How to attract and retain ethical shoppers

10 May 2021, 07:54 AM
  • A 360-degree approach is the key to standing out to conscious consumers says retail expert Clare Bailey
How to attract and retain ethical shoppers

It is almost impossible to characterise or identify the ethical shopper – you can’t know just from looking at them, that is for sure! In my talks when describing the “ideal customer” I use the anecdote of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – dressed in her “usual” attire she didn’t look like the ideal customer, but later, dressed more akin to the shop attendant’s expectations, she did – and that was the big mistake. Huge. I am sure you can recall the scene… Judging a customer on outward appearance. The same applies to identifying the ethical shopper. So, how can you ensure you maximise customers?

Shout about your values

Personally, I recommend retailers present their brand and their shopping experience in a way that expresses their values and will resonate with and attract their ideal customer. Everything from your shopfront, signage, choice of colours, window design, social media content, website, store layout, fixtures, products on offer and packaging has an impact on a customer – making the difference between attraction and conversion or being overlooked.

It is so important to put yourself in the shoes of an ethical shopper – what would appeal to them, how can you express that, visually and through signage, so that they know you meet their needs?

You need to make it as easy as possible for them to shop with you. They want to have a simple and convenient experience that allays any concerns that they are spending with a business which conflicts with their own values. They are looking for reassurances that you, your business, your product range, and even the way you do business, aligns, as much as can be expected in a consumer-facing industry, to those needs.

Know your customer

You can do this in a number of ways – you can obviously talk to your customers, in person or on social channels – find out what matters to them, why they chose to spend with you vs. alternatives, what are they looking for – I can almost place money on it that phrases like shop local, carbon footprint, packaging/plastic waste, quality and provenance, supporting the community, etc will come up.

There may be more – and your existing loyal customers may hold the key to helping you attract more like them. Once you have the picture in your mind’s eye as to what attracts existing customers you can emphasise that in your business communications – your website, window, social content, etc – every single touchpoint that a customer, and more importantly a potential customer, has with your brand.

Social media best practice

And a word on social content – don’t just broadcast, like, share and comment on others who would align to your values and appeal to your customers – this way you maximise potential engagement and can increase your own reach and following by being seen as a “voice” on the relevant topic – whether that be around net zero targets, plastic waste or carbon footprint of imported food items. It doesn’t matter, what matters is you become part of the conversation and position your business within that.

Ethical shoppers are growing in number as more and more significant voices are speaking out on topics like climate change, plastic waste and the harmful impact that has on the environment. Social media has a huge role to play in this, as a digitally connected generation learns more and more about their impact on the planet.

They not only make more ethical choices themselves, they influence others – e.g. parents, friends, colleagues. This can be evidenced by the growing number of people following plant-based diets, and, accordingly, the response of mainstream food producers to answer that demand.

You have the opportunity to tap into something that is not likely to go away any time soon, so make sure you maximise that by engaging with customers and potential customers via all channels – digital and physical – so that your brand is the go-to for those that share your values and appreciate what you have to offer.

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