Global warming, mental health visibility, and various behavioral shifts caused by the pandemic have raised consumer awareness to an all-time high.
This led to a new type of consumer, one that is mindful and concerned not just with their own needs and wants but with the needs of their communities and the world as a whole.
Consumer preferences and expectations are undoubtedly changing, but this evolution goes beyond the on-page experiences of eCommerce. Increasingly, consumers are being driven by their values, beliefs, and ethics, as well as their practical concerns. - Adobe
The formula for value-driven customer experiences:
👉🏼Quality product + Great customer experience + Upholding customer values
In other words, a growing number of customers care about what you stand for as a company and how you run your business as much as they care about your products. They are rewarding companies that stand for the values they believe in.
- What do mindful consumers care about brands?
- What can brands do to satisfy mindful consumers? 8 actionable practices
- Leading by example: brands that are taking action
- Looking into the future
What do mindful consumers look for in brands?
- As much as 22% of all global consumers can be considered “Eco Actives”: people concerned with the environment who take action to minimize their waste.
- Consumers are becoming more concerned with packaging. In Europe, three-quarters of shoppers prefer to buy products with sustainable packaging.
- Eco-minded consumers associate sustainable purchases with positive feelings of mental wellbeing.
- Some shoppers avoid brands tied to pollution while focusing on brands that promote social responsibility, inclusiveness, and having a positive environmental impact.
- Consumers are more likely to promote brands they perceive as sustainable via word of mouth.
- Prioritizing employee welfare, mental health, and wellbeing by conducting regular surveys about their satisfaction levels, complying with safety regulations, providing healthcare coverage, etc.
- Making financially trustworthy decisions like partnering with contractors that prioritize sustainable materials (even if it costs more) and applying transparent salary policies to make up for past injustices regarding race and gender.
- Donating to local charitable causes and giving back to the communities they reside in.
- Being fully transparent about supply chains by providing information about the quality and origin of raw materials, safety standards, labor practices, etc.
- Promoting diversity and inclusivity through equal pay programs, paid parenthood leave, more opportunities for historically overlooked groups, and more.
What can brands do to satisfy mindful consumers? 8 actionable practices
Every industry has different types of customers, some more or less concerned with social and environmental values. But the shift towards environmental values is growing, especially among the younger generations.
Here’s what brands can do to adapt:
🧐 Know your customers.
Being more in tune with your customer base’s values builds trust and can increase brand value and total revenue.
Less than 35% of consumers are completely satisfied with their brand relationships, according to the 2022 Brand Relationship Design report from R/GA.
The report found six factors that drive customer motivation, ranking ease of use and first impressions highest:
- First impression
- Ease of use
By connecting with their values and recognizing where they are in the customer journey, you will stand out as a brand that takes the time to know its customers.
However, not all customers are the same. Some people might care more about packaging and sustainability, or be relatively new to the world of eco-friendly products, while others are more concerned about whether their purchases support local businesses.
Approaching each segment based on their preferences will be key.
Related article: Why businesses should invest in Customer Experience Management CXM
📣 Make your efforts known.
Inform customers about your environmental and social commitments. Let them know about your practices by promoting them on your website and social media presence.
But above all, commit to these initiatives because you want your brand to help. Dishonest commitments have real-world consequences.
🚫Don't fall into the trap of Greenwashing.
"Greenwashing" conveys the false impression that your brand or products are environmentally friendly.
Common examples of greenwashing include manipulating emission tests to get better results and making unsubstantiated claims about reducing pollution.
Your initiatives and messaging must be authentic and coherent with your brand. If you are a paper company, an initiative to plant trees would be more consistent with your brand than if you were a bank.
Additionally, the methods used must be sustainable on their own. If you are making an effort to use recycled plastic, make sure workers don't do the actual recycling in poor, dangerous conditions.
Many brands have created an illusion of sustainability that is actually powered by unethical workplace conditions. Don’t be one of them.
Not only do you lie to the public when you greenwash, but you also create misinformation, hurt the environment, and set a low bar for others to follow.
🤲🏼 Give back.
Make connections in your community by supporting local initiatives for environmental change and social improvement.
One way to give back would be to support NGOs whose goals are consistent with your brand. They have the knowledge and the expertise to target projects that improve your community, and you might have the necessary resources to make them happen.
It’s a win-win: you build stronger ties with competitors and the general public while giving back.
♻️ Packaging makes a difference.
If applicable, use eco-friendly materials. Brands that use visibly recycled or recyclable materials stand out on the shelves. Also, avoid single-use plastic whenever possible. This is better for the environment and helps cut costs for you and your customers.
