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PFS & LiveArea Research | Consumerism Vs. Conscious Commerce: Striking The Balance

PFS & LiveArea Research | Consumerism vs. Conscious Commerce: Striking the Balance

Section 1: Sustainability

2020 has been a year of great change for consumers and retailers alike. Buying habits have been hugely affected, with the closure of physical stores pushing more people online and putting great strain on retailers to keep up with demand and retain loyal customers during a period of great adjustment.

PFS and LiveArea commissioned research agency, Arlington Research, to survey 2,500 consumers about their current shopping habits, environmental and ethical expectations from brands, and how their buying behaviour has changed during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally representative interviews were carried out with consumers aged 18+ with nationally representative quotas set on gender, age and region at a country-wide level. Respondents came from the UK (1,500 respondents), Republic of Ireland (500 respondents) and France (500 respondents). Fieldwork took place between 28th May and 4th June, 2020.

The report highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumer awareness of the environmental impact their online shopping habits have and how they are responding.

Key findings

  • Supporting sustainability: Around three-quarters (73%) of consumers expect the brands they shop with online to use recyclable packaging. The same number expect packaging to be minimised (74%).
  • Over-purchasing: In light of the pandemic, over a third (37%) of shoppers claim to have stopped over-purchasing items.
  • Returns: Our research suggests that 71% of consumers would change their online shopping habits if they knew that returned items would go to landfill or be destroyed.
  • Maintaining change:  Almost three-quarters (72%) of consumers plan to continue with the changes they have made to their shopping habits during the pandemic. For 27% this means not over-purchasing items; 23% will continue to buy locally sourced or manufactured products.

PFS’ view

There are actually many benefits retailers can gain through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that go beyond their central goal of caring for the environment. For example, by getting products closer to the customer through alternative fulfilment methods such as pop-up distribution (pop-up DC) or micro-fulfilment centres, brands can provide an improved customer experience while reducing carbon emissions. Likewise, PFS’ RetailConnect store fulfilment solution enables BOPIS and ship-from-store functionality at your brick-and-mortar locations, empowering brands to provide a more convenient customer experience that accomplishes their goal to use sustainable shopping methods, while the brand is able to compete with major marketplaces offering fast delivery options.

As you implement and expand your CSR initiatives, keep an optimistic mindset and look for ways these measures can help make a difference for the environment as well as your bottom line.

Christophe Pecoraro, Managing Director, PFS Europe

LiveArea’s view

There is a lot of noise and so much happening around sustainability that it is hard for consumers to know what’s real and what’s greenwashing. However, highlighting products, for instance, that are eco-friendly, have recyclable packaging, or are locally sourced, and communicating a brand’s sustainability initiatives through product pages is important to inform the consumer, potentially influencing their buying decision. 

Consumers do more than just check the list of ingredients on a label now, they want details about sourcing, how products are made, and how they are delivered. Access to this information, most commonly through online policies and packaging, drives better decisions and helps create more sustainable products. We can see that price is still an important decision-driver for many consumers, and rightly so, particularly at this time. So, while some consumers may be willing to pay more for something that is environmentally friendly, the goal for brands should be for sustainability to be price-friendly and accessible to their consumers. 

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA

Download the whitepaper and watch the on-demand webinar for further insight.

Section 2: Ethics

Many consumers are actively seeking out online retailers and brands who promote their ethical initiatives and credentials. Following the pandemic, awareness around brand ethics has been heightened, both on those making progress in terms of ethical trading and their obligations to protect, conserve and benefit the environment, as well as those whose supply chain ethics and treatment of staff could be called into question.

Key Findings

  • Supporting brand ethics: 39% of people would be willing to pay more to support online retailers’ and brands’ corporate social responsibility initiatives
  • Awareness: 44% of respondents have not been made aware of corporate social responsibility initiatives or their impact by their preferred retailers.
  • Buying decisions: 64% of shoppers look for ethical or sustainable features when making a purchase.
  • Communication: When made aware of initiatives, only 16% of consumers say it is via a brand’s website.

PFS’ view

“Many brands are not communicating CSR initiatives effectively. It’s time for brands to look beyond the website and consider ways to communicate these priorities to consumers through other points of interaction, such as packaging or your contact centre agents.”

Christophe Pecoraro, Managing Director, PFS Europe

LiveArea’s view

“Rather than view sustainability and ethics as a cost, brands should see these initiatives as an investment. One thing that is going to set companies apart moving forward, is the ability balance sustainability and profitability.”

Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director, LiveArea EMEA

Download the second whitepaper for more on the role ethics play in eCommerce.

Mike Willoughby

As Chief Executive Officer, Mike Willoughby oversees the overarching strategy of PFSweb. He has been instrumental in the acquisition, development, integration and support of the company’s world-class technologies. It was Mike’s vision to diversify PFSweb’s offering by establishing two business units: the Operations Services unit, PFS, and the Professional Services unit, LiveArea.