In 2018, business owners are still asking the question, ‘What do consumers want?’ Gone are the days of simply providing a desirable product or service or running a slick marketing campaign to generate interest. Nowadays, people are complicated and like to invest in reliable brands well-versed in corporate social responsibility (CSR) with business ethics that acknowledge values and causes they believe in.
Research shows that 90% of consumers worldwide are ready to switch to brands championing social and environmental causes. Meaning that if your business isn’t already on the CSR bandwagon, you’d better wise up or risk damaging your reputation, customer loyalty, and the ability to attract or retain viable partners or talent. It’s as CEO of Convercent, Patrick Quinlan states: ‘ethics and core values are no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity.’
At Oxbridge Home Learning, as a small business, we realise we’re not going to change the world right away. However, we take little steps towards becoming more carbon neutral, such as offering several digital courses and paper-based materials that are 100% recyclable right down to the packaging they are delivered in. Something all businesses should do is use Ecosia over Google for internet searches.
The Customer is Always Right
The act of purchasing a product or using a service has become an intimate process and is now more personal. People are keen to showcase their values and expect companies they engage with to care, too. A recent study showed how consumers expected businesses to support key issues they’re thinking about, such as climate change and LGBTQ rights, with 73% admitting they’d avoid businesses that didn’t share their viewpoint. People like to be listened to, so business brand narratives should reflect how they’re making a real difference in the world rather than babble on about ‘who’ they are or what they think people want to hear to increase publicity or sales.
Pulling the Wool Over Consumers Eyes
Fool them once, shame on you, fool them twice… it’s not going to happen. You may have encountered the recent Twitter storm surrounding Volkswagen’s emissions scandal where they rigged emissions tests, tainting their once peachy eco-friendly image. Building a reputation based on environmental sustainability, the car manufacturer gained the trust of the public, and it’s ‘Think Blue’ campaign in 2010, which showcased progressive ideas and eco-friendly mobility in everyday life, had media outlets touting the manufacturer as one to learn from.
Although Volkswagen achieved record sales in 2017, showing people were willing to forgive and forget. The scandal shed new controversy recently when it was revealed the manufacturer supported unethical diesel exhaust tests on monkeys, leading people to reconsider their opinion of the company.
The problem however is that when you communicate a certain stance or message people care about, but your actions speak differently… people feel hoodwinked. As a business owner, supporting specific causes is admirable, but if you skip corners, break promises or consumers discover your advocation is a ruse, just check your Twitter feed and pray your PR department are champions at handling bad news.
Global companies can often handle the pressure, but if you’re a smaller business, such a blow can ruin you. What’s the best course of action? Stay honest, moral and take responsibility for how you deliver positive information to consumers to avoid serious consequences like public boycotting and fines. CSR is necessary, but it can also be damaging if handled in the wrong way.
Start Small, Think Big, Go Global
Now it would be unwise to revise your entire business model, but showing due attention to the issues people are concerned about can significantly impact your business in a positive way. For example, at Oxbridge Home Learning, we united with Future Faces, a sector of the Chamber of Commerce, to help Birmingham-based children’s charity Buddy Bag Foundation prepare backpacks of love and vital items for children in emergency accommodation. A small step for social responsibility, yes, but it’s a positive step that makes a genuine difference.
However, it’s not just about adopting a conscience to increase your bottom-line or meet consumer needs, but align with your values, thoughts and ideals. Everyone stands for something, why not align what you stand for with your business. It’s no surprise that 87% of consumers would purchase from a company that backed a cause they cared about. So, if what you choose to advocate changes the state of the world in a good way, it’s likely people will hop on board.