Global warming, mental health visibility, and various behavioral shifts caused by the pandemic have raised consumer awareness to an all-time high, leading up to a new type of consumer: the wise consumer, also referred to as mindful consumer. Simply put, the wise consumer is 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.
This new-found mindful consumption leads shoppers to make purchasing choices that are healthier and eco-friendly.
"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
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.
The formula for value-driven customer experiences is based on a mixture of the quality of the product, a great customer experience —and upholding your customers' values.
What does a wise consumer / mindful consumer look for in brands?
In general terms, a wise consumer looks for products and brands that have green and social values in order to reduce their waste and amplify positive social impact. Let's inspect both of these terms a little bit further:
The mindful consumer looks to buy products with green values. Simply put, green value is "the sum of the financial, environmental, social, information and functional benefits that a green product or service can provide to the consumers". In other words, people who practice mindful consumption are interested in acquiring products that hold environmental, informational, social, or functional benefits. But, how does this translate into consumer behavior? Let's explore:
- As much as 22% of all global shoppers can be considered “Eco Active”: people concerned with the environment who take action to minimize their waste.
- The wise consumer is becoming more concerned with packaging. Indeed, in Europe, 75% of shoppers prefer to buy products with sustainable packaging.
- The mindful consumer associates sustainable purchases with positive feelings of mental well-being.
- Some shoppers avoid brands tied to pollution while focusing on brands that promote social responsibility, inclusiveness and having a positive environmental impact.
- The wise consumer is more likely to promote brands they perceive as sustainable via word of mouth.
What can brands do to satisfy the wise consumer? 8 actionable practices.
Every industry has different types of customers, some more or less concerned with social and environmental values. But the shift towards mindful consumption is growing, especially among the younger generations. So, what can your brand do to adapt to this new type of consumer behavior? Our experts have put together a list of 8 actionable practices below:
- 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. Furthermore, 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 personal 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 every wise consumer is the same. Some people might care more about packaging and sustainability while others are more concerned about whether their purchases support local businesses. Approaching each segment based on their preferences will be the key.
- Make your efforts known: Inform customers about your environmental and social commitments. Let them know about your mindful consumption practices by promoting them on your website and social media.
But above all, commit to these initiatives because you genuinely want your brand to help. Dishonest commitments have real-world consequences.
- Don't fall into the trap of greenwashing: The term 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. For instance, 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. Not only are those companies lying to the public, but they are also creating misinformation, damaging the environment, and setting a low bar for others to follow. Plus, the mindful consumer is weary of brands that are dishonest about their practices that are aligned with mindful consumption. Thus, these brands open themselves up to the possibility of being caught —and suffer public backlash.
- Give back: Make connections in your community by supporting local initiatives for environmental change and social improvement. For example, some companies that practice mindful consumption support NGOs whose goals are consistent with their brand. They have the knowledge and the expertise to target projects that improve communities, and the company might have the necessary resources to make them happen.
It’s a win-win scenario, given that this also allows brands to build stronger ties with 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 any mindful consumer that might purchase from you.
An example of cost-effective and eco-friendly packaging is the case of Telecom's startup Raylo: they developed a shipping-friendly cardboard package that is lighter and easy to assemble. This way, they reached their goals of finding a cost-effective solution, a shipping-friendly design, and a smart way to pack —all while catering to shoppers that practice mindful consumption.
Moreover, 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.
A perfect example of this is Ethique, 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. By choosing to target the wise consumer directly, this brand taps into a niche that still remains quite untapped.
- Be transparent about your supply chain: It's important to always be transparent about your supply chain by informing customers about raw material sourcing and all other relevant information. The mindful consumer has 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. Simply put, 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 great storytelling. It's an effective combination. In fact, 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 mindful consumption messages.
Leading by example: brands that are taking action in mindful consumption.
We know inspiration is essential. So, here’s what 4 global brands are doing to promote sustainable and socially responsible business practices.
IKEA buys back furniture.
IKEA’s “Buy Back Friday” initiative has found a way to tap into the mindful consumer by allowing 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 helps you estimate your carbon footprint.
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, give people an idea of how they can adjust their habits for sustainability and, of course, harness trust from the wise consumer.
Patagonia aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025.
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.
Maersk decarbonizes maritime shipping.
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 of mindful consumption.
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 the wise consumer, retailers must start with an understanding of how the mindful consumer shops, while keeping in mind that environmental and social causes have become a heated topic for many.
However, challenges can still hinder brands. 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 new era of mindful consumption, 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.
Indeed, the future is bright for forward-thinking brands that want to build relationships and values through socially responsible projects.