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29 July, 2014

How does the consumer experiences sustainable (brand) concepts?

“The role of offline retail for succeeding sustainable (brand) concepts.”

Corporate social responsibility is nowadays a precondition for organizations. More than two thirds of the consumers place (great) importance to corporate responsible companies. For nearly a third of these consumers this is an (very) important purchasing criterion. The extent to which sustainable retail concept – and the strategy – is devised is crucial to convince the consumer to buy your sustainable product. The sustainability of your product, the way you market it and the preparation are therefore essential in succeeding or failing sustainable initiatives or innovations from brands and retailers. An important part of this is communicating with the consumer. It is not enough to only develop an innovative and sustainable product; the customer must be informed and preferably the product packaging must sell themselves.An authentic and sustainable approach to innovation is crucial.The consumer nowadays wishes to decide for himself.

Puma's clever little bagNumerous organizations in various industries claim, justified or unjustified, to be  corporate responsible companies.  The sport retail industry, in which I am very interested,  also   also has its brands and retailers with sustainable initiatives or innovations. Puma’s ‘clever little bag’ is a bag  serving as a shoebox, Timberland introduced the ‘Green Index’ to make the environmental impact of their products visible and K2 Skates donates to Pink Ribbon. Runnersworld supports the Lung fund with several actions and promotions and Bever Outdoor & Travel strives with several partners  for  a respectful relation with nature. Of course there are plenty of innovative and successful concepts about people, animals and environment,  in other industries as well  next to the sport retail industry.

It is important to emphasise the fact  that brands and retailers with these kinds of innovations do not use the possibilities of ‘offline retail’ sufficiently. Consumers attach value to corporate social responsibility but have   hardly any insight in what brands really do. An average of 50% of the consumers can not estimate a sustainable image of a brand. They find it difficult to connect spontaneous sustainable associations to a brand. Brands or retailerscan claim  to be corporate responsible companies but because of a lack of communication about their initiatives or innovations, the insight of the consumer about these sustainable concepts decreases. This can finally lead to  the consumer’s distrust about the brands or retailers ‘corporate social responsibility’.

If the sustainable and innovative product is well thought out, the physical store offers an excellent opportunity to create a truly sustainable retail experience regarding the proposition and brand values. The modern day consumer wants to encounter new experiences. Creating this experience complement a consumer’s need. Offline retail becomes more a ‘brand house’ for ‘storytelling’. Emphasise expressing the brands proposition or brand values, from ‘selling’ to ‘telling’. The brand can dialogue with the consumer and the consumer can experience the brand. Delivering the retail experience is from the consumer’s point of view often a proof of quality of the brand and the product. Of course if both are integrated and reinforce each other. In this situation, an (sustainable) image arises and creates trust in contrast to distrust.

Under Armour China Screen

Coming back to my interest in the sport retail industry, we see many sustainable concepts but few examples of retail experiences regarding sustainable initiatives or innovations. Market leader Nike does create a retail experience about their activity tracker running device, called ‘Nike+’. Although this device does not emphasise the importance of healthiness,  which probably does not fit Nike’s image and slogan ‘Just Do It’, it targets young, trendy and digital consumers and plays a leading role in brand communication and in physical stores.
Nike also develops sports pants by using recycled plastic bottles. How many consumers realize this (for the purchase of the product)? This is an inventive strategy that has a major impact on the development and buy-and-sell of new products.
Marqt, the supermarket for sustainable groceries, is an inspiring example of literally and figuratively tasting the biological proposition instore. Again, everything must be thought out, based on concept and strategy. Nudie Jeans – an authentic jeans brand that uses recycled cotton – tries to give the consumer insight in the entire recycling process of their jeans in as many physical locations as possible.

Denim beurs (3)

By using physical stores more effective in order to communicate about corporate social responsibility the consumer gets better insight in what the brand offers when it comes to sustainability. This is one of the most important remarks for succeeding brands and retailers sustainable concepts. Nowadays, where the customer journey, omni channel and supply chain management require time, money and effort, the development of inventive sustainable innovations stays behind.
Still, small innovations can be successful as long as the strategy and the relation with physical locations and the consumer are well thought through. Are you inspired regarding corporate social responsibility and do you want some advice about green concepts  fitting your market and your brand or  an advice how to  approach your market with your sustainable proposition strategically? Send an email towards info@preneurl.com. We will contact you to get acquainted without any obligations.

BEng Monique Plantinga