Reading the room - Three ways to connect with the conscious consumer

Colin Barnard
By Colin Barnard | 3 May 2021
Colin Barnard

Colin Barnard, managing director, Criteo ANZ

Thanks to COVID-19, customer loyalty has been put up for grabs. Think about it – 1.8 million Australians suffered severe or moderate financial stress last year, forcing us to be as conscious as ever about the value of each product and service they’re buying.

Although the concept of the conscious consumer is not new, the ways in which the pandemic has affected brand loyalty is. McKinsey found that in Australia and across the world, consumers responded to the crisis by trying different shopping behaviours and expressed a high intent to incorporate these moving forward.

Take this into account with the fact that Australians are not afraid to boycott brands that don’t align with their personal values (Zimmermann was in hot water last year for racial preferencing), and you’ve got a major challenge. In today’s counterculture and environment of fake news, customers won’t take your word for it. Brands need to seen walking the walk and not just talking the talk (the same goes for influencers, by the way. Otherwise they have every right to be exposed, just like this).

Values vary from person to person and are incredibly nuanced but universally, all values relate to at least one of four main consumer needs: Functional, monetary, social and psychological. Layer Covid-19 on top of these and it’s clear as to why brands need to reassess how they are connecting with their consumers.

The ‘conscious consumer’ is not just about ethics and sustainability. Conscious consumerism is about how purchasing decisions are made in relation to how the brand aligns to the consumer’s values. Do you give me hope? Do you give me a sense of belonging? Can I integrate this product/service seamlessly into my day-to-day life? Here’s three ways brands can deepen brand affinity, recognition and loyalty in this new normal.

Self-reflect to have effect

As a nation, we have been known to not shy away from our views and stand up for what we believe in, and this past year has been no exception. From climate change rallies to Black Lives Matter to women’s marches, Australians have taken every opportunity to promote change and awareness around the country.

Many individuals have had the chance to self-reflect on their values and beliefs over the past 18 months and this time should have also allowed for the same level of reflection in companies, both large and small. To effectively connect with your customers about the values your business holds, be honest about your progress. If your company has shortcomings you are working on, tell them. Take the time to self-reflect on what your customers want, and how you’re going about it.

Build authenticity from the inside out

Conscious consumers are actively searching for companies that are clear in what they stand for; looking beyond what they are selling. To connect with conscious consumers, brands need to have an understanding of what its audience cares about. Align with a purpose that stands true and is authentic to the company's roots and build your community around these values from the inside out. According to Stackla, the majority of consumers (86 percent) say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and want to support.

Broad advertising campaigns with a standard sales pitch is an approach long gone. Conscious consumers want to feel as through the messaging is personalised for them and their values, with many young Australians keen to be met where they are, rather than the other way around.

Lead with purpose

Today’s conscious consumers has one goal: To play a part in doing good for society and build a better world.

Brands need to be more than a business. Encourage a forward-thinking community, promote diversity and equality and build on the values and beliefs of consumers. And while you do all of the above, ensure it’s within the context of the cultural landscape. Uber gained high praise from the industry with its “Thank you for not riding with Uber” campaign, with which the company also pledged to provide 10 million free rides and food deliveries to frontline workers globally. The campaign was a success because it understood consumer emotional values at the time.

Just as we connect with our friends and families over common values and passions, the conscious consumer of today is also looking for this same connection with brands. After all, that sense of connection is what we all crave, especially in a crisis. Connecting with consumers consciously provides great opportunity in futureproofing brand loyalty.

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