Consumers today are driving two seemingly opposing trends. On the one hand, people value the importance of sustainable living now more than ever. They expect their favorite brands to be more sustainably responsible, concerned about their global footprint and the welfare of the world. Many companies are doing this, including H&M, which launched their clothing take-back program, and companies like Tom’s, Bombas, and Warby Parker, which donate millions of items to the needy.
But on the other hand, consumers are increasingly expecting convenience. Brands from disparate industries like Gap
introduced chatbots last year. And who doesn’t love the convenience of online shopping, with 9 out of 10 consumers
willing to pay for same day or faster delivery? Unfortunately, this leads to recycling centers choked with empty shipping boxes. And our demand for convenience results in other environmental problems, such as landfills littered with plastic water bottles. These are hardly the most sustainable choices.
Everyone is Uniquely Complicated
This conundrum points out the fact that consumers are complicated. Marketers need to be sensitive to this, selling to consumers by focusing on what drives them as individuals and not creating a blanket segment of customers earmarked simply as “sustainability fans.” Consumers will support sustainability in many different and personal ways, based on their unique circumstances and individuality. But targeting someone to receive an email from a clean water charity simply because they are a “sustainability fan” may overlook their actual interests and preferences, eliminating any chance of them ever clicking on that email.
The Data-First Approach is Consumer-First
To ensure the right understanding of an individual, marketers must prioritize unique customer profiles, which favor recent behaviors over blanket segmentation data. For example, a consumer who visits a webpage on corporate responsibility could trigger a message about recycled materials in a retailer’s winter jackets. But it’s important to then measure and adjust
. That same person might not really care too much about recycling, so don’t go crazy messaging them on that topic. Instead, score their reaction to the recycling email according to their behaviors, and alter the next message accordingly.
Use a similar approach for convenience. A person paying for fast service might freak out about chatting with a robot next time she has a customer service issue. Maybe she needed the convenience of fast shipping to get a pair of boots for a last-minute ski weekend. That doesn’t mean she automatically prefers a chatbot to human service. Test and score each interaction, to create a subtle, personalized communication strategy that improves with time.x
Consumers Are Driving. Go at Their Speed!
Not too long ago, in an effort to cut costs (and be more sustainable), Lands’ End stopped shipping its catalog and ended up losing $100 million
in retail sales. Even those earth-minded customers may still prefer looking at a catalog first, before buying online.
For every consumer, personal needs and barriers to entry must be considered, to balance their individual flavor of convenience and sustainability. Brands can use insights from a test-and-learn approach to orchestrate thoughtful, more relevant communications across channels.