E-tailer Zalando just recently presented a report to analyze consumer behavior in terms of sustainable shopping. The study titled "It Takes Two - How the Industry and Consumers Can Close the Sustainability Attitude-Behavior Gap in Fashion” is based on interviews with 2,500 consumers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, France and Germany and examines the difference between attitude and actual behavior of customers with regard to sustainable fashion. Finally, Zalando sense-checked all findings with its industry partners such as Filippa K, Adidas or H&M Group and incorporated their views into the results.
According to Zalando, one key finding of the report is that many fashion customers do not shop as sustainably as they would like. In light of the analysis and to push more sustainable fashion shopping, Zalando together with its partners developed ten aspects that could change consumers' shopping behavior.
1. Take steps toward transparency and bring your customers on the journey
This could be done by sharing supply chain information and stories that go deeper into the production processes with the customers and/or publishing photos of supplier factories on the website.
2. Speak a sustainability language that everyone can understand
“Brands must communicate their sustainability efforts in a way that both resonates with consumer values and is concise, comparable, and verifiable. Clear graphics and language are key to answer questions such as [...] where the company is heading in its sustainability journey. Brands can communicate this journey to consumers and stakeholders using standardized and trusted Higg Index data. They can also expand the narrative across their consumer-facing channels, including product pages, social media, websites and advertising,” recommends Amina Razvi, executive director, Sustainable Apparel Coalition.
This is about identifying and investing in the changes that will make the biggest impact for a brand’s business and on its customers. Would cutting back on plastics make an impression, or should it focus on circularity? When the mission has been identified, a brand should tell its customers about it at suitable touch points on their journeys.
4. Help your customers buy right, not more
“It's best not to approach these conversations in a way that makes people feel bad about their consumption behavior. The statistics regarding overconsumption can be overwhelming and confusing, so it’s important to provide clear and focused messaging,” states Jodi Everding, fabric, trim & sustainability manager, Filippa K.
It’s important to tackle overstocking and unlock efficiencies through better planning and streamlined operational capabilities, says Zalando. Companies should begin by optimizing their operations with smart planning and digital systems. They should invest in machine learning and AI to improve their forecasting. Another step would be to explore new business models, such as on-demand production capabilities.
6. Boost conversion on sustainable products with motivating factors such as quality and fit
One result of the study showed that value, quality and fit still trump sustainability as motivators. To push sustainability companies should use smart merchandising to position sustainable products around these benefits. For instance, they should highlight the quality benefits of organic cotton and communicate “cost-per-wear” to show value for money. Another option is to present products as investments that will stand the test of time.
Companies should balance social voices and give their customers credible role models by showcasing the sustainability journeys of relatable people, for example by using micro-influencers, or let employees and customers shine in marketing campaigns. Companies should stand up for topics that their customers care about, and align their communication strategy with their brand values.
8. Integrate circularity throughout the product life-cycle
Companies should upskill their teams in circular design, combat the challenge of overstocking, and pilot and test new business models such as resale or rental. They should review the impact of their take-back schemes and reference learnings to scale their programs.
9. Invest in second-hand
One option is to fight the second-hand stigma by showcasing new and second-hand together in marketing campaigns, retail environments and on social media. Second-hand schemes can be added in-store and online, or by partnerships with resale specialists.
10. Help customers care for and repair their clothes
According to Zalando this means to stay in contact with the customers on after-purchase care and to provide care instructions, for example on how to wash or store garments to ensure that they last. The e-tailer also recommends that fashion companies use stores to host events at which customers can learn how to repair. They should also make it easier for customers to find repair shops or tailors close by, for example by creating a directory of recommended partners.