In previous decades, being sustainable was largely linked with extra costs, particularly in the short term. However, over the past decade, corporate social responsibility has been gaining increasing momentum within the retail industry and an increasing number of companies are looking for ways to emphasise their commitment to environment and social goals. In recognising that sustainability is here to stay, the retail industry has seen an undeniable shift from looking a sustainability and “green retail” as a cost center, to seeing it as an opportunity to reduce and manage risk, improve customer and employee relationships and ultimately deliver better products and a better service.
Within the retail sector of the UK economy the British Retail Consortium reported way back in 2005 that “CSR is increasingly providing a template for retailers to report on a range of issues” and that “for retailers, CSR is inherent to their business strategy”. It is apparent, however, that CSR remains at the forefront of retailer’s strategic decision making and in a recent report sustainability experts from 82 countries worldwide were asked to identify leading companies integrating sustainability into their business strategies. The number of mentions ranked companies in the following order…
Marks & Spencer (6%)
Coca Cola (3%)
(Published in the 2015 Sustainability Leaders report)
But what can retailers expect to see a rise of in store in regards to green marketing?
The use of Video with in store POP
While in general retailers will begin to adopt and experiment with technology and innovative ideas, companies are notably trialling the implementation of a number of video formats.
EXAMPLE: Visa used a four part ‘shoppable’ YouTube video series to promote Visa Checkout- an online service that allows users to store their payments and shipping information. Using YouTube shoppable video technology, the audience can buy products featured by clicking directly on the video.
Result: Increased consumer engagement and an inventive way of showcasing products even for the busiest customers.
Increased use of recycled materials
A survey by Cone Communications and Echo Research recently uncovered that 87% of global consumers factor CSR into their purchase decisions. Ultimately this demonstrates that simply, consumers these days are more attracted to retailers or companies that invest in CSR schemes and initiatives.
EXAMPLE: Waitrose are already known for their support of British Farmers but have furthered this recently by backing British Wool licensee and entrepreneur Kim Stead with her innovative reusable 100% British Wool shopping bag. The new concept of “twool” wool bags has been a major investment for Stead, offering a robust bag that provides a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to commonly used carrier bags.
Development of in store marketing systems and the value chain for continuous improvement
Robin Lewis and Michael Dark highlighted a key factor to ensure retail success in their book, The New Rules of Retail. They argue that if retailers are looking to offer persuasive and exciting shopper experiences there is an undeniable need to take control of the entire value chain, from product manufacturing to distribution and marketing.
Sustainability is not a static concept that is over after a sustainability report is written. Retailers are now beginning to develop long-term sustainability projects with short, mid and long-term goals and objectives. Goals require infrastructure development in order to achieve continuous improvement. Management and IT systems for continuous improvement involve supplier scorecarding, management training, employee training, energy reduction goals and regular sustainability reporting.
EXAMPLES: Apple and Ralph Lauren are both praised on their ability to manage the value chain from pre to post purchase.
CSR initiatives promoted in store rather than product benefits
2015 will likely see an increase in retailers launching ethical initiatives promoted in store. CSR improves the shopping experience in a number of ways. It makes customers feel good knowing they’re contributing to a worthwhile cause, essentially it boosts shoppers propensity to spend the money in their pocked by assuring them that the money they are spending is not going into one person’s pocket but is truly making a difference somewhere in the world.
Evidently, the bottom line is that it is all about the customer experience, so our recommendation? Jump on the bandwagon as quickly as possible because these trends are not something you should be missing out on. Once again, the customer is king.