How Retailers Can Boost the Bottom Line With Social Impact
2020 has been marked by a global pandemic and a surge in social unrest and activism. Interest in social impact is at an all-time high, influencing everything from politics to what brands we buy and what companies we want to work for. Now more than ever, social impact efforts can be make or break for brands, and turning a blind eye poses risk to both reputation and bottom line.
At Main & Rose, we recently conducted a survey of more than 600 U.S. consumers to explore how brands’ social impact efforts shape consumer perception and purchase behavior. The findings revealed 70 percent of consumers’ purchases are influenced by a brand’s support for social causes they care about. Whether it’s social justice, race or gender equality, environmental protection, or LGBTQ+ rights, consumers are demanding change — and want to see it where they shop.
Power in the Purchase
Being vocal about social impact initiatives can boost customer support and spend. According to the data, 71 percent of consumers say a focus on social impact makes them more likely to buy from a company. By aligning with a cause that resonates with customers, brands can showcase their engagement in social change and stimulate new business. In fact, 49 percent of consumers say they prefer retail brands with a social impact focus, highlighting how critical it is for retail brands to step up and speak out as social activism continues to drive consumer behavior.
Brand Preference and Long-Term Loyalty
Nearly two out of three consumers agree their purchases are influenced more by social impact today than one year ago. For brands big and small, social impact efforts guide every aspect of the customer journey, from product discovery to long-term loyalty. In fact, nearly 60 percent of consumers have purchased from a “new to them” brand because of its support of a cause that they're invested in.
More than two out of three consumers say that brands’ social impact initiatives also make them more loyal, which, in today’s competitive retail landscape, is crucial to retaining customers and winning new ones.
Say it Loud and Clear
With heightened social awareness and engagement, consumers are moving towards brands that strive to make a positive difference. Seventy-seven percent of shoppers expect brands to put social impact efforts on their website, and 70 percent expect brands to post about their causes on social media. In return, consumers are more likely to advocate for, and promote, their favorite brands. According to the data, 58 percent of shoppers have posted on social media in support of a brand because of its social impact efforts.
Retail is one of the most volatile industries, and with the holiday season approaching, brands can’t afford a misstep with consumers. The risk of deprioritizing social impact in today’s socially driven world can impair a retail brand’s success and diminish its customer base. In fact, more than one in three consumers chose not to purchase from a brand because of its lack of social impact efforts. Consumers are also closely monitoring brands, with 43 percent opting not to purchase from a brand because it stayed silent on important social issues.
As brands continue to navigate a socially charged, post-COVID era, speaking out about social causes is critical to driving change and driving business. For retailers, ensuring brand messaging is aligned with consumer expectations and the social causes they care about can make or break their bottom line. By using these key findings, brands can support existing and new customers — and make a positive impact on the world.
Beth Doane is the chief creative officer and co-founder of Main & Rose, a strategic branding agency that offers brand architecture, design and strategic brand advising services.
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Beth is an entrepreneur, journalist and author, named by Inc Magazine as one of the top branding experts in the world. As managing partner of Main & Rose, an award-winning strategic branding agency, she advises a range of global clients. She has spoken about media, retail, hospitality and philanthropy landscapes to audiences at Google, Harvard, Capitol Hill and more. She sits on the Pacific Council for International Policy, The Forbes Council For Young Entrepreneurs, and is an advisor to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Project.