Reward Your Customers for Buying Sustainable Products and Build Your Brand Loyalty
We know that at least 1 in 2 consumers is willing to spend more to buy from a company that drives positive environmental impact (Nielsen). More specifically, members of Gen Z are willing to pay up to an extra 10-15% for certain sustainable products (NDP Group).
Fortunately for the planet, environmental initiatives achieve a number of positive business impacts.
- They incite curiosity, which, in turn, drives new product acquisition.
- They allow brands to cut costs of transportation, waste disposal and paper.
- They drive efficiencies when are sourced locally.
- And they allow a business to be seen as one that cares—which is a strong PR position.
But it’s easy to see why almost 50% of consumers aren’t willing to buy sustainable products: Asking buyers to invest an extra 15% on their weekly purchases simply isn’t realistic on a large scale.
This, in turn, explains why some brands aren’t willing to push hard for sales despite the environmental benefits.
But could brands be investing more in driving sustainable shopping behaviours amongst consumers without breaking the bank?
The short answer is yes.
Businesses can leverage their loyalty programs to achieve these efficiencies. Businesses with both online and offline stores could give customers a discount or extra points on their loyalty programme for buying in-store instead of online; or for ordering via click-and-collect instead of home delivery. That would allow them to reduce their own shipping and transportation costs at a greater value than the cost of the points awarded.
And in return for rewarding their customers, brands will experience higher brand advocacy and emotional loyalty.
A hotel guest in the US received 1,500 points on his loyalty card for skipping housekeeping services during his 4-day hotel break with Marriott. The very happy customer was sure to share the news online, driving free earned media for the hotel giant and cutting Marriott’s operational costs along the way.
In the UK, Pret a Manger gives 50p off to customers who buy a hot drink using their own reusable cup. It seems like a small contribution, but it has a big impact. In 2019, it saved customers £5m and Pret a Manger 10 million cups(Pret, 2020).
Rewarding customers for being environmentally conscious not only saves Pret’s customers money; it also gives them a sense of personal satisfaction for having made the ‘right’ decision. And this helps build an emotional connection between the brand and the customer.
As every marketer knows, getting consumers emotionally connected to a brand is important.
According to Harvard Business Review, a customer that’s emotionally invested is [at least] “25% more valuable in terms of revenue and profitability” than one that’s simply satisfied with the brand. So, if rewarding consumers for being more sustainable drives emotional loyalty, then it makes sense to do more of it.
If we want to encourage consumers to maintain sustainable habits, we also have to understand what drives them: The Present Bias.
Present Bias is a psychological phenomenon that suggests that the present drives a stronger reaction than the future. The common example: If we are given the choice of taking £100 now, or £120 this time next year, most of us will choose £100 now because of our concern for instant gratification over future gain.
So if we want customers to go the extra mile, we need to give them something in return immediately—like an instant discount or instant extra points on their loyalty card by investing in something sustainable. (Offering them a discount on their next purchase won’t be as effective in influencing their shopping behaviour.)
If rewards prove an over-bearing cost to the business, then start small. Focus on educating your customers about your brand’s environmental values by flagging the environmental impact of choosing next-day delivery over 3-day delivery, or online delivery versus click-and-collect. Raising awareness around the extra pollution caused can drive behavioural change and improve your overall brand image.
As more brands become ‘green’, sustainability will no longer be a unique selling proposition. It will become an expectation.
A recent study shows that 88% of consumers would be disappointed by a brand if it wasn’t helping them improve their environmental and social footprint (Forbes, 2018). This figure will only increase as more brands incorporate sustainability within their proposition, and it becomes the norm to be green.
So, if you haven’t already, start exploring ways to integrate sustainability initiatives within your CX. Set KPI’s that’ll allow you to quantitatively prove the impact of your initiatives on brand loyalty. And be sure to integrate those initiatives within your overall brand look and feel to keep things consistent.
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