Will coronavirus accelerate the move towards conscious consumerism?

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Catherine Erdly, Retail Mentor and Founder of The Resilient Retail Club, talks about what’s important to consumers in the wake of coronavirus.

 

The stationery industry has made large strides in recent years towards addressing the concerns of a growing number of consumers who are looking for retailers to lead the way with reducing their impact on the planet. Whether using naked cards, compostable cello or FSC and recycled paper, there has already been a big shift within the industry.

 

However, will the consumer, newly emerging from their lockdown, want to see retailers doing more?

 

A new focus

Coronavirus has caused a lot of people to reconsider what is important to them. One of the side effects of the virus, with its massive disruption to daily lives, has been a reassessment of the way we are living our lives.

 

A report by Accenture into the impact of coronavirus on consumer habits states: “Consumers are more mindful of what they’re buying. They are striving to buy more sustainable options. Brands will need to make this a key part of their offer.”

 

Conscious consumerism was already gathering momentum in 2020 - spurred on by environmental disasters such as the Australian wildfires that dominated headlines in the early part of the year. But coronavirus has only accelerated that trend.

 

A look at Google trends data also confirms this - for example, searches of “zero waste stores near me” were up 450% on the year in the UK, while searches for compostable packaging were up 65% on the year.

 

Sharing your values

While conscious consumerism is related to environmental considerations such as reducing waste, it also highlights the desire of consumers to buy from businesses who share their values.

 

Brand storytelling - or the practice of sharing your brand’s values and beliefs through the stories you tell, has become a key part of marketing over the past few years.

 

If you don’t tell your customer your story - why you started the business, what your mission is, how you seek to make a positive impact through the products that you sell, then how will the customer know?

 

With the customer more committed than ever to buying from businesses that not only are striving to reduce their environmental impact but have values and beliefs that align with the customers own, sharing these stories must become a central part of any business’s marketing strategy.

 

Even something as simple as explaining what sustainability means to you and outlining exactly what it means in your business is a great way to start that conversation with your customer.

 

Radical transparency

One word of warning - customers are very sensitive to “green-washing”, or the practice of misleading them on important details on anything from the business ethos to how sustainable the products really are.

It is much better to practise radical transparency - sharing the highs and the lows, and being honest when you are falling short of your own standards or when areas of the business are still a work in progress.

 

Being aware of how consumers will be looking for conscious choices now more than ever and sharing your stories openly and honestly will enable you to more easily meet the needs of today’s customer.

 

 

Catherine Erdly is a Retail Mentor and Founder of The Resilient Retail Club.

Having worked in the retail sector for two decades, Catherine has experience in all aspects of the industry from e-commerce to the high street. She has worked with household names such as Paperchase, Laura Ashley and Coast, as well as exciting independent start-ups.

Find out more about membership to The Resilient Retail Club and Catherine’s 1-2-1 services at www.resilientretailclub.com.

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