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Putting Brand Purpose Into Practice: A Handy Guide for Retailers

The latest edition of Saleforce’s annual State of Connected Customer Report finds that customers expect retailers to have a clear brand purpose now more than ever before. Jo Gaines, AVP, Salesforce Digital360 and Executive Sponsor, Salesforce Women's Network ANZ, discusses why customer experiences have changed and how retailers can show they’re walking the talk.

Delivering great customer service is critical, but it’s no longer enough. To earn and retain the trust of your customers, brands need to show that they’re contributing to a bigger purpose and have their customers’ values at heart.

The recent Salesforce survey of 16,936 consumers has brought this new reality into sharp focus. One of the key insights to emerge is that 90% of customers say how a company acts during a crisis demonstrates its trustworthiness.

Customers want the brands they’re purchasing from to act with integrity, and to follow through on their public messaging about supporting the planet, society and disadvantaged groups with meaningful action.

So how can brands prove their trustworthiness and commitment to a bigger purpose? Being able to answer this question will prove critical for retaining customers in the post-pandemic era. Here are four ways to do that.

Download the State of the Connected Customer report.

1. Know the purposes that affect your retail audience

The increasing focus on the state of our environment — as well as the global upheaval caused by the pandemic — has brought about a fundamental shift in mindset.

Climate change is no longer a far away issue that only future generations will need to worry about; the turbulent weather changes and severe rains in Australia are evidence that it’s already arrived on our doorstep.

We’ve also become more attuned to social justice issues, many of which have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years.

Rates of domestic violence skyrocketed during periods of lockdown. The Women’s Community Shelter has referred to domestic violence as a rising epidemic. As an Advocate for the Shelter, this is an issue close to my heart.

Customers now want to take action on these issues, and they expect the brands they’re investing in to do the same.

86% say the societal role of companies is changing — consumers want to know how brands are giving back to the planet, society, disadvantaged groups and more.

Brand values and purpose are no longer a ‘nice to have’ set of lofty ambitions any more — it’s a must have, because consumers are holding brands accountable. Understanding the issues facing your audience and the purposes they fight for comes first. Once you know this, you’re in a much better position to start taking meaningful action.

2. Demonstrating brand values in your retail customer experiences

Some retailers may be concerned that it’s not possible to remain profitable with good margins while also doing the right thing. But they need only look to some successful and altruistic brands leading the way in this space to see this as an achievable goal.

Temple & Webster is a prime example. The company’s founders are clear on their purpose and the causes they care about — one of which is the Women’s Community Shelters — who they’ve been supporting for many years.

Temple & Webster don’t just make public statements about their support or champion a cause because it’s the latest social movement to rally behind; they walk the talk and follow through with meaningful action.

One way in which they do this is by donating furniture to the Shelter. Myself and some of the team at Salesforce recently went up to Gosford to spend two days putting furniture together with the Temple & Webster team. We assisted Women’s Community Shelters to set up a new transitional housing location for at-risk women aged 55 and over. This was such a rewarding experience and fantastic to see the work that Temple & Webster is doing on the ground.

The founders feel strongly about helping at-risk women, but it’s not something they make a song and dance about. Their purpose flows naturally through the entire organisation because of its authenticity. 

By standing for a cause they are genuinely passionate about, the company attracts the right talent. Customers feel that authenticity too and want to support a brand with a strong mission.

3. Rewarding customers for their brand purpose

As many brands are focused on becoming more sustainable, customers are trying to do the same on an individual level. The way Coles and Woolworths are reducing plastic bag use from their stores has worked so well because consumers believe in the mission: reducing plastic use to help our environment.

One way to boost customer loyalty is by rewarding them for making sound sustainable choices.

The topic of green loyalty is gaining increasing attention, and companies such as Qantas making significant inroads in this space.

Under Qantas’ new Green membership tier, which will officially launch early next year, the airline’s Frequent Flyers can earn rewards for taking sustainable actions in all areas of their life.

This means environmentally friendly behaviours, such as walking to work, installing solar panels, staying at eco-friendly hotels and offsetting flights, can all be put towards reaching Green tier status, which carries a host of benefits — such as bonus points on eco-accredited accommodation and the ability to have Qantas contribute to a sustainable aviation fuel project on your behalf.

It’s a win-win situation that allows brands to show their appreciation for customers who do the right thing, and it incentivises customers to keep making environmentally sound choices.

4. Going digital to go green

Harnessing the power of technology can help to unlock sustainable solutions for your company.

This is happening more and more in the circular economy, with many fashion companies introducing platforms that enable consumers to reuse and recycle materials and eliminate waste.

AirRobe is at the forefront of this movement. The global marketplace acts as an intermediary between retailers and customers. As soon as a customer purchases a new item, they can upload it onto their digital wardrobe for resale at a later point.

Nowadays, whenever I purchase a new item from one of AirRobe’s partners — such as The Iconic or R.M. Williams — I just click a button and add the item to my AirRobe wardrobe.

Partnering with an organisation like AirRobe is a fantastic way for retailers to show their commitment to sustainability, but it’s far from being the only way. Many companies are looking at each step of the supply chain process to ensure technology is being used as efficiently as possible. 

There’s also increasing pressure on organisations to provide full disclosure about their environmental impact and what steps they’re taking to go green.

Indeed, the State of the Connected Customer Report revealed that 74% of customers say communicating honestly and transparently is more important now than ever before.

Fortunately, no company needs to be on this journey alone. There are some fantastic companies out there — such as The Growth Activists — that can help you drive sustainable solutions and work towards reaching net zero.

Is brand purpose the way of the future?

Customers are shopping with less brands than ever before. Many are saying they only want to shop with brands that are giving back to the community, or that truly care and recognise them as a loyal customer. 

If you want to stand out from the crowd in the eyes of your customers, talking brand purpose is paramount. Customers will feel proud to support a brand that’s doing good in the world. They’re also more likely to stick around and recommend your brand to others.

Championing your brand values isn’t just the right thing to do for your customers and business. It’s also the right thing to do for your community, society and the planet.

Download the State of the Connected Customer report.

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Jo Gaines AVP, Sales

Jo Gaines has spent over 20 years working for and with technology and media companies. Since 1999, she has worked for various companies and networks, including Krux, CBS, Yahoo, Kidspot, Sensis and Salesforce.  Jo is AVP, Sales and Executive Sponsor of Salesforce Women's Network ANZ. Prior to joining Krux (which was acquired by Salesforce in November 2016), she served as chief revenue officer at Brandscreen, an independent demand-side platform provider where she managed the Australian commercial and marketing team supporting more than 80 active accounts. At CBS Interactive, she was in charge of Australian consumer brands as general manager, consumer and CBSi. She has also held senior sales and marketing positions at Kidspot, iPrime and Yahoo!7 among other firms. Jo also launched and served as CEO of Digital Media Options Pty, Ltd, a digital media consultancy specializing in optimizing and monetizing digital assets for brands. Jo's greatest passions are friendships and motherhood; she has two beautiful daughters. Jo enjoys running, is completing her yoga teacher training and tries really hard to live a healthy lifestyle.

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