The growing consumer appetite for retail with a purpose

  • Opinion
  • March 23, 2016
  • Juanita Neville-Te Rito
The growing consumer appetite for retail with a purpose

We seek authentic stories and search for greater meaning and depth to brands, products and shopping experiences.

Those doing really well in this space in the market where customers understand exactly “why we do what we do". They tend to offer experiences that are localised providing a sense of worth, ownership, belonging and wellbeing within a community. These are frequently peppered with sensory experiences and a touch and feel that takes the brand experience from selling to a sense of pride and purpose.

Demand for retailers to provide ethical products, demonstrate leadership in sustainability and social responsibility and create positive associations for their brand has grown in recent years. Shoppers are smart and see through authentic association vs. the cheap talk some brands attempt to deliver as contributing to a better being or worthwhile cause.

Nielsen has reported that beyond the heart space, this is a positive head space for retailers, with 55 percent of people around the globe prepared to pay more for ethical and good products. 

On a recent trip to Brooklyn, I wandered the streets with a colleague seeking out the new flagship Whole Foods Market store, which is committed to driving innovation and sustainable solutions.

Alas, we couldn’t find what we were looking for as it wasn’t yet open and if we are honest, we were actually attracted to the descriptions of views of Brooklyn and Manhattan skyline with Pub Grub at their rooftop restaurant called The Roof.

But some close friends have visited and I now have an excellent report - At over 5200 square metres, the new flagship offers the incredible array of high-quality natural and organic foods synonymous with the brand. But then it takes it up a notch, literally, with a rooftop greenhouse built in partnership with New York’s Gotham Greens.

The store stocks hundreds of locally sourced products with a staggering 200 items locally sourced specifically for this store. Bringing Brooklyn and local to life, the store has a café with seating for 250 and a rooftop space for 100, which means it is a true heart of the community, way beyond just a good grocery store.

With its sustainable point of difference centre to the offer the 200 square metre garden grows greens, tomatoes and herbs, which are sold in-store as well as partnering with local Gotham Greens to run the greenhouse and plans to harvest 150 tonnes of produce per year.

This is also a zero emissions store with six solar canopies providing shade for cars as well as generating 25 percent of the store’s energy. With wind turbines, grey water reuse, CO2 refrigeration and building materials from reclaimed and repurposed materials, it ticks many “good boxes”.

Image: Gotham Garden’s The Greenhouse Rooftop Garden

To top it all off, there are a couple of speciality sections: a large section of artisan, hand-cut cheeses, a Yuki Ramen bar, a made-to-order juice bar, upscale coffee bar, a rooftop bar with 15 different types of beer on tap and a further 25 more in bottles, a growler station with 10 varieties of beer and an enormous selection of craft beers. My ideal store really.

Whole Foods continues to lead in innovation redefining the meaning of local, experiential and green.

Shopping without waste

Closer to home in Australia, The Source Bulk Foods offers a smaller scale “good” experience.

Delivering a more authentic way to shop, the founders built a business based on good healthy foods produced locally and organically. With an insight that health foods were heavily packaged, they knew in their hearts there was a better way. Moving products into bulk in gravity bins, they knew they could make a big difference if unpackaged foods were readily available for shoppers to come and buy as little or as much as they liked, and pack into their own containers.

Now Australia’s largest specialised bulk food provider, the business offers exceptional customer service in addition to their exceptional range. Offering non-food product alongside food, the store brings to life ideas and opportunities to minimise our footprint on this earth while still eating and using nutritious and good products.

I visited their Caloundra store on a recent trip to Australia and was delighted with their simple, clean, modern store layout. It is interactive and the team were fun, knowledgeable and engaging. I felt like I was getting quality food at great prices and doing good for the planet at the same time. Part of my tribe’s purpose really.

And rounding off our selection of doing the right thing, French grocery retailer Intermarche, sprang into action over the 100 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables thrown away worldwide simply because they are ugly. Intermarche launched the “inglorious fruits and vegetables” campaign to rehabilitate the imperfect fruit or humble veges, selling them in their store 30 percent cheaper to attract customer to change their ways.

This movement of goodness and doing the right thing is being embraced in a big, big way at every touch point on the path to purchase by retailers in response to customer demands and desires.

It is about delivering authentic, meaningful and personalised experiences for shoppers. Retailing with depth, provenance, head, heart and soul.

Shoppers today are seeking retailers and brands that they can trust, provide meaningful experiences, and they want to feel proud of their tribe. If you are feeling that this is an important way for you to embrace your brand, just remember that this is about creating genuine connections, sharing and building a community. Shoppers are a clever bunch and will easily detect what is real and what is simply lip service. Be true. Be bold. Be real.

This post was originally published on Hotfoot's blog, Retail Geek.

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