What the Trend of Values-Driven Consumers Means for Companies Today
It’s not news that in order for organizations to grow, they must adapt to the times. Expectations today follow a trend: consumers will not buy from brands that do not align with their values. Whether social, political, moral or environmental, issues that matter to consumers must now stand on enterprise agendas.
Which companies master the values-driven approach and how? In our humble opinion, it all comes down to feedback. Here’s why:
Companies that engage with what customers care about will thrive.
When it comes to issues of global or national importance, neutrality used to be the safest route to avoid PR (Public Relations) nightmares. This has since changed. What was formerly the role of governments to drive change is now an expectation for companies. This is especially true for millennials and Gen-Z, which account for a collective two-thirds of the world population.
Globally, 64% of consumers choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on its stand on a societal issue.
Edelman Earned Brand Report, 2018
C-level executives are viewed as spokespeople meant to take a stance. Take Apple for instance. Its CEO Tim Cook is very vocal about climate change and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The company even hired former EPA admin (Environmental Protection Agency) Lisa Jackson as its VP of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. She’s since set internal renewable energy standards for Apple, among other projects.
While you might not have the same scale of budget as Apple, there is always room for change. No matter how small, stakeholders demand that companies at least start engaging with causes they care about. Brands that fail to do so, risk losing customers who’d rather take their business elsewhere.
First things first, define your values.
Determining what values are important to your customers starts by asking. With feedback, you discover how your company is currently viewed so you can address potential gaps. As we’ve entered the height of the Feedback Economy, this is more important now than ever.
Regardless of job title, from Marketing to Product to Sales, Customer Experience (CX) professionals will play a crucial role in:
- defining a company’s values, and
- creating a strategy to follow through on these values.
In recent years, Procter & Gamble (P&G) mastered the art of listening. The iconic, 182-year-old company ran a series of ads that sparked controversy. They promoted outdated gender stereotypes and did not resonate. David Taylor, CEO at P&G, got curious about how to get in touch with 21st-century consumers.
First, he needed to define or at least redefine P&G’s values. With market research tools and survey data, the company could refocus its messaging. Using feedback, P&G found what its target consumers care about. It set new goals that focus on inspiring a positive impact. P&G went from an advertising flop to earning an Emmy-Award for its anti-racism commercial ‘The Talk‘. The world took note and P&G earnings and stock soared.
Make your values clear in policy and practice.
It’s one thing to talk the talk, but is your company willing to walk the walk? When it comes to a values-driven approach, there are plenty of brands taking charge on paper and in reality. The list goes on for brands engaged in topics like corporate responsibility, diversity & inclusion and sustainability. Lush uses minimal packaging and Ben & Jerry’s banned the use of plastic straws.
Starbucks is another example. The company took a direct hit to profit ($12m) following a racial profiling scandal. Making its values clear, it closed the doors of 8,000 shops for diversity training. Starbucks promotes a College Achievement Plan for dedicated employees as well. Both situations show Starbucks prizes continuous learning and providing equity to communities. This is important considering,
87% of corporate value is tied up in intangible assets such as brand and reputation.
Today, companies must go beyond traditional business objectives. Failing to contribute is a clear path to losing customers, both existing and potential. Unilever, for example, chooses a strong values-driven approach. As a testament to its efforts, the brands in its sustainable living division grew 69% faster than the rest of the business. Set against the competition, Unilever captures the attention and wallets of environmentally-conscious consumers. Capitalizing on the success, Unilever’s Instagram account now centers on its sustainability efforts.
Determine a worthwhile cause & stick to it.
The topics that consumers care about are ever-changing. What matters to some consumers may not be on the table for others. This makes feedback collection paramount to maintaining a constant pulse on topics that matter to your customers and beyond. How do you know which causes are most crucial to get involved in? It’s important to consider three things:
- What efforts will deliver impactful change?
- How will involvement impact brand reputation?
- Which projects resonate with your employees?
Let’s consider Patagonia. Its mission statement reads: “We’re in business to save our home planet.” Since it was established, the company has stood for recycled fibers and its eco-conscious ways. Patagonia’s CEO even committed to sue the US president after his order to reduce the size of protected land by 2 million acres. Even when it means a hit to revenue, Patagonia represents its customers’ and employees’ values, knowing its efforts would deliver impactful change. The positive effect on brand reputation doesn’t hurt either.
Act with your employees on board.
A set of defined values at the C-level is one thing, the power of committed employees is two-fold. Employees are your brand ambassadors. They believe in, live up to and act out your values at each level of the organization. How do you engage your team? Asking and checking in is one way to ensure employees remain active promoters of your brand.
Many companies act on determined values, including our own. As part of SurveyMonkey, empowering others with data is how we plan to change the world. Recently, our Amsterdam office created 3D-printed hands. The project helps those with birth defects or post-accidents around the world. How did we settle on the initiative? A survey.
Asking our teams for feedback determines which causes our employees care about. The project represented our quarterly activity, initiated by the SurveyMonkey For Good team. Start to finish, it embodies our passion to use data to make change. The tie to tech made the project unique as well. It’s just one example of how you can get your customers, prospects and employees engaged with your brand.
Stay agile and deliver with the right tools in place.
The important piece of the puzzle is to remember: people buy with emotion. It’s vital to have an open source of communication to understand your customers’ values and ensure you’re offering a pleasant experience. Focus on values and experience, and you can close the feedback loop with your customers. This is visualized by lead research institution Forrester Research in a recent report:
Your efforts are only as strong as the tools you have in place to reach your goals. While there are plenty of solutions for gathering feedback on the market, Usabilla ranks as a market leader. We offer a data-driven approach so you can focus on what matters: values and CX.
Finding a time and cost efficient way of gathering user feedback across all our stakeholder communities was key.
Paula Woodhouse, User Experience and Design Manager, Charles Stuart University
In delivering on your values, you can strike the right emotions in your buyers and follow up with logic via the ease of use of your digital products.
Information spreads like wildfire as customers voice their opinions online. In a time where one wrong act can derail a brand’s reputation, feedback is paramount. You need to communicate with your customers to understand how they feel and what the care about.
As a result, you step up to the plate with a seamless experience that matches their needs. Combine these efforts with a feedback loop and your company’s most important stakeholders will feel heard and eager to propel your brand to new heights.
Ready to ask?