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How to Market to the Increasingly Socially Conscious Customer Brands must remain adaptable as consumer preferences evolve, influenced by global events, cultural shifts and generational differences

By Gino Sesto Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Socially conscious shopping is more than a trend; it's a movement shaping the current consumer landscape.
  • Brands have unique opportunities to highlight their commitment to social responsibility.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's dynamic retail environment, there's a significant shift occurring in the way brands approach their customers. Historically, many industries prioritized competitive prices and discounts. However, the modern consumer is evolving, and the marketing world must follow suit. Brands are now transitioning away from emphasizing price to highlighting values, beliefs and overarching ethos. This shift from cost awareness to conscious consumerism redefines the marketing approach across sectors.

Related: How Sustainable Brands Win Over the Discerning Conscious Consumer

The emergence of the socially conscious consumer

Socially conscious shopping is more than a trend; it's a movement shaping the consumer landscape. Customers increasingly make purchasing decisions based on the broader impact of their choices, whether environmental sustainability, ethical manufacturing or social justice.

Recent surveys like the Harris Poll show these changes in consumer spending habits happening in multiple industries. However, while price remains a dominant factor for many consumers, it's not the sole consideration anymore. Although numerous shoppers still prioritize cost, a growing group is willing to pay a premium for products aligned with their values.

Take fashion as an example. Data reveals that while 22% of shoppers now consider where apparel is manufactured, 17% evaluate brands based on their sustainability initiatives. Fifteen percent examine a brand's attitude to social issues, and 13% consider its employment practices. While these figures might appear modest, they indicate a growing inclination toward value-driven, socially conscious shopping. As modern shoppers progressively align spending habits with their values, brands that adapt to this approach will reap the benefits of a loyal and expanding customer base.

Related: 10 Ways to Make Your Business More Socially Conscious

Crafting marketing strategies for diverse audiences

Successful brands are those that understand their audience's nuances. It's crucial to segment the audience not just by age or gender but by values, beliefs and priorities. For older generations, emphasizing cost-effectiveness and quality remains key. While baby boomers focus on price and quality, younger generations like GenZ-ers and Millennials are more inclined to consider a brand's values and beliefs. For this generation, the key lies in the tangibles. Brands must emphasize cost-effectiveness without compromising on quality. Promotions, discounts, and loyalty programs are effective marketing tools, while Gladly's 2022 Customer Expectations Report indicates the importance of the entire shopping experience. Convenience also makes a difference through easy returns, a seamless online shopping experience, or efficient customer service. Boomers are looking for value, but they also want ease and simplicity.

This doesn't mean cost isn't essential for younger consumers, but they're more likely to pay more for products and services that align with their values. Younger audiences and people of color are even more likely to align shopping habits with their values. For these audiences, shopping isn't just a transaction; it's a statement. Quality, style and, most importantly, a brand's position on social and environmental issues have all become equally significant. Brands must integrate values into the shopping experience by showcasing their efforts transparently. Clear stances on social issues and ethical employment practices are effective strategies. Collaborations with influencers who support their values, limited edition "cause" collections, or even a percentage of sales going to a social cause can also be successful.

Related: Why Conscious Branding Is the Secret to Your Success

Harnessing digital channels for socially conscious marketing

In the current digital age, brands have unique opportunities to highlight their commitment to social responsibility. Digital marketing platforms allow companies to convey their values, initiatives, and beliefs transparently. Research from The Roundup shows consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, with many actively seeking out sustainable products.

This shift is supported by a 2021 study that showed 45% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. Additionally, 52% of the respondents emphasized the importance of purchasing from companies whose values align with theirs, marking a significant increase from 43% in 2019. Recent findings from the ninth annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index also showed a 25% surge in socially responsible spending in 2021 compared to the prior year. This data underscores the shift in consumer behavior, where decisions are influenced not just by product quality or cost but also by a brand's ethical and societal values.

Digital platforms, especially social media, have become the epicenter for brands to showcase their alignment with social causes, sustainable manufacturing processes, and ethical sourcing. By integrating these values into their marketing strategies, brands can foster deeper connections with their audience, building a trustworthy and value-driven image. As consumer preferences continue to evolve, the significance of socially conscious marketing in nurturing brand loyalty and fostering trust becomes even more evident.

Staying nimble in a dynamic landscape

Change is the only constant in the retail world. Brands must remain adaptable as consumer preferences evolve, influenced by global events, cultural shifts, and generational differences. Success lies in understanding and catering to the modern, socially conscious consumer. Companies must balance offering cost-effective solutions and championing values, ethical practices, and social responsibility. As brands navigate this new terrain, those who genuinely connect with their audience's values will be the ones to thrive.

Gino Sesto

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Gino Sesto is the Founder of DASH TWO, a media buying agency in Los Angeles specializing in out-of-home advertising & digital advertising.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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