We live in a time of rampant consumerism— a fact that is hard to miss. Just take a drive downtown or scroll through the internet and it won’t be long before you are bombarded by messages that are intended to get you to buy something. Today, shopping itself seems to be an important cultural activity and by 2030 the global middle class is expected to reach 5.3 billion people, meaning that there will be more people with increased purchasing power than we have today, especially in the developing nations.

For those in the consumer goods industry, this is pretty good news. One of the real major benefits of consumerism is that it boosts economies, however, consumerism can have a largely negative impact on the environment and can also have negative results on societies around the world.

Consumerism is defined as the human desire to obtain goods in excess of our basic needs of having enough food, clothing, and shelter. Today, the modern consumer is growing increasingly socially conscious of the global and societal impact that the manufacturing and the distributing of consumer goods have in our society, and many consumers are learning to prefer giving their money to businesses that behave ethically or have values that mirror their own.

For ecommerce store owners that want to get with the times and brand themselves as a socially conscious business, you will want to create an identity and an online store where your customers can shop and make a positive impact on the world with every purchase that they make from your store. You won’t just be selling a product, but providing consumers with something much more valuable to them.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, an overwhelming 81% of their global respondents strongly feel that businesses should help improve the environment and should accept social responsibility in what they do. This is especially the case when it comes to Millenials, Gen Z, and Gen X consumers, with older counterparts not so far behind.

In light of these concerns for social values and responsibilities, consumers are making adjustments to their shopping habits, which would signal to any ecommerce entrepreneur that they must also adjust their business to these new types of demands because your target consumers are out there using their purchasing power to affect the changes that they want to see in the world.

An interesting characteristic of the socially conscious shopper is that the social value of their purchase can often transcend pricing. In other words, they may be willing to spend more on brands and items that align with their values instead of looking for the best and cheapest deal.

In this article, we are going to delve deeper into what today’s consumers want to see in the companies and businesses that they support. 

Here are some small actions that all ecommerce businesses can take to attract and keep socially conscious consumers:

1. Offer Recyclable or Biodegradable Packaging

When it comes to ecommerce, there is typically a lot of packaging involved, resulting in a mountain of waste. Often we send or receive packages that are covered in bubble wrap and Styrofoam pellets, both of which are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable. Perhaps, as ecommerce businesses, we can find sustainable and earth-friendly alternatives in packaging?

The single-use plastic waste used in shipping items leaves a negative impact on our society no matter what, as plastic will often end up in landfills, rivers, and oceans to negatively impact our environment.

Many of today’s consumers are opting to be “plastic-free” or are at least trying to greatly minimize their single-use plastic waste. To be a part of the solution to the single-use plastic plague, you can market your use of recyclable or biodegradable packaging. It will be practical in the long run with rising oil prices and more companies looking to save money with more sustainable and environmentally ways to package their products. 

Your shoppers will also be attracted to your shop and will love to shop with you as they are significantly reducing their negative impact on the planet with your packaging marked as being 100% recyclable or biodegradable.

2. Build A Socially Conscious Brand Image

An ecommerce business that is socially conscious can do good while doing quite well in business. It can be seen as a way to drive profits while giving back some benefits to society.

Your socially conscious brand values can be your ticket to differentiating yourself from the competition, helping you to stand out. Just make sure your consumers know the cause you are supporting by marketing and communicating your brand’s values to your consumers and making it a part of your business. Every time consumers make a purchase with you, they are not only supporting your business, but they are also making a stand with your shop's approach to ethics and social consciousness.

For example, if you are running a small makeup company that caters to online audiences, you can tap into the market for cruelty-free, vegan, and locally sourced ingredients that come in recyclable packaging. The great thing about building a socially conscious brand is that it is easier for consumers to form an emotional bond your business.

Forms of transparency are also greatly valued by consumers. You can do this by posting pictures of your team at work, show off your efforts in creating sustainable packaging, or showing your customers how you give back to society with your profits.

3. Raise Awareness

When you build a socially conscious brand, raising awareness for whatever cause you support should also go hand in hand. You can also think of raising awareness as a way to educate consumers and therefore acquire more paying customers. As you can probably tell, socially conscious consumerism is kind of a win-win for everyone involved.

Many brands today participate in what is known as “Social Good Campaigns”, which is when a brand promotes a product while also involving a social action and idea on a relevant social topic. The social good campaign can be done as a response to a cause or event. This helps a brand showcase the fact that it cares about current events and what is going on socially or environmentally by staying current. This is clearly a great way of keeping up with the trends and will keep your brand relevant as the times roll by.

An example of a social good campaign by a popular online company is Airbnb’s Until We Belong campaign, targeting issues of marriage inequality in Australia, where they decided to launch acceptance rings to raise awareness on their campaign. With more than 150 thousand rings sold, Airbnb was the most mentioned brand in Australia at the time, with over 2 million shares on social media.

4. Display Your Pledge To Society

Some brands are out there pledging to give a portion of their earnings back to charities of their choice, while others are pledging to continually explore new ways to minimize their and, by extension, their consumer's carbon footprint. 

Yes, talk is cheap, but it is at least a start and any small thing you can do to make a difference will leave a great impression with your target audience. Brands that promise to reduce their negative impact on the environment are making way for positive societal change, and there are a lot of people who can get behind on this trend.

Consumers are out there looking for brands that will work with them to create a better future, and many companies who have been in the game for a long time are finding themselves challenged by young companies that are committed to catering to the new generation of socially conscious consumers who are no longer about “getting the best deal” for their money but are more concerned for how their purchases affect their world. Today’s consumers use their money to make a stand and to finance a sustainable world and a brighter future.

Back To You

Consumerism, like many things, can have a good and a bad side. While today’s mass consumerism is helping boost global economies and is driving innovation, this mass consumption and production of consumer goods can have a societal and environmental impact—negative impacts that more consumers are becoming increasingly aware and wary of.

Many of today’s younger consumers are beginning to choose brands and businesses with ethical views that support the world and the future that we all want to live in, and ecommerce businesses who wish to do their part in raising awareness and creating a better world with their products will not only benefit in business and profit, but they will also benefit society and win the hearts of their customers who support your business and your cause.

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