as commodities to the shopper. So how can companies seeking a competitive advantage and continued loyalty stay relevant in today’s marketplace? What does that new relevancy embody?
A customer’s affinity for a brand is no longer determined simply by what the brand does for them, but also by what it does for society and the environment. We, the consumers, are becoming mindful. Brands such as TOMS, with its One for One® business model and campaigns like its recent #EndGunViolenceTogether, recognized early on that it had to expand the boundaries of the traditional brand ecosystem. Through the integration of social responsibility, they are able to connect with consumers through something greater, something founded on more than transactions and experiences: personal values and social purpose.
What makes it even better from a business perspective is that by extending the focus of social responsibility from back-end to front-end operations, companies can improve their top and bottom lines. Unilever, for example, reports that its sustainable living brands have grown over 46% faster than the rest of its business, making them responsible for 70% of the company’s growth in 2018. Not surprisingly, this is the direction Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, will keep pursuing: “More and more of our brands will become explicit about the positive social and environmental impact they have. This is entirely aligned to the instincts of our people and to the expectations of our consumers. It is not about putting purpose ahead of profits, it is purpose that drives profits.”
And other brands across industries are following suit, incorporating social responsibility into their brand strategy all the way through to the retail experience. H&M wants to be climate positive by 2040 and just extended its supply chain transparency to all its products through a scannable price tag, giving shoppers access to a list of suppliers and factories. Toyota has made a commitment that by 2050, all new vehicles on its lots will emit close to zero CO2 during operation. And Walmart is launching a reusable shopping bag campaign this month as part of its larger plastic waste reduction initiative.
With today’s shoppers having access to more information than ever before, and price, product quality, and customer experience having matured into must-haves, shoppers are now entering a new era, also considering brands’ values and social purpose when making purchase decisions. So, if we haven’t already, we should start to think about how we can incorporate these new purchase drivers into our brand and retail strategies.
Contributed by: Heidi Allen, Integer Dallas
Image Source: Unsplash