In fact, 66% of shoppers are now seeking out eco-friendly brands, with 55% saying they would pay more for more sustainable products. But these same shoppers are skeptical too: 72% think that companies and brands overstate their sustainability efforts. And they’re right to question brands’ practical application of their values. According to another Harris Poll survey recently commissioned by Google Cloud, 58% of executives polled across 16 countries admit that their organization has overstated its sustainability efforts.
Product availability is table stakes
A final interesting point from the research: The global supply chain has stretched past its limit, and 60% of consumers are voicing some level of concern about it. But at the end of the day, if a preferred brand isn’t actually on the shelf, it doesn’t matter what their values or sustainability efforts are for many shoppers. A staggering 98% said they’d either buy from a different brand or search other stores or websites.
What’s a brand to do?
After more than 25 years working in the consumer goods industry in roles ranging from marketing and product development, to business strategy and technology, at companies like Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly Clark, Carter’s, and now Google Cloud, I’ve seen successful brands do four things well when it comes to their values:
1. Don’t be generic.
Your brand’s values need to be authentic, and they need to have teeth. But being too bold could run the risk of alienating some consumer segments. This is where technology can help. Personalizing your messages and outreach to specific shopper profiles is one way to ensure that your core values reach the right customers at the right time.
2. Make your values clear and consistent.
When focusing on which values to highlight with your consumers and the world, make sure they make sense for your brand and that you’ll stick to them over time. For example, it’s painfully obvious when a brand is being opportunistic and inserting itself into conversations around values like sustainability or social justice, when it doesn’t have a history of voicing those values. The key to clear and consistent values messaging is balancing authenticity with relatability and the appropriate amount of promotion.
3. Develop sustainability practices and communicate their impact to everyday people.
How everyday people perceive a consumer goods brand’s sustainability initiatives is different from how an investor or general business audience does. Shoppers don’t read business sustainability plans or impact reports. To increase awareness of your brand’s sustainability efforts, consumers need to identify and interact with your brand and products directly. Some of my favorite examples are how I love that Google Maps gives me the choice of eco-friendly driving directions, and that I know I can buy low-waste, packaging-free cosmetics from a company like Lush.
4. Reward customer loyalty.
Shoppers have more choices than ever before, and supply chain woes are testing preferences even further. But when someone chooses a specific brand because they feel aligned with their values or like their eco-friendly products, that shopper doesn’t always get recognized or thanked. Implementing a rewards program or following-up with customers after their purchases is one way you can make loyal shoppers feel appreciated while creating a lasting relationship that extends as long as possible.
—Giusy Bounfantino, VP, Consumer Packaged Goods, Google Cloud