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The conscious consumer seeks transparent, ethical retailers

Posted by  Taj Onigbanjo

In an online world of open data, social networks, and mobile tech, today’s consumers have access to a seemingly unlimited volume of information instantly at any time. They are more aware of what they’re buying than ever before, and so retailers face a battle not just with supply and demand, and stretched profit margins, but also the origin of their products and services.

Everything from the manufacturing process, to the use of materials,  tomanpower is under scrutiny, which has left retailers facing a struggle to change their products’ lifecycle whilst keeping up with the evolution of shopping habits Staying cost competitive in retail despite pressure on pricing, and developments in technology AI & Digital Personalisation in Retail. As consumers become more conscious of exactly what they are buying and where the elements of those products can be traced back to, retailers are being forced into transparency and must communicate integrity and responsibility - or miss out to their competitors.

Conscious consumers will go the extra mile

Crucially, consumers are also prepared to go much further to support ethical brands. 55% of online shoppers said they would be willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that are committed to making a positive social and environmental impact.

An interest in a brand’s back story and moral stance, results in a deeper selection process and greater expectations when it comes to parting with hard earned cash. Consumers become more conscious of their own shopping habits, and so brands become more competitive in the promotion of their own morality and sustainability messaging.  Not only must brands talk the talk, but they must also walk the walk: implementing and delivering a polished customer service experience, addressing ethical issues and behaviour from supply chain sourcing and manufacturing, advertising their environmental and sustainable practices, as well as equal rights for their employees.

A culture of transparency

It is simply not enough for retailers to adapt a single business process and publically claim to be “ethical”.  It’s far easier for consumers to publicly broadcast their opinions when they smell a rat and so authentic transparency means all processes must be addressed throughout the organisation. Retailers must analyse every process at every level, and ensure that any day to day practices are executed truly ethically. In this digital age, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer a box-ticking exercise but rather an ongoing commitment.

The growing demand for retailers to be more transparent about their business operations will inevitably lead to a mounting pressure for brands to publicly define and prove what they stand for. Brand leaders and decision makers should, therefore, seek to build and promote an internal culture of transparency, encouraging their staff to follow suit. Retailers need to hold themselves accountable, clearly communicating their working practices, outlining their values, and encouraging customer and employee feedback so that everyone knows exactly where they stand, and what they can expect.

In promoting a culture of transparency, not only will the external retailer to consumer relationship become more streamlined and prosperous, but also employees’ jobs will be more satisfactory and productive if they are able to feel like their work is having a positive impact. It will be easier to attract and retain talent, as individuals will feel valued if the company is able to demonstrate that it cares about more than just crunching numbers, but also about the bigger longterm picture.

The right ERP system will improve CSR and help keep conscious consumers happy

Retailers’ products and services must be delivered on a foundation of of transparency. This means publicly defining and demonstrating values it stands for, and offering something that sets them apart from the competition such as acting with consciousness, ethical manufacturing, or giving back to local communities… all while delivering customer service excellence.

The implementation of modern, intuitive business software, which can streamline and automate the necessary-but-boring tasks, will free up employee time to allow for more creative and impactful tasks, aiding job satisfaction. Reducing errors and improving data quality will ultimately impact the customer experience, but automation in resource management and financial management makes for a happier, more fulfilled workforce. Being known as a desirable place to work, and operating with integrity leads to greater financial performance for retailers.

Taj Onigbanjo

Taj Onigbanjo is a Business Manager at Unit4 with a particular focus on the Unit4 Financials solution – the best in class accounting software. He brings over 20 years of Enterprise Sales & Sales Management experience across three different product sets and three continents having managed teams in the UK, Middle East & Africa; latterly in the telecoms arena providing worldwide data networks to Global corporates. He is an ardent reader, writer and passionate Chelsea FC fan.

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