The New Sustainable Consumer — and her search for truth
The pandemic has revealed transformations into new lifestyle behaviours. In a preview of our upcoming report, our editor-at-large Fredrik Ekström reflects on the ”The Next Normal” and describes the five consumer groups that define the ”The New Sustainable Consumer”
By FREDRIK EKSTRÖM Photography VILLE VARUMO
You have probably heard the phrase ”The Next Normal” several times in the last months. And to be honest, it starts to feel a little bit like the pandemic itself. These are words we like to highlight in discussions, to talk about and to worry about. But the very essence of the words is rarely being touched. How do we define what, the next normal, really means? And how it affects us as consumers, brands and society. We have to future-proof our business with new and innovative strategies for branding and sustainability. It’s almost no matter how strong you’ve been in the past. Resting in your old loyalty base is not an option when preparing for the future where loyalty is elusive, and consumers make seismic changes in demand.
”The best thing to come out of this very painful time is that we as individuals understand that our individual actions have societal consequences, so while the virus is not directly related to sustainability, it is going to increase the focus on it.”
About seven month ago, none of us had probably heard of Covid-19. And pandemics was something that only happened in movies like Contagion. Since then the global pandemic has killed over 800 000 people and transformed daily life for billions of people in a swift moment. The fashion, culture, and tech industries have been right in the centre of these changes, and none of us could have imagined something so dramatic happening so quickly. But now that it has happened, and we slowly have begun to shift our business from crisis management to future focus, we need to land what the next normal means. We need to prepare our strategies with a deeper understanding of trends and consumer behaviour. It is clear that the time of isolation, our fear of health and the economy have had a major impact and changed consumer beliefs around the world.
”Sustainability was once a department, with some people in it who said ’this is what you should do’, Sustainability is now central to our thinking and our ambitions, and I would go so far to say sustainability is our business plan.”
Most of the changes we are seeing right now are actually major transformations into new lifestyle behaviours rather than shorter trends in the market. To keep track of or even participate in and influence these changes, brands need more than ever to create an understanding of what is happening.
The Quick Leap forward
In recent months, we have been forced to undergo various stages of maturation in digitization, retail and communication. This development has been something that we would see happen within the next five to ten years, but which has now instead been pushed through in a window of a few months. Of course, it creates friction but also opportunities.
When McKinsey examines the behaviour of US shopping consumers, the evidence becomes clear about how fast change is happening. Over a period of three months, US e-retail grew as much as it did in the last ten years together. And the same tendencies follow in Europe.
As the consumer matures and adapts to a world in e-retail, new channels are also being added to collect and evaluate information before a purchase and it opens up new doors in trying new things. 75% state that they have tested new brands instead of the usual goto brands they otherwise buy and 60% state that they plan to stay with the new brands even after we have entered the next normal state.
When we do Culture Mapping and research mining in our network of contributors, cultural influencers, experts and existing reports we can see a change in the attitude towards sustainability as a holistic perspective in creating value for the consumer and how brands’ approach to serving a larger purpose is attracting consumers to try a new brand.
These major and rapid changes in consumption and brand loyalty will, of course, have devastating consequences for some brands that are unprepared and may have no clear purpose. But at the same time, incredible new windows are opening up for brands to reach out to consumers who are now receptive to try something new.
”After the crisis, however, the time will come to rebuild. This moment of recovery will be an opportunity to rethink our industry and, even if not overnight, build a new model of value and growth. And this is where I see our sustainability strategy and vision being more important than ever.”
When sustainability, purpose and trust is growing, demands from the consumer. Then the understanding of The New Sustainable Consumer and her behaviours, attitudes and triggers are also growing more relevant than ever. To win in a world of shifting values and accelerating disruptions, you have to be the fastest learner and the fastest in applying your understanding of the consumer to deliver business outcomes.
”We see a clear link between sustainability and continued commercial success. Our sustainability ambitions will help us stay ahead of customer demand after this crisis caused by the coronavirus. Both our current and future customer base are calling for more sustainable choices in fashion. Nine out of ten Generation Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. By committing to sustainability, we can secure our long-term growth, stay relevant to our customers, and establish market-leading differentiation against our competitors.”
To make it easier to understand The New Sustainable Consumer, it helps to start simplifying by dividing her into groups around the adaptations phase of her triggers on sustainability and her approach to it as a concept.
Enthusiastic about change and passionate about finding new ways in solving old problems. They are at the forefront and have a holistic perspective to globalisation, gender equality, health and sustainability. They feel that ethics and sustainability are the real deal! They believe values are critical and are culturally driven.
Afraid and worried about what is happening to us, the planet and our society at large. Has a desire to find a way to save themselves but worries about the health of the planet and about perceived structural problems in society. Believes we must act now. Results are critical to winning a sustainable doer.
Looking for an opportunity of self-affirmation and to build her personal image. Wants to look good in front of others and show that she is In the know with sustainability. Acts as a curator of knowledge and happy to retell it as her own without any deeper insights. Believe that health and sustainability is something that lies in the eyes of the beholder rather than something that is for real. Symbols and storytelling are critical when trying to win over the flexible sustainable consumer.
The spectator just wants a convenient solution. She believes that the debate is not really targeting her. She is interested and listens but needs a good argument to break a habitual pattern. For a spectator facts and price points are critical.
They are non-motivated to the whole topic of sustainability and believe that the climate and sustainability issues are nothing to worry about. They think everyone is lying anyway so why would this be true. For a sleeper to be sustainable it has to be cheaper than a conventional product.
At Scandinavian MIND we help brands to navigate the new future and we bring brands to life through authentic and inspiring storytelling, reaching out to new and existing audiences, driving engagement and converting consumers. For a deeper understanding of The New Sustainable Consumer and how you as a brand can benefit from learning, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a private talk or make sure to get a seat at The Scandinavian MIND Transformation Conference in November. •
FREDRIK EKSTRÖM is editor-at-large for Scandinavian MIND, focusing on sustainability and branding. He has over 15 years of experience working with brand insights, strategies and development. He has a background from PR and has worked for leading lifestyle brands on award-winning agencies. The last six years he has been responsible for the brand direction of Tretorn and established a consumer centric approach to sustainability and international collaborations.