Knowing the Conscious Consumer


Consumers want to buy from companies that help them change the world for the better. How can brands adhere to these higher ethical, moral and value-based codes of conduct?

According to Futerra’s survey of over 1,000 consumers, 96 per cent of people feel their actions, such as donating, recycling, or buying ethically, can make a difference. Since one of the biggest actions is consumption, consumers are eager to support companies that care about the environment as much as they do. It’s not a new customer expectation but one that took precedence during the pandemic when consumers had a chance to pause and reflect.

Today’s consumer is much more conscious about their buying decisions. Honestly, consumers are spoiled for choice, so brands that can differentiate themselves as having heart, caring about using sustainable materials, avoiding waste, etc – all help differentiate themselves. The other obvious change is the tons of information available to consumers about how companies treat their employees, run business processes and how environmentally or socially conscious their practices are. There are plenty of examples of how brands that do well are doing good business, and it’s not just consumer-facing products. In 2016, Octopus Energy Group, a British renewable energy group that is specialised in sustainable energy, entered the market to disrupt the status quo with energy that they portrayed as being “good for the planet, good for your wallet, and, honestly, good for your soul”. The company claims to have picked up 50,000 customers a month on average, now supplying energy to over 2 million UK homes. According to customer reviews, 92 per cent rated the service as Excellent on TrustPilot.

Further, the modern shopper has evolved to be focused on mindful consumption that’s good for communities and good for our planet. More than a half of the consumer population surveyed by GreenPrint earlier this year said that 78 per cent of people are more likely to purchase a product that has been clearly labelled as environmentally friendly. Clearly, younger generations of buyers are driving this shift. Gen Z buyers, who currently account for 40 per cent of the consumer market, are more value-driven consumers.

How can brands seek out these customers? Sentiment analysis using Natural Language Processing can help track the emotion of the consumer and how they connect to the product. Tools like AI chatbots with real-time feedback, helps brands learn more about customer perception using qualitative feedback. By analysing text-based conversations and analysing the important terms with the help of visualisations such as a Word Cloud, can help highlight the important aspects of a customer’s feedback and businesses can discover how customers genuinely feel about their products, services, marketing campaigns, and more.

Good guy- bad guy

In July, when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos blasted into space in a rocket built by his private space company, Blue Origin, he thanked his company employees and customers for paying for his brief flight to space. This was mostly in jest but social media users criticised the billionaire’s remarks. It reignited the conversation of dangerous working conditions of Amazon employees and news of the eCommerce company paying zero federal taxes in 2018. Consumers are concerned about whether or not their products are manufactured within ethical conditions. In contrast, Walmart’s choice to raise employee pay captured positive media attention. Consumers are drawn to brands that share their beliefs, and most believe in a better living wage.

Modern consumers have a greater sense of ownership about the brands that they purchase. They equate the buy to funding or encouraging the company to continue doing what they are doing. In this scenario, consumers tend to ask themselves; do I like what they’re doing?

Such consumers identify with the LOHAS values i.e. Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, a market that focuses on personal, social, and environmental decision-making. Earlier, consumers had to dig deep to uncover which values brands align with but today, there are resources readily available to help connect people to brands they want to support. For example, B Lab, an organisation that certifies B Corps, currently hosts a directory that allows consumers to find certified companies by location, industry, and name.

In a 2020 study entitled Meaningful Brands by Havas Group, interdependency between an aware consumer’s expectation of how a brand treats its customers, staff, and the local community to their commitment towards more sustainable outcomes for the planet was found to be deeply connected. There are studies that argue that while the consumer’s sentiment towards wanting to change is growing, in reality, their actual shopping behaviour has not yet seen a significant shift.

Moreover,  consumers attach feelings of brand loyalty to brands that align with consumers on a psychological level. A brand’s commitment to environmental and social good helps solidify this relationship. According to a 2021 survey, 90 per cent of millennials will buy from a brand if they stand true to their social and environmental claims; 95 per cent say they’ll refer friends and family.

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