Sustainability can be an overwhelming topic. While the majority of U.K. shoppers are interested in making more sustainable product choices, nearly half of them don’t feel confident in knowing what that actually entails. Despite this, only 22% of companies plan to prioritise educating consumers about sustainable living in 2023.
This is a missed opportunity. We spoke to two brands in the U.K. that face very different consumer challenges on the environment but have the same goals: supporting people to make sustainable choices and encouraging loyalty in the process.
Rethinking the customer journey
For fashion brand Lucy & Yak, the key to encouraging sustainable living lies in making it accessible to as many people as possible.
“We do a lot to educate our customers in a transparent and open way,” says Lucy Greenwood, Lucy & Yak’s co-founder. “We've had many customers come to us online because they’re looking for sustainable fashion or want to learn about it.”
We use accessible language to explain our product credentials and to clarify what “organic” or “recycled” actually mean when it comes to our fabrics.
The brand uses its e-commerce site to sell clothes as well as educate consumers on sustainable living. To help people find answers to their questions, they run paid Search campaigns pointing to blog posts on sustainable shopping, the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and the importance of robust organic accreditation. Tips on clothing care and repair also help customers make the most out of the items they already own.
“We’ve always felt sustainability is a responsibility that should underpin the whole business,” says Greenwood. “We make an effort to use accessible language to communicate our product credentials, talk about the materials, and explain what words such as ‘organic’ or ‘recycled’ actually mean when it comes to our fabrics.”
Lucy & Yak also supports a circular economy by running a buyback scheme called ‘Re:Yak’. This rewards people for returning their pre-worn items so they can be resold or recycled, while members of its online marketplace can buy, sell, and trade them with each other.
“We’re seeing a new cohort of sustainable shoppers,” says Greenwood. “Our loyal customer base is growing because we give them a guilt-free feeling of loving a product and knowing it’s done no harm. They then really want to tell others about us. It’s great seeing them educate each other.”
Marketers looking to take inspiration from Lucy & Yak should consider how they can reimagine the customer journey and integrate sustainability into the user experience. By educating people and empowering them to make more informed decisions in their day-to-day lives, marketers have a powerful means of bringing them into a brand’s story.
Providing answers on Search
While Lucy & Yak’s customers tend to be proactive about recycling and the environment, there are many consumables where the customer doesn’t necessarily think too hard about the product’s end of life.
In the U.K. alone, around 1.3 billion batteries are sold each year, but less than half are recycled. They aren’t part of standard kerbside recycling collections and often end up in landfill or even cause fires in rubbish trucks and waste-processing centres.
“Battery industry research suggests 80% of consumers would like to recycle batteries, but a lack of awareness of how and where to do so is a significant barrier to action,” says Gavin Cunningham, sustainability manager at Duracell. People often turn to Search to find the answers, with interest for terms including “recycle batteries” up 20% year over year.
Duracell has long claimed to be a market leader when it comes to sustainability, focusing on longer-lasting products, plastic-free packaging, and 100% green energy in its European production plant. But the company also decided to focus on making the recycling process more seamless and easier for consumers.
“To help people make the right choices and find relevant information, we created a dedicated sustainability section on our website with product details and practical help, such as a Google Maps-powered ‘recycling finder’,” adds Cunningham.
Duracell is also encouraging its retail partners, such as supermarkets, to add recycling attributes to their Google Business Profile so people can see local services at a glance.
Search can be a valuable tool in both understanding people’s changing needs around the environment and meeting them. But marketers should consider how to help shoppers make green choices throughout the full user journey, from improving visibility for sustainability queries to removing friction points.
A consumer value that resonates
As people strive to make the right decisions for the environment, brands have a big role to play in providing consumers with the knowledge — and the products — to help. And what’s good ethically is also good for business, with sustainability a significant point of difference in often highly competitive markets.
Whether it’s rethinking where sustainability sits in the purchase journey or showing up for relevant searches with useful tips or recycling points, brands can empower customers to engage in the kind of social change they value.