James Barlow, Regional Director UK and Ireland at Akeneo
Articulating company values is now a key part of the product experience, says James Barlow, UK and Ireland regional director at Akeneo. So how can brands and retailers better demonstrate their commitment to the planet?
Most companies have made some kind of commitment to the environment by aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, but many have not done so explicitly in terms of the products and services they sell. This influences key performance indicators such as brand trust, brand attachment, and brand commitment. In our own survey 2021, 52% of consumers said they would be willing to pay more when brand values are part of shared product information.
Also, in research, consumers are willing to pay more, which is good considering that green products cost more to produce. A study of Simon-Kucher & Associates showed that a third of UK consumers would pay more for sustainable products and services, while in a further 17 countries, 25% were willing to spend more on greener alternatives to their current purchases.
The journey does not begin with a holistic approach to sustainability communication, but with segmentation, as different consumers in different demographics and geographies will have different environmental aspirations, so it is important to tailor content and information about products to what is known about key audiences.
For example, Marks & Spencer has just announced that it is inviting its 14 million Sparks loyalty program customers to try a low-carbon diet, feel healthier and save money, while living more sustainably. The eight-week Sparking Change Challenge includes a range of resources designed to help customers prepare healthy, more sustainable meals from scratch.
But how can this be achieved through product information and product experience? We have outlined our five key principles.
1. Share brand values through product content – but do it authentically
Because customers want to know about products and services, but also about the company’s purpose, mission and values, it makes sense to communicate them to real people, ideally the company’s founders or leaders, who embody these values and share them for maximum impact. The “About Us” page will simply not be enough.
There must also be transparency in these communications. Big brands tend to share information about the suppliers they work with, the materials they use, their vision for the company, the concrete actions they take, the organizations they donate to, and so on.
Giving meaning to consumers leads to higher engagement and growth.
2. Inform about certificates and quality labels
Words aren’t always enough, so proof of commitment must be provided, and this is credibly communicated through compliance with industry standards, registration programs and quality awards.
62% of consumers consider quality certificates and labels to be the #1 piece of information demonstrating brand commitment.
3. Guide consumers to the right products
Certification works if, in addition, product discovery and research is facilitated so that customers can filter the proposed purchases according to their purchasing preferences.
And these filters must be managed in the central system used to manage the product, using automatic rules based on the information they contain.
4. Take back used products
Consumer awareness of the impact of product manufacturing has led many to buy used or rent through depop, Vinted and ThredUP. The best way to meet these new competitors is to play them their own game and agree to resume purchases, as brands like Patagonia or Isabel Marant have done.
However, promoting used products alongside new products requires a different approach to how products are discovered and described. This is much easier if the PIM system is able to easily access the right product data inherited from a trusted database rather than having to recreate it.
5. Switch to a more climate-friendly shipping solution and reduce packaging
Increasingly, the environmental qualities of the product are often as important as how it is shipped, given that global freight transport accounts for 8% of global carbon emissionsand last mile shipping is a big part of that footprint.
Greener delivery options should be displayed next to products, to include slower delivery, grouping orders and smaller boxes so you don’t waste space.
Ultimately, sharing and making explicit the extent to which companies are minimizing their carbon impact will have a significant impact on customer loyalty and growth.