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Translating sustainable shopper intentions into action

The climate emergency is front of mind and it’s time for retailers to actively encourage customers to make sustainable shopping decisions.

With global Extinction Rebellion protests causing widespread media attention and the declaration of a national climate emergency in the UK and Ireland, it’s a pertinent time for conversations around climate change. The sustainability discussion was already at a tipping point, with a growing number of conscious consumers creating a shift in the demands and expectations placed on brands. Now the onus is on brands and retailers to lead from the front and translate sustainable intentions into actions, for both activists and mainstream customers.

Incentivise positive decisions

A simple way to encourage the adoption of sustainable behaviour is providing incentives and rewards. For successful uptake, brands need to go further than loyalty cards and dispensing loyalty card points and provide customers with tangible benefits. In Belfast, supermarket Iceland is trialling an electronic bottle bank that rewards customers with a 10p store voucher for every bottle deposited. The supermarket previously launched this initiative across four sites in Britain, and has recycled 310,000 bottles and paid out £30,000 in vouchers so far.

Humans are hard wired to enjoy games, and making sustainable shopping fun is another way that brands can get a wide range of customers engaged and onboard. Gamification marketing is predicted to grow by 500 per cent to £9 billion before 2020 (Coop Danmark, 2019). Coop Danmark uses gamification marketing to drive footfall in store, educate customers and increase engagement in potentially less-engaging content. 140,000 customers play each day, with a conversion rate of 75 per cent for product pick up (Coop Danmark, 2019).

Make sustainability a non-decision

Additional priorities, from budget to convenience, often get in the way of making sustainable purchase decisions. In these instances, making sustainable behaviours effortless to adopt is key. We are seeing the rise of bring your own container stores that facilitate plastic-free shopping. However, this is restrictive for many customers as it requires bringing a container every time you visit. Nebaleno, a zero-waste store in Prague, allows customers to borrow containers so they can shop sustainably and spontaneously, removing the need to plan ahead.

Product choice is also key to making sustainable choices easy. Fast food chain Del Taco has partnered with Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein innovator that recently broke Wall Street records with its IPO. The rapid growth of the plant-based sector has driven demand for product innovation, and Beyond Meat’s success lies in its ability to create meat alternatives that do not compromise on taste or texture. The partners have created a vegan Beyond Avocado Taco and vegetarian Beyond Taco options, and place these products alongside meat-based Tacos. This requires no change in behaviour from the customer other than final purchase choice, increasing the ease of going meat-free.

Make local accessible

In most cases, local food is the most sustainable option. While the definition of local can vary from produce that’s home grown in a garden or allotment to any product sourced nationally, reducing the miles products travel before purchase goes a huge way towards carbon-mitigation.

Not all people have the facilities or space to grow their own produce, but supermarkets do. Swedish supermarket ICA partnered with Freight Farms to trial a customer-facing vertical farm located in a shipping container outside its Maxi Högskolan store. This interactive journey touchpoint educates customers around new growing technologies and showcases the high-quality, hyper-local produce grown in a new product range.

Locally grown produce sold in supermarkets and grocers has traditionally been associated with higher prices but supermarket chain Jack’s has broken this stigma. Jack’s has become the first UK discount supermarket to sell 80 per cent British products. During May, Tesco customers will also have access to Jack’s lower priced local products in 900 of its large format Tesco stores. IKEA is another budget friendly retailer that makes local accessible. IKEA is at the forefront of hydroponic farming and showcased its on-site Urban Salad Farm at the One Home, One Planet Summit that Household attended.

Incentivising customers and making sustainable shopping as easy and convenient as possible will go a long way in making real and lasting change to the planet. Over the past year we have seen huge progress in supermarket sustainability policies with brands from Delhaize to Aldi pledging to reduce plastic in store. Now brands not only need to partner with customers to make sustainable intentions a reality but put their own promises into action too.

Get in touch with Julie at [email protected] to organise an innovation workshop to explore big picture solutions and practical solutions to your sustainability challenges.

Images courtesy of VegNews, Freight Farms, Deeside and City Dog


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