Despite their incredible resilience over the past few years, Australian retailers continue to face challenges in 2023. Amid a tough macroeconomic environment, Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows household spending is increasing at its slowest rate since 2021’s COVID-related shutdowns.

All the while, shoppers are being more particular about where they spend their hard earned money. Values-driven shopping is growing year on year, and the pandemic has only supercharged the trend. Consumers are demanding locally made, environmentally sustainable and ethical products. Our Future of Retail report – a survey of 1,000 shoppers and 500 retailers – reveals that a brand’s values and ethics matter to nearly 9 in 10 Australian shoppers.

Despite tightening purse strings, conscious shoppers are prepared to pay more for products that fit with their values. In fact, sometimes they expect to pay more.

So, how do you reach the environmentally conscious or ethical shopper? And what messages will help you cut through? We’ll concentrate on three main areas that, done right, can help you reach that values-driven customer, boost your bottom line and do good in the world.

Find your purpose

Tapping into the conscious shopping market requires you to find your purpose, beyond just making money. This could be as simple as asking, “Why were we founded?” A supermarket exists to feed people and create a sense of community. From there, you might ask “What can we do about all this food waste?”, suddenly a hundred possibilities for sustainability open up.

Make sure the purpose you land on is authentic to you and your brand. It almost goes without saying that those shopping with their values are on high alert for insincere brands jumping on the greenwashing or social justice bandwagons.

Based in Perth and recently branching out to Sydney, Second Life Markets sets an example of a brand living in authenticity. The market is a quarterly event for vintage and pre-loved clothing collectors as well as local designers and artists, and has inspired many to foster a more circular fashion system by embracing thoughtful and sustainable purchasing decisions.

Build a values-based mission across sales channels

Customers  – and especially younger people – use a wide variety of channels to engage with the brands they love. Afterpay’s Gen Z Report shows that younger shoppers typically seek platforms that blend social media with retail and often shop on the social media channels, like Instagram and TikTok, where they’re already spending their time. 

Younger shoppers tend to spend more with brands that align with their personal views – and not sit on the fence on important social issues – showing it’s important that retailers establish a meaningful mission that resonates with their target audience. That could be anything from environmental sustainability, workplace ethics, social justice, charity alignment or other causes that are important to the business. That mission must then be clear and consistent everywhere a customer might find the brand, including ecommerce, social media channels, and physical storefronts.

That’s because – as data analyst NielsenIQ points out – conscious consumers are omnichannel shoppers by nature. They take their research seriously, educate themselves on ingredients and materials, and engage with brands on social media to find out what they stand for and whether their values are aligned.

Vivid storytelling across all channels that effectively captures the “why” of the business is critical.

Automate to find time to live your values

With a meaningful and authentic mission built, retailers must find ways to reduce administrative burden so they can live their brand.

Automation tools enable businesses to do more with less. Retailers, no matter the size, should look to technology to find ways to optimise the way they work, giving them time back to spend on what really matters.

Our recent Future of Retail report found that 90% of retailers have already made investments in technologies like POS-integrated inventory systems that automatically make new orders before stock runs out; or marketing automation to send welcome emails to new subscribers, abandoned cart emails to customers who have left items in their online shopping cart, or birthday offers to existing customers.

Automation technology can improve operational efficiency that will ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction, and freeing up staff to work on activities that matter to your mission.

Through finding your purpose, strategic marketing efforts that drive brand values, and automation tools, retailers will be better placed to cater to shifting customer expectations.

Colin Birney is head of business development at Square.