Win-Win Retail: The Rise of Conscientious Consumption

In November 2018 US retail giant Walmart announced their plan for ‘Reimagined Centres’, turning some of their estate into multi-functional community hubs for people to connect and dwell. This is not only a smart business decision but reframes the brand in the minds of shoppers as a net contributor to the community.

As the developed world is decluttering to find more meaning in life, less becomes more. The things we own and the brands we choose have become so much more of an expression of our own beliefs and personal values.

Research by Accenture shows that such initiatives have an impact on commerce; consumers who scored retailers higher on purpose spent 31% more with them against people who scored them lower.

Heightened awareness of business practices has resulted in a generation of activist consumers who feel brands have a responsibility to not just ‘do no evil’, but to make a positive contribution to society and their community. 40% of Gen Z in the US said they have boycotted a brand or company because it behaved or stood for something that did not align with their values.

Conscious consumption has morphed into conscientious consumption.

It is no coincidence that with the rise of consumer activism, ‘authenticity’ has become the latest overused, but increasingly meaningless marketing buzzword. The activist consumer can spot fakery from a distance and is able to expose it in just a few taps. It turns out that inauthenticity is much harder to pull off than the real thing. A big reason is the disparity between a brand’s core beliefs, and the issues they try to address solely because they could resonate with their key audiences.

Newer brands have emerged with ‘purpose’ at their core and the wise ones will stay true to their fundamental beliefs. Patagonia has won countless fans by putting their money where their mouth is and valuing humanity over profit, as exemplified by them donating their tax cut of $10 Million to climate causes. Their values are both shared and deeply felt so their actions are accepted and applauded without feeling like ‘gesture marketing’ – money can’t buy this sort of exposure. Older, more established brands have embraced initiatives with ‘purpose’ with varying success. Gillette campaign, “The best men can be”, shows the brand’s intent to stay lock-step with new ideals, but eyebrows were raised when it was noted that female razors are still priced higher than male razors.   

Done correctly, purpose can have a big impact on a brand’s bottom line, as the example of charitable retailer BeautyKind shows: by giving back to charity with every purchase, they have achieved a 7% conversion rate, compared to the industry average of 1-2%.

The trend to conscientious consumption is here to stay. But rather than just paying lip service, brands need to consider how to factor it into their fundamental thinking and actions. A genuine connection with consumers and shoppers can only be built upon strong convictions that guide a business’ decisions across all areas of activity.

Key Takeaways

From conscious to conscientious consumption

Heightened awareness on business practices has moved consumers to expect brands not just to “do no evil” but to contribute actively and positively to society.

Contributing to society beyond just making money positively impacts commerce

Shoppers scoring retailers higher on purpose spent 31% more with them against those who scored them lower.

Purpose needs to drive a brand forward from its core

It needs to guide a brand’s behaviour and decisions across all areas of the business and not pay lip service in communication.

Contributed By: Lukas Quittan, Integer London

Image Source: Unsplash