From Liz Tokareva, Director of In-House Products, SmartyAds
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many brands began to massively readjust their marketing strategies towards sustainability, awareness and new approaches to production. For a long time, the concept of sustainability was attractive to advertisers, although it wasn’t really seen as serious marketing leveraging that could impact sales. Today, sustainability is becoming an integral part of brand-customer communication, not only because of the benefits for the overall brand’s image, but also because it brings real economic results
What is sustainability and how does it define new business realms?
When we talk about sustainable development in the context of business, we mean the company strives to achieve a balance in all aspects of its functioning: social, ecological and financial. In other words, businesses are becoming more human and empathetic in response to problems, such as the global economic crisis, turbulent geopolitical situations and global climate changes. They not only strive to minimize the negative impacts that appear as a result of their functioning, but also to do the utmost to improve the situation.
For example, certain brands produce sustainable products that today account for an average of 23% of the purchasing activity in large stores (26% in Europe, 24% in the United States, 22% in Japan and Korea and 19% in China). Within five years, this percentage is expected to reach 40%. For 68% of buyers surveyed, sustainability has more to do with real, tangible factors, such as working conditions, materials used during the production process and - to a lesser extent - marketing and brand reputation.
Due to the constant environmental and humanitarian problems in the world, companies and governments are required to be more transparent and accountable for what is happening in the world and how they respond to changes. Nearly 70% of customers are already willing to pay a higher price for a sustainable product or service, which is why 40% of large department stores “broadcast” the philosophy of sustainable development by employing various digital strategies.
How has the “remote world” redefined customer habits and what more can we expect?
COVID-19 is the biggest cause of the humanitarian problems that the world witnessed during the last couple of years. Lockdown impacted the global economy and modified customer habits in several ways. For example, now the majority of customers report that they give preference to brands that have healthy and hygienic packaging. Additionally, customers choose those companies that care for their employees during these turbulent times.
At the same time, since the pandemic, most categories of businesses have seen more than 10% growth in their online customer base. With this, many consumers say they plan to continue shopping online, even when brick-and-mortar stores reopen. As people align their lives to new realms, they actively embrace online shopping, online content streaming, online fitness programs and other activities related to various aspects of remote life.
With this, many consumers agree that they are being more mindful of where and how they are spending their money. The global mindset has changed, and the stats prove that, in our new remote world, customers are researching brands, their values and offered product choices before making purchases. Sustainability is becoming the new standard of consumer behavior, and that’s why being a sustainable company in 2022 requires grasping the new opportunities and turning them into brand loyalty and higher incomes.
Three pillars of purposeful, sustainable growth
Sustainable practices can be implemented by every company. For this, a company should create a set of measures and strategies that take into account improvements in the following aspects of their functioning: environmental, economic and social.
In the remote realm, it is hard to imagine something that would have a bigger impact on these pillars than new customer habits that were formed during the pandemic. Our digital consumption has increased drastically, and, at the same time, thanks to remote work, the public transportation workload (along with environmental pollution) was reduced. Many companies shifted their work online, providing an opportunity for their employees to stay flexible while choosing their working hours. With sustainability at the forefront during the pandemic, a company can take 3 winning steps to achieve greater performance in the long run. Let’s find out what those are.
Sustainability strategies brands should apply in the new remote realm
Redefine working habits. According to the latest findings, remote work can assist in reaching 14 of its 17 sustainable development goals. Companies that shifted to remote work can use this fact to differentiate themselves from competitors and emphasize it in marketing and advertising communications. More than that, there’s a deeper way to reduce energy consumption and promote a company as environmentally-conscious. Sure, vehicle pollution was reduced during the lockdown; however, carbon output analysys proved that remote work most affects the environment in the winter (since numerous apartments need to be heated versus, e.g., only one, open-space room).
For this reason, company owners can encourage their employees to go to the office in the winter, while staying at home when the weather is optimal for work.
Gear the digital transformation. According to the McKinsey & Company report, now when consumers can’t find the product they are searching for, they choose a different brand or try to shop at another retailer. In this case, the new technology can help to save time for both customers and retailers, and brands should realize that data must be at the center of their marketing communications.
Every time a customer is exposed to a brand, it's a potential moment to gather the insights to add value, relevance and generate sales. Such data can be accumulated and stored at CRMs or data management platforms and should be directly employed in the process of marketing communications; for example, while launching targeted advertising campaigns on the demand-side platform.
Elevate retail experiences. With the pandemic, content consumption across all channels only grew - CTV watching, gaming and social media were booming (and they still are, since customer online habits are the same). In these realms, brands that accurately pinpoint how and where their customers buy quickly achieve better sales.
During the lockdown, as people optimized their remote workplaces and bought more tech for entertainment, consumer demand for the following items increased: webcams 45%, monitors 31% and PC/VOIP headsets 37%. In such circumstances, brands can offer customers recycled and eco-friendly packaging instead of plastic. Delivery can be another key to growing a sustainable image - instead of separating items delivered to the same customer, it would be a wiser decision to combine everything in the same parcel. This way, such companies, like UPS and FedEx, can eliminate the carbon footprint caused by their delivery vehicles.
Instead of conclusion
Understanding global changes, and how they impact consumer preferences, is a must for businesses today. Sustainability is more than just a trend – it is something that represents the new global social request.
For a brand’s image, finding the best scenario for integrating and capitalizing on sustainability requires targeting the main focus. In our new, remote world, brands can rethink manufacturing processes, or redefine the working process, to reduce pollution and improve working conditions. Another area to focus on is technology. As customers actively seek additional information to support and justify their choices, brands can put sustainability at the center of their communications while delivering meaningful and data-driven marketing experiences.