February 2023

What you need to know about the conscious consumer

Consumers are increasingly demanding more conscious behaviour from businesses - and they’re making these demands heard with their wallets.

The rise of the conscious consumer has encouraged a shift in business focus, with companies more likely to sell products and brands that are ethical, environmentally friendly and demonstrably committed to a sustainable future. 

Conscious consumers are a group of customers that take the time to research a brand before purchasing and ensure they are supporting the kind of business that aligns with their own values. A conscious consumer will do their homework before buying. They will check that a business’s claims are authentic and expect honest labelling and complete transparency all the way along the supply chain. 

What is conscious consumerism? 

What a conscious consumer means for your business will depend on your industry. A conscious consumer booking a flight might select an airline that offers carbon offsetting, whereas a conscious consumer for a furniture company might be looking for a company with an ethical timber supply.

The results of PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey showed that since the pandemic, 50% of the population had become more conscious in their purchasing. The same increase was seen in customers who deliberately chose to buy only eco-friendly and sustainable products and demonstrated an increase of 15% from the equivalent survey conducted in 2019.

Conscious consumerism demands that businesses become conscious themselves, offering products that are sustainable and come from trustworthy and ethical sources.  Initiatives that help companies source sustainable products make this easier. One such organisation is Better Cotton. Better Cotton provides a platform for businesses throughout the cotton supply chain to connect with other environmentally conscious companies. 

Are consumers becoming more conscious? 

As well as seeking out ethically produced products, buyers are changing their own behaviour of consumption. A Walnut Omnibus survey in 2019 showed that 75% of consumers had changed their own habits, using less plastic and reducing consumption of products that they perceived were harmful to the environment. These included dairy, meat, palm oil and products that were tested on animals. Conscious consumers were also limiting travelling distances and purchasing fewer clothes. Brands that marketed directly toward the conscious consumer, such as Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than their other brands and accounted for 75% of the company’s growth.

Unilever’s Alan Jope said that ‘two-thirds of consumers around the world say they choose brands because of their stand on social issues, and over 90% of millennials say they would switch brands for one which champions a cause.”

How are consumers becoming more conscious? 

With digital and social media at their fingertips, conscious consumers have so many methods at their disposal to find the kind of products they feel fit in with their values and their desire to support sustainable industries. 

Purchasers are also seeking ethical and conscious initiatives that bring together sustainable producers and retailers working in the same supply chains. Conscious consumers show an increased commitment to shopping in local settings and avoid making purchases that rely on long-distance supply chains that create large carbon footprints wherever possible.


How can retailers attract and retain more conscious consumers? 

Retailers can attract the conscious consumer simply by learning about their behaviour and responding to expectations. 

For a retailer, action is more important than messaging and talking points. To attract the conscious consumer, retailers need to demonstrate their commitment in practical ways, including supporting brands that actually make a difference. 

Advertising and marketing that is transparent and honest is a big draw card. Backing up claims and representations with actions brings a level of trust that will keep customers returning. 

Bringing the customer’s attention to any organisations that you have partnered with to improve the environment will help attract the kind of consumer who cares about how their purchases affect the planet. 

Importantly, taking the eco-friendly message throughout the organisation including to manufacturing and production sources and supply chains will clearly show your consumers that you are an ethical and committed company.

Companies like Unilever see clear evidence that creating purpose-based brands are the future and have enormous growth potential. As Alan Jope put it, “purpose creates relevance for a brand, it drives talkability, builds penetration and reduces price elasticity.” 

The conscious consumer is willing to shop in an ethical way and will often pay a premium to support a sustainable retailer. However, for those customers who want to purchase goods but may need to spread their payments over a period of time, retailers can partner with etika for fair finance options. 

Your quality, yet sustainable products will be affordable for all budgets with etika offering a range of payment options that allow your conscious customers to spread out their payments. etika offers customers payment plans that suit their individual situations and provides retailers with a trustworthy and reliable credit service at the same time (subject to etika’s eligibility criteria). The checkout process is smooth and simple, with customers completing an easy-to-use online application at the point of sale. 

Retailers looking for a finance partner that can help them become a purpose-driven business should consider etika, as they take on greater ESG commitments. 

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