How retailers can meet consumers growing demand for sustainability shopping experiences

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Consumer shopping preferences have changed greatly since the start of the covid-19 pandemic two years ago. A new global study from the and helps quantify what I discuss with clients every day consumer expectations have increased and so retailers and brands must work to meet the need for more personalized customer experiences, transparent supply chains and agile operations.

According to the study, many habits consumers adopted out of necessity during the covid-19 pandemic are now the norm. Hybrid shopping when consumers split their shopping journeys across multiple digital, physical and mobile touch points is the method of choice for twenty seven percent of consumers surveyed and over 1 in 3 surveyed. And stores are still critical nearly three fourths of consumers surveyed still use stores as part of their primary method of buying. The study shows consumers surveyed are also using more technology and fulfillment options in the shopping process – self-checkout, curbside pickup, scan & buy, local delivery and contactless payments have all become commonplace shifting how customer engagement, merchandise planning, supply chain, stores and fulfillment needs to operate.

Consumers surveyed choosing brands based on how well those brands align with their values, rather than making purchases based solely on cost, selection and convenience. We called this group purpose-driven consumers.

Purpose driven consumers represent the largest segment of global consumers surveyed and it is consistent across all major product categories. And these surveyed consumers are active and involved in the shopping process, engaged with retailers and brands, and eager for more information to help them make better decisions, according to the research. In short, they are ideal brand ambassadors, and thus a critical cohort for retailers to cultivate.

The research shows that sixty two percent of consumers surveyed say they are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce environmental impact. More strikingly, half of respondents say they’re willing to pay a premium for sustainability an average premium of seventy percent. This is roughly double the premium from 2020.

But these consumer claims remain somewhat aspirational. There is a significant gap between what consumers surveyed say and how they actually spend their money. Only 31% of respondents indicated that sustainable products made up more than half of their last purchase.

One way to help close this gap is with transparency. About one in five respondents said that more information what makes a product sustainable, where products are sourced, produced, and manufactured and how to re-use, return or recycle them will help them buy more sustainably. As brands continue to invest in sustainability initiatives, their progress is being tracked in social media and broadcast by mass media, helping them attract purpose-driven consumers or lose them.

It is clear from the survey findings that retailers should streamline the hybrid shopping experience and make sustainable shopping much easier for their customers. Technologies such as AI, blockchain can all be pieces of the puzzle. And developing these capabilities at the new speed of business requires advanced automation and hybrid cloud designed to help transform processes, improve operational agility and adapt to consumers changing needs.

Retailers can improve hybrid shopping by integrating their digital and physical operating platforms to help deliver an experience that leverages the strengths of each. Retailers should also understand which touchpoints are most important to which customers and be prepared to make near real-time changes as their needs shift. This requires robust customer data platforms designed to collect and analyze information from internal and external sources to help them run the business at a more localized and individualized level.

As more consumers align their purchases with their values, retailers and brands can help close the intention-action gap by making it easier for their customers to understand how a given product supports sustainability. It is important for companies to translate jargon into language that consumers can understand and offer tradeoffs between cost, service and environmental impact that can empower consumers to make their own choices.

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