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Conscious consumption – considerations for retail

You have solid policies around sustainability and ethical sourcing. But would your store associates be able to answer a customer’s question about them?

Ask yourself this – as a responsible retailer with a solid strategy for a cross-channel future and a team geared up to deliver exceptional customer service, how many of your store associates would be able to answer a customer’s question about your sustainability policy, or whether your products are ethically sourced?

As we enter the 2020s, a new type of shopper is emerging – the conscious consumer. They’re still on the lookout for the latest bargains, the newest products and an enjoyable in-store experience, but they’re also concerned about where their purchases come from – their sustainability, whether they’re ethically manufactured and, importantly, whether the brand says the right thing when it comes to mission, vision and values.

A survey by data platform Euclid found that 52% of Millennials and 48% of Gen Xers feel it’s important that their values align with the brands they like, and, according to Drew Carlin, brand analyst at global consultants Vivaldi, ‘more than half of Gen Zers consider the ethical implications of a brand to have a significant impact on purchase intent’. Thanks to a growing concern about the future of the planet and increasing awareness of how we choose to live has an impact on others, coupled with an economic drive to reduce outgoings and consumption, customers are now buying with a purpose that goes beyond ‘want’ and ‘need’.

Creating responsible business advocates

At one level this means changing manufacturing and resourcing processes to reduce packaging and waste, recycling where possible and taking care of the living standards and wellbeing of workers. At another, it means promoting and sharing information about sustainability and ethical practices, because today’s customers are going to want to know before they choose to make a purchase.

And, as always, those on the shop floor will be expected to lead the charge when it comes to making sure retailers’ credentials are not only available but enthusiastically advocated for as part of the sales process.

That means, on top of product and customer information, store associates will need to have access to details surrounding every responsible business policy and sustainable manufacturing initiative.  

From straightforward enquiries such as ‘is this made of recyclable material?’ to more complex questions such as ‘what are your plans for reducing packaging?’ they will be expected to provide an answer which will not only secure the sale but also make customers feel like they’re buying from a retailer that shares their values.

It’s a lot to ask – at a time when retail workers are under increasing pressure and may well be feeling overwhelmed by the requirements of a job which is in a constant state of change, becoming an ambassador for the company’s business values might seem daunting.

But this is where smart retailers who have already built the digital store into their strategies have an advantage – the same technology that delivers comprehensive customer and product details on demand can make sure store associates have sustainability and responsible business information at their fingertips.

From overarching policies right down to individual product details, it’s possible to make even the most complex documents accessible to both customer and store associate, simultaneously establishing the retailer as one which actively promotes values that chime with their own and making sure in-store staff have what they need to become advocates.

Red Ant CTO Dan Hartveld
Dan Hartveld, 28th February 2020

This article first appeared on MyCustomer.

Responsible retailers need to ensure store associates are equipped to answer customer questions around sustainability

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