Today’s consumers are more socially and environmentally conscious than ever. Research shows that 65% of global consumers are making belief-driven purchases. And, almost 70% of US millennials consider company values when shopping.
Why is this? Right now there are over 3.7 billion active social media users. The explosion of these platforms combined with rapid news coverage has brought global issues front of mind and impossible to ignore.
Instead of impulse-buying, customers are taking the time to research the ethical impact of their shopping. From sustainability to animal and human rights, consumer self-education is having an important effect on shopping behavior:
- 87% of consumers agree that they would be more likely to buy a product that offered a social or environmental benefit
- 57% of shoppers say that they consider “Not tested on animals” to be the most important packaging claim
- 66% of global consumers and 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for ethically produced goods
Consumers are also becoming savvy to “green-washing” – when a company falsely gives the impression of environmental soundness to boost sales. More than ever, shoppers are looking for authentic brands that care about ethical issues.
What does this mean for you? Our report, Loyalty: Up close and personal, shows 68% of consumers are motivated to be loyal to a brand by knowing that they share the same values. To drive loyalty, you need to identify with your customers on an emotional level. Find out what your customers care about and make changes to align your brand values with theirs.
Here are some examples of customer loyalty programs making genuine efforts to build connections with their customers in the age of Conscious Consumerism:
- Connect your brand and your beliefs: Friction Free Shaving and Pacifica Beauty
- Ethical rewards: FourState and Edgard Cooper
- Spreading the word: Taylor Stitch and Makeup Eraser
- Creating a community: Annmarie Skincare
Connect your brand and your beliefs
Shoppers are looking for authentic brands that show they care about big picture issues, as well as providing a product or service. Whether it’s environmental or social issues, incorporate your support into different parts of your brand, such as your packaging and loyalty program. These extra measures to improve your brand’s global impact will prove to your customers that you really care.
For example, Friction Free Shaving sells long-lasting metal razors to help combat plastic in the oceans. They know their customers care about the environment and plastic usage. So, they use no plastic in their packaging and offer a way for customers to recycle their used blades responsibly.
Pacifica Beauty has built its brand on ethical values, selling only vegan and cruelty-free products. To show their customers that responsible plastic use is their priority, they have incorporated a recycling program into the customer experience. Customers can send their used bottles back to Pacifica Beauty to give the plastic a new life and keep it away from the oceans. They even send a prepaid shipping label and award customers 100 loyalty points for taking part.
Another way merchants can share their brand values is to offer loyalty program rewards that support ethical causes customers care about.
FourState is a sustainable and ethical store that sells beauty, clothing and more. They understand that their customers care about more than the just price when shopping. Instead of offering discounts or money-off rewards for their loyalty points, customers can choose from a variety of charitable actions. These include planting trees and donating meals.
Pet food brand, Edgard Cooper has adopted a similar approach. Since they care about animal welfare, they donate 10% of their profits to animal care clinics. And, they encourage their customers to exchange “Belly Rubs” for donating meals to dog shelters. Supporting charities that are closely linked to your brand is easier for your customers to connect with and more effective at driving engagement.
Offering ethical rewards in your loyalty program gives your customers the chance to work with you in supporting issues they care about. You and your customers are on the same side, and you’re building loyalty through shared values.
Spread the word
An emotional connection with your brand will make your customers more likely to tell their friends and family about you. Once established that you align on the same issues, encourage customers to spread your positive brand message through referrals and reviews. After all, shoppers who are referred to your brand have a 3-5 times higher conversion rate than other acquisition channels.
Makeup Eraser sells sustainable makeup remover cloths. Their customers clearly care about sustainable living. To encourage customers to tell others about their environmentally-friendly product, they offer loyalty points for certain actions. These include referring a friend, writing a review or posting on Instagram using their hashtag #nomorewipes.
Taylor Stitch creates long-lasting ethically-produced menswear. Their mission states:
“10 years ago we set out to make a better fitting shirt. We did that. Today we’re interested in building a better, more responsible company. Here’s how we’re going to make that happen.”
The clarity of this message makes it easy for shoppers to align with and share with others. To further motivate referrals, Taylor Stitch gives a 20% discount off a new customer’s first purchase. And, in turn, the brand advocate receives a $20 voucher.
Acts of brand advocacy such as reviews, referrals, and social posts work as social proof to new customers that your brand can be trusted. Giving the referrer and referee an incentive will motivate them to perform these acts and therefore grow your customer base.
Create a community
Our research shows that 47% of customers are motivated to be loyal to a store by becoming part of a brand community. Sharing the same ethical values as your customers creates common ground between you, and is shared between all of your customers. You can use your loyalty program to establish a circle of like-minded shoppers united by a common cause.
Organic and cruelty-free skincare brand, Annmarie Skincare, uses its loyalty program to build a united community. They welcome members into an exclusive Facebook group, where kindred spirits can share ideas and anecdotes to work towards a less damaging beauty regime.
Once you show your customers that you care about the same things, you can use this to unite them in a community. This emotional bond will further drive customers to engage on more than a transactional level.
Today’s consumers are looking to shop with genuine brands who care about big picture issues. Research into what issues your customers support and make steps in your brand and customer loyalty programs to support these causes too. This helps establish an emotional connection with your customers as they know shopping with you means working together towards the same goal. This bond will motivate customers to return to become loyal customers and brand advocates.
To find out more about the key drivers of customer loyalty, read our report, Loyalty: Up close and personal.
This article originally appeared in the LoyaltyLion blog and has been published here with permission.