Telecom startup Raylo is an example of cost-effective and eco-friendly packaging:** They developed a shipping-friendly cardboard package that is lighter and easy to assemble. Their goals were to find a cost-effective solution, a shipping-friendly design, and a smart way to pack.
They benefited from an 11% decrease in packaging costs, a 21% decrease in the amount of glue used, and a 21% decrease in packaging weight.
✖️ Avoid single-use plastic products.
Almost 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, half of which are single-use products. Although many brands have made honest efforts to incorporate sustainable materials into single-use products such as bags, straws, bottles, and stirrers, there’s still much to be done.
Ethique, is the world’s first beauty brand with zero waste. They are a 100% plastic-free, laminate-free, and chlorine-free makeup/hygiene brand. They create solid bars of shampoo, conditioner, and soap wrapped in cardboard and paper tape produced with minimized amounts of water.
🔍 Be transparent about your supply chain.
By informing customers about raw material sourcing and all other relevant information. Customers have a lot of information at their disposal, and they tend to choose the most transparent brand when it comes to the sale and post-sale relationships.
Your honesty could be a key differentiator for your customers.
🤝 Collaborate with positive role models to tell a story.
Support your message with a face and storytelling. It's a great combination.
Studies have shown that character-driven stories and emotionally-fuelled narratives produce physiological responses and inspire behavior change. For even more impact, when adding a face or voice to your message, focus on a long-term partnership rather than a short-term tactical campaign.
One good example is David Attenborough’s BBC series “Blue Planet II”, which led to a 53% reduction in single-use plastic in the 12 months following the show, powered by an emotional appeal to save our oceans and the actions of brands offering sustainable alternatives like paper straws.
Adding a role model that fits your message, values, and beliefs could be a positive step in building trust and taking action around sustainability messages.
Leading by example: brands that are taking action
We know inspiration is essential. Here’s what 4 global brands are doing to promote sustainable and socially responsible business practices.
IKEA’s “Buy Back Friday” initiative allows customers to sell old furniture during Black Friday to sell in special second-hand areas of their stores later. Customers registered to sell their items online, and in return, they received vouchers to spend in-store, calculated according to the condition of the items.
“Every year, millions of pieces of secondhand furniture go to waste. That’s why we’re buying back your used IKEA furniture, to give chairs, shelves, or chests of drawers as many lives as possible”. - IKEA
Mastercard’s Carbon Calculator was developed in collaboration with Swedish fintech brand Doconomy.
It allows users to estimate the carbon footprint of all their purchases, tracking them monthly across various spending categories. It aims to create awareness and give people an idea of how they can adjust their habits for sustainability.
Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025 through a combination of multiple international strategies:
- Solar panels.
- Reducing the emissions produced by their supply chain.
- Collaborating with bigger brands to promote similar initiatives.
“The climate crisis poses an existential threat; if we don’t clean up our mess, we’ll be history. Business has a role to play, but it’s only one lever. We must use all the tools at our disposal to secure a safer, more just future.” Ryan Gellert, Patagonia CEO.
Shipping company Maersk initially aimed to become carbon neutral by 2050, but later accelerated their goals to 2040. Their milestones include developing thousands of vessels that run on green ethanol and significantly reducing emissions across their entire supply chain.
“Our updated targets and accelerated timelines reflect a very challenging, yet viable pathway to net zero, which is driven by advances in technology and solutions. What is needed is a rapid scale-up which we will strive to achieve in close collaboration with customers and suppliers across the entire supply chain.” Henriette Hallberg Thygesen, CEO of Fleet & Strategic Brands, A.P. Moller - Maersk
Looking into the future
Environmental and social concerns are driving consumers' decisions more than ever, and it's not just millennials demanding more from brands—the trend cuts across generations.
To design relevant, engaging customer experiences for these customers, retailers must start with an understanding of how they are shopping, while keeping in mind that environmental and social causes have become a heated topic for many.
Challenges can still hinder brands, though. Making a push for sustainability, social and financial responsibility without a clear focus and realistic expectations can lead to the need for product innovation or redesign and instability within the established supply chain.
On the other hand, when planned correctly, sustainable and socially responsible projects can lead to greater brand value and increased revenue.
Over time, it will become clearer how we can all fit into this system, but right now, the data shows that a good portion of customers want eco-friendly, socially-aware brands and by becoming one, you will not only stand out, but will be doing the planet a service.
The future is bright for forward-thinking brands that want to build relationships and values through socially responsible projects.