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Brands must build trust with sustainability-minded consumers

A multi-media approach to communicating a brand's or retailer's commitment to environmental and social responsibility is the best way to build trust with today's consumers, a new study has found.

The latest Oeko-Tex global consumer survey – 'The Key To Confidence: What Does It Take to Build Trust with Busy, Sustainability-Minded Consumers?' – found consumers are interested in what brands themselves say on websites, in advertising, and on social media.

But they also appreciate third-party validation with certifications and labels from trusted organisations, and information available while shopping, such as signage, hang tags, packaging, and labels, to provide relevant textile sustainability information.

The research profiles two of the most powerful consumer groups – millennials and parents – who will influence global textile markets for decades to come.

Of the total sample, 64% of consumers who were aware of eco-textiles claimed they check at least some of the time to see if sustainability claims are true. That number increased to 69% of the millennials and to 74% of the parents of young children who participated in the global research survey.

To simplify the shopping process, many sustainability-conscious consumers choose to do their homework in advance. Doing so establishes a brand set, or a collection of brands that align with their values. That brand set can include clothing and home textile brands as well as retailer brands and certifications.

The report found 42% of consumers in the study said they like to know the values and principles of the brands they buy, 34% want to know about a brand's sustainability practices, and 38% like to know what small steps brands have taken to be more sustainable – even if they're not fully 'green'.

But where do consumers get this advance sustainability information about brands and retailers? Here, age is a factor. For millennials, the Internet ranked highest with 69% of these 18-36-year-olds relying on it compared to 55% of Boomers+. Social media is another favourite with 55% of millennials as opposed to only 25% of Boomers+. Three quarters (74%) of Boomers+ chose mainstream media as their preferred source.

Meanwhile, more than half (52%) of consumers in ''The Key To Confidence' research said they check textiles for a label from an independent organisation that verifies claims are true, while 49% read the fibre content labels to determine what kind of fabric is used. In addition, 41% judge a textile product by where it was manufactured.

"These research findings clearly support a multi-media approach to communicating a brand's or retailer's commitment to environmental and social responsibility," said Oeko Tex.

"Consumers are quickly learning and being taught about textile sustainability. They are looking for information to help them do the right thing.

"Brands, certifiers, and retailers who work together to provide credible information and reassurances will make it easier for busy consumers to do the right thing, provide another small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and enable more buying without worry about impact on the environment or society. And those are the factors that will establish trust and loyalty with today's skeptical, sustainability-minded consumers."

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