A new generation of consumers has arrived, and they’re no longer content to shop with companies that don’t share their values. In fact, 70% of Generation Xers and 50% of Millennials are likely to stop buying from brands that support issues they don’t, while only 37% of Baby Boomers feel the same.
They vote with their wallets. We call them Generation Impact. Here’s how to prepare for this next generation of conscious consumers.
The rise of conscious consumerism with Generation Impact
Modern consumers advocate on key issues around racism, sexism, climate change, and many other social justice issues, and brands should take note.
The pandemic brought lots of change, and businesses’ stance on social and political issues wasn’t spared. Edelman’s report showed 80% of CMOs believed they shouldn’t take sides on these issues back in May 2020, but by April 2021, that number had shrunk to just 24.7%.
This is good news, considering Generation Impact expects companies to take action. 51% of Gen Z shoppers associate the social, environmental, and political views of CEOs with the businesses they lead.
The idea of not mixing business and politics is no longer relevant. Generation Impact sees them as one and the same. To win over the spending power of Generation Impact, brands need to embrace social impact in everything they do.
Tim Galles, CIO at marketing agency Barkey, and author of Scratch: How to build a potent modern brand from the inside out, told Forbes: “Brands (need) a powerful idea at the core of everything they do that inspires every action they take, both inside their walls and out in the world.”
Bottom line: Dropping a feel-good Instagram post once a month isn’t going to cut it. Brands have to be authentic from the inside-out and be ready to respond to social causes in real-time.
But how, exactly, are brands supposed to do that? Next, let’s look at a few strategies that will help brands future proof their businesses for this next generation of shoppers.
How to future proof your business for conscious consumers
The future is never certain. But by staying on top of the latest trends and developments in marketing, you can stay ahead of the curve and appeal to modern, socially savvy consumers. And here’s how to do it.
Earn points, save lives
The benefits of having a loyalty program are well-known: 84% of customers stick with brands that have them, and 66% of consumers say earning rewards has actually changed their shopping behavior.
But why stop there? Why not use the power of your brand’s loyalty program for good, too?
As shoppers earn points for purchases, implement a charity donation system to support a cause of their choice. For every 100 loyalty points they earn, for example, they can give a $10 donation.
One brand that does this to great effect is Blind Barber, an East Village barbershop with locations across the US. They see their business as more of a community hub and place for people to connect and give back, rather than just a barbershop.
By adopting this approach with a loyalty program, they’ve donated over $17,000 so far to various causes, including Operation Underground Railroad, which helps rescue victims of sex trafficking across the globe.
By linking donations into their loyalty program, they’re showing Generation Impact that they’re serious about making a change. And they used ShoppingGives’ intuitive software to make integrating this with their website hassle-free.
Run ads for social impact
Another way to future-proof your brand for Generation Impact is by running paid ads that focus on cause-based marketing over just trying to shift product.
Research shows 80% of customers want brands to be a positive force in shaping society. Rather than just adding a donation button to your checkout process, why not shape your ad strategy around social impact?
Natori is an East meets West fashion brand with forty years of history. They ran with this strategy and compared the effects of running impact-focused paid ads on social media against more traditional ones.
“We were delighted to see how much our customers prioritize giving, and how much they value both knowing what causes are important to us, and directing funds to causes that are important to them.” — Ken Natori, The Natori Company
Collaborate with a cause
75% of consumers are likely to start shopping at a company that supports an issue they agree with, which is why it can be wise to collaborate with a charity and launch a product range together.
However, before you get started, here’s a stat to bear in mind: 29% of people suspect businesses support causes just to turn a profit. And customers can sense inauthenticity a mile away. You have to genuinely support the cause throughout everything your brand is doing and every decision your brand is making.
Enso Rings did exactly that by launching a Pride selection of their signature silicon rings. 2% of every purchase went toward providing safe spaces, mental health services, and communities for LGBTQ+ people and their families.
And they didn’t just launch a product line and count the money coming in. They live and breathe the cause, having donated over $150,000 to charitable causes since 2018 (not to mention accumulating over 600 hours of volunteer work).
Make an ask
Don’t forget the most obvious way to get into social activism: Ask customers for a donation during the checkout process. Even better: Match their donations.
Highline Wellness did just that. As a NY-based CBD remedies brand, they support a wide variety of causes like the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Friends of the Earth, the American Cancer Society, and many, many more. They’ve established giving as a part of their brand’s DNA.
“From a customer perspective, knowing during the shopping experience that your purchase can go towards a charity that means something to you is so powerful, and helps to gain more comfort and trust in the brand. We’ve seen really great success, and it [impact messaging] actually outperformed our other creative pieces.” — Christopher Ross, Highline Wellness
Highline Wellness integrated donation buttons into their eCommerce store and combined that with the running social impact ads tactic that we mentioned above, and found a 24% increase in donation opt-in rate at check-out.
It’s a simple and effective way to help Generation Impact consumers feel like they’re making a difference with every purchase.
Join a movement
Joining an organized charitable movement or project is a great way to show consumers what your brand is doing to tackle their concerns on a larger scale. Partnering with a nonprofit can boost loyalty and brand exposure, not to mention raising vital awareness for important causes.
Again, it’s important to be authentic about these kinds of partnerships. KFC’s partnership with Susan G. Komen for Cure (Breast Cancer) certainly raised money, but caused damage to Komen’s reputation. KFC’s image as a promoter of fast food and greasy chicken didn’t sit well with everyone. An unhealthy product partnering with a Cancer Charity sent a mixed signal.
Generation Impact consumers take time to educate themselves about causes, and will quickly realize if something is incongruent, which can undercut the cause that you’re trying to help.
If your brand and the project are on the same page and your values align then you can create a great partnership that’s beneficial for both parties. There’s strength in numbers, especially when it comes to solving social, environmental, and political issues.
Revolutionary footwear brand Steve Madden partnered up with ShoppingGives and the Global Green: Our Cities Coalition initiative. Through this initiative, they donated $1 on every pair of Cool Planet shoes they sold, plus used the ShoppingGives donation integration, which allowed customers to easily add a $1 – $10 donation to the cause with every order.
This initiative is on a mission to develop an eight-acre Climate Park in Ojai, California. This will include an educational center teaching citizens how to live sustainably, and their goal is to make the Climate Park a model for similar cities across the world. By donating a portion of proceeds in addition to encouraging customer donations, Steve Madden is showing their authentic commitment to the cause, which is helping them attract Generation Impact consumers.
Prepare now and future proof your business for Generation Impact
Generation Impact is made up of smart and savvy youth who care passionately about the causes close to their hearts. And no longer can businesses afford to sit on the sidelines; silence comes with its own dangers.
Generation Impact expects brands to do much more than what was expected even a few years ago. The tactics and strategies we laid out today are a great way to start making a change.
We recommend starting simple. Setting up a charitable donation button for your store can be done in under fifteen minutes. Need some help getting started? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to get you set up.