4 Ways Technology is Helping Retailers Reach the ‘Conscious Consumer’

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Retail is in the midst of a new movement, and that movement is driven by conscious consumerism.  (73%) of consumers say they would change their purchases to reduce their environmental impact and 70% think corporations should develop sustainability strategies. Retailers are trying to build transparency and trust among these increasingly “green” consumers by considering more environmentally friendly approaches that extend into all areas of the business.

What is ‘Conscious Consumerism?’

Conscious consumerism is when someone’s buying decisions are driven by a commitment to making a positive social, environmental and economic impact. By thinking more critically about their actions and purchase decisions, consumers believe they can make a significant global impact. For example, when consumers buy products wrapped in paper rather than plastic, it reduces the global amount of plastic waste in landfills. Similarly, when consumers buy organic foods, it leads to less pesticide use worldwide.

There are many ways to resonate with conscious consumers, but the supply chain has seen significant movement over the past year. And there’s a good reason why:  90% of companies’ environmental impacts are attributed to supply chains. Consumers want to better understand how products are sourced, developed and shipped around, and as a result, B2C companies are adopting cutting-edge technologies to provide this detailed insight. Let’s look at four examples of retailers who are using innovation to make this happen:

1. Walmart Reduces Waste and Keeps Customers Safe

Grocery stores that sell fresh fruits, vegetables and other products run the risk of bacteria outbreaks. When one occurs, the food distributor notifies retailers that carry products from the affected area and, erring on the side of caution, the store will usually dispose of the products.

In an effort to waste less produce,  Walmart worked with IBM Blockchain to create a transparent supply chain with a food traceability system. Blockchain can trace items down to the farm level, which means Walmart can track any contamination within seconds. One of the IBM proof-of-concept (POC) projects trace mangoes from farms to Walmart stores. With the old system, it typically took a week to determine which farms harvested the mangoes. This meant contaminated mangoes from an entire region had to be destroyed. But in the POC, the blockchain scanned the produce in the store, and in two seconds the farm was displayed.  This addresses consumers’ desire to minimize waste by reducing the amount of food that is thrown out and helps keep consumers safe.

2. Luxury Brands Tap Blockchain to Foil the Fakes

In April, luxury retailer LVMH and the Prada and Cartier brands of Richemont joined forces to create the first luxury products blockchain. Called “Aura,” this blockchain allows a consumer to see every point in the production process, from the location where raw materials were sourced to the product’s creation, shipping and sale.

The new technology eliminates the need for third-party verification to determine if a designer product is genuine, and makes it easier for consumers and retailers to spot well-crafted fakes. Because a blockchain’s information is incapable of being altered, it is more effective than the well-trained eye of a customs inspector. Many other companies in the luxury sector have also harnessed the power of blockchain to validate the quality of products. For example, Brilliant Earth, the ethically sourced fine jewelry brand, uses the blockchain to validate the responsible sourcing of its jewels.

3. Recommerce Becomes a Fashion Movement

“Recommerce” was once a niche market but is quickly going mainstream.  Last year, 48% of Americans said they bought an item through a resale marketplace.

The conscious consumer values resale platforms like The RealReal, Poshmark and ThreadUP for two reasons: their purchase makes a positive social impact and they can buy products for a fraction of the price. As a result, the fashion market for secondhand goods, which includes resale as well as thrifting and donations, will surge to $64 billion by 2024.

Many brands and retailers are attempting to grab their share of this growing market by developing their own resale programs. For example, PatagoniaLevi’s and Eileen Fisher have partnered with Trove to develop their standalone initiatives. Trove functions as a white-label platform, working behind the scenes to process and price returned goods. Retailers then resell those “certified preowned” goods on ecommerce sites.

4. Tech Innovation and Sustainability Intersect

Brands seeking to attract the conscious consumer are taking technologies like QR codes and RFID tags to the next level. For example, Eon developed the CircularID Protocol in partnership with some of the industry’s top brands, including H&M, Target and PVH. These technologies give consumers visibility into where garments are made, when they are purchased and where they’ve been. They provide a unique digital identity that lives on a garment throughout its lifecycle and features everything from brand details and price to the dye process and recycling instructions.

This end-to-end visibility is incredibly valuable in the vintage and luxury resale markets, where consumers want documented verification of the products they buy. But the power of these solutions transcends far beyond luxury. It supports a circular economy that allows brands to effectively recycle, rent and resell products.

Brands and retailers have more opportunities than ever to make a positive impact on the world. Doing so will not only show that they’re “doing the right thing”; it will show that they align with their consumers’ core values and that they truly want to drive sustainability forward. If this is a priority for you and your business, we’ll have several sessions at the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo exploring new sustainability trends, priorities and how tech can support brands. Be on the lookout for our agenda, which will cover fascinating topics, such as:

  • “Championing Brand Authenticity and Transparency: What Does It Really Mean Today”
  • “Out with the New, In with the Old: Defining Success in Reuse and Resale”
  • “How AI and Machine Learning Drive Accountability for Sustainability”
  • “A Resale Renaissance: How Marketplaces Are Driving the Recommerce Boom”
  • “Incorporating Sustainability to Deliver a Business ROI”
  • “Sustainability’s Impact on Store Design”

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