Scott Sallee

Social Impact Manager

The Dentsu Shopper DNA report identified Shopping by Values within Universal Activism as a key micro trend impacting the future of retail. With the help of Dentsu social impact and sustainability specialist Scott Sallée, here we look at what this means for retail brands in the here and now.

The planet is facing a critical turning point. According to the UN, humanity is in a code red situation, with global warming dangerously close to spiralling out of control. We all have our part to play. From consumers, to brands, to global multi-nationals. Yet for many retail brands, it can be a struggle to know where to start. Setting green goals? Implementing new green products or a green aisle? Completely transforming their business from top to bottom?

According to Scott, “we can’t just look at environmental sustainability without equity, inclusivity and diversity. All of these objectives need to be achieved together. The cost of not achieving one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is greater than the cost of implementing all of them.”

When it comes to consumers shopping by values, these are your essential need-to-knows.

Sustainability credibility is about action rather than words

For many brands, laying out sustainability goals – in line with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals – is the start of their responsibility journey. While this might be a great starting point, it should not be done in isolation. Your sustainability strategy is your business growth strategy.  

“We’ve seen many companies come out and say we’re going to be net zero by a certain date. But becoming net zero is an incredibly complex journey”, says Scott. “The only way to ensure your actions make lasting change is to get external accreditation by the gold standard: the Science-Based Targets initiative.”

“It’s becoming a very confused and greenwashed space. Brands shouldn’t simply be doing it from a compliance perspective, it should be seen as a real commercial differentiator. You’re only cheating the end beneficiary, which is the planet and the future of humanity, if not. Why would you not want to be as credible as possible?”

Consumers are looking for more than simply green products from brands

We’ve seen the likes of UK retailer, Homebase, setting up green aisles across their flagship stores and online. Whilst this represents the beginning of their green journey and connecting with their customers in this way, brands should be looking at completely transforming their business.

“Every purchase we make is a vote. Each pound spent is an investment in the future that we are choosing - or not. So, if a brand claims to be a sustainable business, why should only a small percentage of what they do or sell, be considered green? What would the rest be considered? Planet damaging?” says Scott.

The call here is for companies to consistently raise their level of ambition to do that work to actually overhaul their business and transform their organisations, because that is what consumers are expecting and demanding. 

“We are seeing more and more consumers calling out fast fashion brands for example. Brands now should be setting themselves up for that future that we all care about.”

It isn’t just sustainability credentials that underpin consumer purchasing decisions 

During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, how brands acted was thrust even more into consumer consciousness. People expected them to deliver real value, to act responsibly and to do right by their community – which includes both their customers and employees.

Since then, consumer expectation has been raised even higher, with brands needing to up their game and review how they meet this stringent criteria for safety, health and wellbeing. Put, simply stating that you are a responsible brand and have ethical credentials isn’t enough if it’s subsequently shown that your internal actions towards your own staff don’t meet your claims.

Scott comments, “there are retailers that may be leading the way in terms of their environmental and emissions strategy for example. But a fully sustainable business integrates environmental stewardship and social progress, with economic growth.

“You have to have all those elements. And if you fall down on one that might be the thing that ruins your relationship with an important consumer or a large section of your customer base. If for example, you’re not focusing on your people first as those who give the time, their passion and knowledge, this can significantly impact your customer relationships.”

Brands don’t have a lot of time to sort themselves out in this space because consumers are simply not going to buy from retailers that either have a negative impact on the environment or a negative impact on society. The time to act is now.

The future? The detail is in the data

According to Scott, “as an industry, we can either mirror society or we can use this influence that we have to actually move society into creating a more ethical, inclusive and sustainable world - inspiring people everywhere to a new way of living.”

But this can only be done with a deeper understanding of consumers and the wider commercial landscape. Within the next two to five years, it’s crucial for brands to invest in new customer value monitoring systems that utilise new customer data and segmentation analysis, alongside social media listening research to keep their finger on the pulse of the values customers care about most.  Whilst also building an early warning system of how such beliefs may change over the short and longer term.

The challenge is well and truly on.

Download the Dentsu Shopper DNA Report

Consumers are changing and the pressure placed on brands to cater to value-led shopping is increasing. So, what does this mean for the future of retail in the next 10 years?

In the Dentsu Shopper DNA Report, we discuss the key macro and micro trends that are set to shape the world of retail in the coming years. Download the report to find out more about Retail In the Age of Universal Activism.

Join us on Thursday 7th October for our 1st Shopper DNA Webinar - Retail in the age of Universal Activism

Retail in the age of Universal Activism is our first overarching theme identified in our recent Shopper DNA study that will shape the next ten years of consumer behaviour and examined their impact on the UK retail sector.

In the session we’ll examine how consumer identity is becoming increasingly entwined with beliefs around issues such as privacy, ethics, diversity, sustainability and environmental concerns. And how there is increasing demand for brands to both contribute to the debate and help customers to shop via the filter of these values.

Register below and join us for what will be essential viewing for marketers looking to understand and build empathy with the consumer that will shape the future.

Webinar 1 – Retail in the age of Universal Activism.

Find out details and sign up to our other three sessions here.