Today’s consumers are faced with more choices than ever before and sustainable retail is the new black. For centuries, what consumers could buy was limited to what their local retail store had in inventory. Ecommerce and mobile shopping have changed all of that, and the world is now the consumers’ local store.
It is easier and cheaper to buy products from around the globe and have them delivered to your doorstep instead of shopping at your local store.
This change has shifted power from retailers to consumers.
Retailers have less power to dictate what consumers should wear, and have had to become better listeners towards what consumer’s want. A study found that 88 percent of consumers want brands that help them live an environmental and ethical lifestyle.
The shift towards digital sales in retail has also been positive for retailers. Retailers’ premises and marketing costs usually take up 80 percent of the total cost. Digital tech substantially reduces these costs and helps the retailer invest more in the quality of their products.
Sustainability is the New Black
Sustainability requires the retail business to grow and contribute to society. It takes the core belief that a business’ goal is towards achieving sustainable profits and adds to it the needs of people along with the planet.
Climate change is a global concern that has brought nations together, as suggested by the Paris Agreement. Individually, countries and geographic areas have been facing harsher weather conditions, such as the California bush fires and Houston floods, to name a few. The industry has also affected direct and immediate environmental ills such as air pollution in India and China.
These immediate environmental changes have made climate change more real for consumers. To reverse its effects and to live in a safer environment, consumers have become more discerning of their own contributions towards climate change.
How to Get Sustainable
There are plenty of ways retailers can make the shift to a sustainable brand. A few are:
- Retailers can adopt a retail PLM system that supports a product design process and enables it to rethink its entire operations. Such a tool can track the entire lifecycle of a product so retailers can make greener choices in the designing, production, and distribution phases.
- Going paperless is a tactic that any company can use. Using electronic communication has become more accessible, faster, and it even lowers costs. A retailer could email its receipts and catalogs along with using digital apps for administrative functions like calendars.
- Manufacturing efficiently is another way to reduce waste and increase productivity. This involves streamlining the supply chain by switching to better materials, using recyclable inputs, and practicing good corporate governance. The principles have to be applied to the entire supply chain, including suppliers and vendors, to be effective.
- Switching to more efficient and cleaner energy can save the retailer money along with reducing its carbon footprint. This involves using LED lighting, managing power use, upgrading machinery, switching to greener packaging, or using solar power.
- Recycling old products can significantly add to a retailer’s conservation efforts. The fashion world is a crowded industry, so it has a lot of waste. According to the UN, the fashion industry produces 10 percent of global carbon emissions and is responsible for 20 percent of global water waste.
How to Talk the Talk
Consumers have become more conscious of their buying habits, primarily due to the information that they have at hand. News, data, and information on environmental or social impact are easily accessible. Sustainable business practices are what consumers value, but it isn’t something that businesses can fake.
Consumers value a brand that helps them live a sustainable lifestyle, so the retailer must make this information available to consumers. The retailer has to tell its own stories, to do this it can:
- Create content on all media channels, packaging, and marketing messages that drives the retailer’s brand towards sustainability.
- The retailer can schedule campaigns according to environment days like Earth Day,
- Create a significant marketing budget to market its own sustainable products, initiatives, and services proactively.
- Create metrics to measure the campaign’s effectiveness and ROI
- Have continuous conversations with consumers through multiple channels (websites, social media, newsletters, etc.) about sustainably using and disposing of the product, especially as “an after-sale” service.
Authentic Sustainability Wins Customers
Being a sustainable brand is not something that can happen without transparency. Greenwashing or making false claims about sustainability efforts and achievements only hurt the retailer’s brand.
Certifications and other third-party authentications are critical to creating the brand’s authenticity. In the end, share your green initiatives, preach sustainability, and practice what you preach.
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