With more than 40% of consumers in the US and UK planning to shop exclusively online, even as stores reopen, fashion, apparel and footwear brands must re-evaluate their end-to-end sustainability practices – from material sourcing to product packaging.
Respondents to a survey by software provider CGS found that although many consumers have drastically changed their shopping habits since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, sustainability continues to be an important driver for brand loyalty and pricing.
CGS surveyed more than 2,000 individuals (ages 18-65+) from the US and UK on how sustainable products and business practices are driving their fashion, apparel and footwear buying preferences.
Among the key findings of the ‘2020 Retail and Sustainability Survey’, were that as consumers consider how comfortable they will be returning to stores post-Covid-19, many feel e-commerce is the only suitable option in the near-term meaning brands must take a closer look at their backend sustainability practices, such as shipping and packaging.
According to the data, 47% of US respondents and 52% of UK respondents consider whether a retailer’s shipping and packaging is eco-friendly when making a purchase at least some of the time. Ensuring sustainability practices run the length of the supply chain, from material sourcing to product packaging, will be a major component of the customer experience and a way to ensure brand loyalty.
“The research confirms that the shift in retail we were already beginning to see before the Covid-19 pandemic is only accelerating,” says Paul Magel, president, business applications division, CGS. “As more consumers opt for e-commerce, retailers have transformed at record rates during the height of the crisis and consumers will continue to expect the same level of service and experience going forward.
“Retailers and brands will need to make sure sustainability efforts don’t get left behind during the shift. Consumers will continue to prioritise this, especially as they shop online more frequently. They are paying attention to products as well as shipping and packaging methods for sustainability.”
Meanwhile, consumers in both regions identified a number of ways brands could adopt sustainable practices, including waste reduction and adopting ethical practices. In the UK, 61% believe that sustainability is at least somewhat important, compared with 51% of US consumers.
Although more people in the UK rank sustainability as important, consumers in the US (56%) and UK (59%) align in their willingness to pay more for sustainable options. Beyond this, gender also factors into sustainable shopping across both regions: 26% of women said they are willing to pay 25% more for sustainable goods, compared to 21% of men.
CGS says it is clear brands must demonstrate a commitment to eco-conscious practices to win over customers across both regions. Doing this will not only reinforce brand loyalty, but also give companies an opportunity to raise prices and meet consumer demand for sustainable items.
Other findings include while many retailers have embraced eco-friendly materials and practices in recent years, their actions might not be reaching customers.
The majority of US consumers (50%) and UK consumers (57%) believe fashion, apparel and footwear brands do not offer enough visibility into their sustainability practices. Although consumers from both regions are aligned on the need for more brand transparency, they disagree on who is accountable for ensuring this.
UK consumers were more supportive of having the government take a greater role in regulating sustainable practices, while US consumers are looking for brands to take the lead on sustainable action.