Sustainability is a challenge for all fashion brands. The commitment to minimize the carbon footprint of a garment can start with raw material extraction but will end with customers’ use.
Fashion brands, over the last few years, have gone to great lengths to select traceable raw material suppliers, innovate their production processes, and in some cases provided more equitable working conditions to their employees.
Unfortunately, however, this may not be enough. When a product is bought by a customer, the firm loses control over it, and inconsiderate uses of the garment can still heavily damage the environment. As much as 30% of a garment’s impact is under the responsibility of the user.
Customers can in fact:
- Make very limited use or no use at all of the garment
- Wash it excessively wasting water
- Dispose of the garment incorrectly, and make it really hard to recycle
We look into customer accountability in fashion in great detail in this additional article from our blog: Fashion Sustainability and Consumer Accountability. The article discusses all of the ways in which the environmental impact of fashion can be traced back to how it is used and disposed of. In this article instead, we’ll be looking at what brands can do to positively influence behavior and have users commit to responsible ownership.
At first, it may seem frustrating, that despite all of the investments that fashion firms are making to change their supply chain, so much damage can still be done.
But not all is lost.
In recent years, fashion brands have started studying this problem to understand how they can influence customer behavior.
In this post, we’re going to explore some strategies that brands can use to influence their customer’s behaviors and make sure the product’s life cycle is fully accounted for, in the light of sustainability principles.
Here are the topics we’re going to cover in our post:
- Influence Customers Through Social Media Communication and Cause-Related Campaigns.
- Influence Customers to Build Virtuous Habits and Stick to Them
- Influence Customers With Proven Results
Ok then, lets’ get started.
1. Influence Customers Through Social Media Communication and Cause-Related Campaigns.
A very common strategy is using the power of influence provided by social media. Some fashion companies have started making bold commitments to sustainable fashion and are asking their loyal customers to do the same.
Brands like Patagonia were pioneers in this space a few years back, but now almost every fashion brand is asking their customers to co-create value by shopping responsibly.
As unconcern for the environment is now considered reprehensible, brands are trying to push customers towards more sustainable approaches by using sustainable practices as if they were a social currency to spend on social media platforms.
On social media, users feel they want to show off their best parts, and being respectful of the environment while partaking in social causes is now a matter of social consideration. To some extent, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
The relevance of pursuing socially relevant strategies in business has become a major trend, and this has led to the development of many cause-related marketing strategies, which focus on sustainable change and – to some extent – allow fashion companies to bypass traditional communication plans which are based on expensive paid media and ad bidding.
2. Influence Customers to Build Virtuous Habits and Stick to Them
If you think about it, there’s a lot of psychology in fashion already, why can’t brands use that to promote social good? This is what a lot of fashion companies are already thinking about right now, as they’re starting to tweak their operations and practices to lure customers into more virtuous habits.
What matters is that through our retail operations we are able to direct the customer towards the right path. The basic benefits we want to make sure we’re able to provide don’t really change:
- Saving time. Making sustainable shopping more efficient and fun.
- Saving money. Provide financial incentives that get customers excited about going green.
How does this work out? Well, it’s up to you to identify new creative approaches, but here are some examples:
- Incentivize customers to return used clothing with buyback programs
- Use creative and eco-labeling to make customers know what more sustainable options are available in store
- Leverage User Generate Content (UGC) to push customers in sharing stories connected to used, reused, and recycled clothing
- Inform and educate the customer on sustainable washing practices through your sales team
- Simplify the hurdles that customers are afraid to meet when pursuing a virtuous deed – for instance, provide express checkout for green shoppers!
- Use promotional strategies and economic incentives to promote sustainable shopping
- Celebrate customers who show how easy and convenient habit change can be.
The list could go on, but what matters is that you pick a strategy that makes sense for your brand and that shows an honest connection to the values and experiences provided by your fashion brand.
3. Influence Customers With Proven Results
Last but not least, after having taken a look at a more communication-based approach, leveraging the power of social media, and a convenience-based shopping experience, we can now move towards an investment-oriented approach.
This model is what is used by companies who are using Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact-oriented strategies to show what can be done when sustainability is at the center of a brand’s focus.
In many instances, the problem with sustainable practices is linked to a disconnect between the moment in which customers show concern and understanding for a sustainability problem and the moment in which they make a purchase decision. This broken connection is due to the fact that brands rarely show the results and the impact of the pursuit of sustainable goals. This lack of proof makes the cause for sustainable behavior more intangible and difficult to keep at the center of our decisions as shoppers.
This is why fashion brands need to focus on making sustainability real, meaningful, and memorable so that the relevance of green practices can influence customer behavior in the most significant way possible. Examples of this are Adidas’ Ocean Plastic Campaign or Nudie Jean’s 6 months wash challenge.
These brands are adopting a reverse approach to influencing behavior, showing the outcome of sustainable practices and inspire customers to join in.
It’s now time to draw some conclusive remarks.
In this post, we’ve looked at some examples of strategies that fashion brands can use to influence their customers’ behavior. This is undoubtedly a tricky challenge, but we have seen how it can be done.
In summary, there are three levels onto which a brand can operate.
- The first is by leveraging the social value of doing good and luring customers to partake in a change that affects us all. The broad reach of social media can help us put customers on center stage and have them show their willingness to commit to a more sustainable garment use, by co-creating value with their favorite brands.
- The second is by using retail store operations and incentivize virtuous habits. Use price incentives, time-saving opportunities, and a hassle-free experience for those customers willing to shop green. By seeding sustainable behaviors with the right types of incentives, it’s likely over time customers will see the benefits of sustainable practices themselves.
- The third is by showing the results of sustainable consumption. This is an approach focused on bringing sustainability on a practical, tangible level where customers can touch and feel the benefits of sustainable living. It can be a very powerful source of inspiration and make sustainability urgent and important.
There you have it! In this post, we’ve covered some tips and advice for fashion brands wishing to influence consumer behavior and act towards the lifespan of fashion garments. Here at 440 Industries, can we’re big on sustainability, and if you look below or on our blog section you may find many other sources that can help you navigate this important topic.