Sustainability is here to stay. Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed a huge business transition that led fashion brands to pursue a more transparent approach to raw material extraction, fabric processing, and sustainable designs.
These changes were not only prompted by environmental goals but were demanded by new generations of customers who are very well aware of the impact of the fashion industry on the planet.
For as much as all of this is inspiring for the future of the industry, sustainable clothing is still challenging to sell, and stores can have a hard time promoting new fabrics and merchandise made with alternative, recycled materials.
Despite our customer’s best intentions, the ultra-low, bargain prices of fast fashion merchandise are hard to defeat, unless we build a fully-fledged strategy.
This is why in this post, we’re sharing a few tips to help brands and retail managers optimize their communication and sales strategy to sell sustainable clothing.
Ready? Let’s get started.
Use The Full Power of The Customer Journey to Build Your Marketing
It’s important to sell sustainable clothing by aligning our full communication strategy to pursue this goal.
In many cases, sustainability is black and white. If we want to increase sales, our sustainable efforts have to be one of the leading reasons why our customers choose our brand.
To break down the different strategies that can be pursued to influence our customer’s towards sustainable choices, we’re using a framework called “the customer journey”.
The customer journey allows us to map all of the interactions between the brand and the customer and allows us to align our strategy in every single touchpoint.
If you’d like to learn more about this framework we’re addressing it in more detail in this post: Customer Journey Mapping: Tips to Increase Sales and Retention.
The customer journey allows us to visualize our brand’s communication strategy based on the degree of purchase intent of our customers. According to this model, customers explore their purchase options in three stages:
Stage 1 – Awareness: Low Purchase Intent
In this stage, customers hear about the brand for the first time. They may not be interested in buying any product just yet, but they are learning about the collection, its stylistic identity, and its values. This stage is usually managed through paid advertising, public relations, word-of-mouth, and freely available content (blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.)
Stage 2 – Comparison: Medium Purchase Intent
In this stage, customers are shortlisting options and looking at the products that are best aligned with their needs. Because of the need to compare and contrast options and to collect feedback, a big role in this stage is played by social media. On social media, customers often feel that they are able to access unbiased, honest opinions and product recommendations.
Stage 3 – Purchase: High Purchase Intent
This is the final stage and represents the final part of the customer journey. This is when customers have made up their minds regarding the product they want to buy, but are still unsure about some of the practical issues that could still affect them, such as time to checkout, discounts, shipping costs, returns, customer service, etc.
In this post, we’re going to see how we can create a sustainable communication strategy that leverages the customer’s purchase intent and helps us sell more sustainable clothing.
So, how does it all play out? In the next section of our post, we’re going to look into this much further.
Awareness: Use cause-related marketing to make the cause heard.
In order to develop a persuasive sales strategy, we first need to connect to our customer’s values and beliefs. That’s why it’s necessary to start building our communication strategy from the awareness stage. What we need to do is to be able to create an audience of customers who resonate with our cause, or our “reason to go into business”.
Many brands are now using cause-related marketing to explore a new way of conducting a business and growing a brand, what makes this approach unique is that it is not entirely focused on maximizing profits.
Many organizations are now becoming impact-first or committed to pursuing environmental and social change as the primary goal of the business. This approach can potentially jeopardize profits, as business decisions tend to consider profitability a variable that can be sacrificed in the pursuit of a greater common good.
If your brand is able to connect to a meaningful and relevant cause, you’ll be able to focus your communication on those individuals who see sustainability as a foundational aspect of their shopping behavior and you’ll end up having a much easier time converting customers who are already aligned with the vision you are carrying out for your business.
This is why at the awareness stage, is necessary to connect your brand to a larger cause, that can help customers see your brand as unique and different, especially in fashion, where competition is fierce and standing out of a crowded market can be a challenge.
Comparison: Use social media to encourage socially approved behavior
The comparison stage can be the most crucial stage of your customer journey. This is when sometimes it can be difficult to manage the reputation and consideration of your brand when it’s dealing with unfiltered and in many times, emotional comments from your audience.
However, it must be noted that on social media brands can take advantage of the fact that unsustainable behavior is considered morally and ethically reprehensible. Despite the fact that each customer can relate in a personal way to sustainability, we all can understand the urgency and relevance of sustainable fashion.
Brands can use “social sharing” as an opportunity to use sustainable behaviors as a social currency and increase the reach of your brand through recommendations, support, and positive reinforcement within sustainable customers circles.
By developing these two steps, it will be easier to then deal with customers when they arrive in-store as their experience of purchasing sustainable clothing has already started providing benefits (social and emotional) even before the transaction has taken place.
Let’s now move on to the third stage where you focus on in-store operations.
Purchase: Use incentives to sell in-store
Finally, customers are in store, and if we’ve played our cards right, many of them have already decided to purchase sustainable clothing even before having looked at the collections and merchandise.
What we need to focus on are now the dynamics of retail marketing.
The simple truth is that when customers are in-store, many of them will be very responsive to two simple elements: the opportunity to save time and save money. As we manage in-store customers our approach to sales needs to make sure our visitors are feeling as if they’re able to make efficient use of their resources.
This is why it’s important to have strong incentives capable of making customers go the extra mile.
Some of these incentives can include:
- Providing benefits for sustainable customers. This could be through discounts or providing express checkout.
- Using Eco-labelling. This can simplify the purchase process and make customers aware of the impact of unsustainable clothing on the environment.
- Celebrating sustainable customers. As customers show responsiveness to sustainable causes, brands can take the opportunity to use them as “customer heroes”.
- Using Buyback programs. This will allow increasing the lifecycle of sustainable, recyclable clothing.
If you’d like to read more about ways in which brands are able to influence their customers in-store, we’ve got a perfect resource to explore this subject further: How Can Brands Influence Customer Behavior Towards Sustainability?
Great, now that we’ve covered all the bases it’s time to move on to our conclusive remarks.
As we’ve seen in this post, it’s very important for a brand, to build a comprehensive communication strategy to achieve the goal of selling more sustainable clothing. By using this strategy you’ll be able to take advantage of the motivations and aspirations of your customers, making them purchase sustainable clothing as an action that expresses their identity and their beliefs.
This is why to discuss the sustainable strategy we’ve referred to two important marketing frameworks: customer journey mapping and cause-related marketing.
If these topics are something you’d like to learn more about, don’t hesitate to look in our blog where you can find a wealth of free resources to help you navigate the world of fashion sustainability.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the practices of sustainable fashion, don’t hesitate to take a look at our course “The Sustainable Fashion Industry“. Our short and to-the-point, online class covers a wide range of topics spanning from sustainable business models to strategies to lower your carbon footprint. Here’s a link to the course, if you use the discount code BLOG20 at checkout you can access a 20% discount. Enjoy!