The perception, and at times reality, that green products come at a price premium means shoppers are deprioritising these purchases in favour of low-cost alternatives, according to research released today at Manhattan Exchange 2023 in Cannes.
Some 45% of consumers surveyed consider sustainability an important factor when choosing where to shop, which was – concerningly for the health of the planet – down from 50% last year.
In total, 6,000 adults were surveyed for the Manhattan Exchange research, with questions focused on their sentiments and attitudes towards the role of the physical store and store associates, innovative fulfilment options, sustainability, inventory visibility, convenience, consistency across channels and the shift in commerce.
With much of the world operating in an inflationary environment over the last 12 months, the fact cost of goods is trumping green credentials in terms of consumer buying behaviour is perhaps no surprise. However, it does illustrate how retailers need to keep working as hard as possible to make supply chains and general operations efficient in order to lessen the sector’s impact on the planet.
Henri Seroux, senior vice president for the EMEA region at global supply chain tech company Manhattan Associates, the company hosting the Exchange event and a Green Retail World partner, said: “The future of our planet is not something that we can or should be forced to compromise on as consumers or retailers, yet clearly, in the current economic climate, affordability is taking priority over sustainability.
“This year’s research highlights how important unification across omnichannel commerce and supply chain is, as an avenue to lessen the economic burden on consumers, but also, as a way to address the longer-term environmental impact unchecked consumerism is having on our planet.”
According to the Manhattan Exchange survey, younger generations are more likely to consider a retailer’s environmental/sustainability efforts compared to older consumers, with 55% of 18–24-year-olds reporting it as a top or important consideration for them.
Some 17% of the 24-35 age bracket went further still and said they would actively avoid retailers if they were not environmentally conscious, compared to only 10% of over-55s saying they would boycott these same brands.
The research also involved a survey of 1,150 management and senior-level officers in tier one retail organisations. According to the study, 54% of retailers allow their consumers to buy in-store and return online – up from 50% in 2022 – and if the product was out of stock in-store, 48% provided buy online and return in store options – again a slight rise on 2022.
Retailers also commented that, on average, they only had an accurate indication of inventory across their entire operations 70% of the time. This was down from 74% in 2022, and illustrates the difficulties retailers face in keeping on top of inventory, especially in such volatile economic times.
The importance of having a clear view of inventory is shown in the consumer research. Some 84% of shoppers questioned will start their buying journey online (82% in 2022) and they expect to be able to engage with brands and retailers seamlessly across channels as they work through their purchase.
However, 16% of retailers still reported their organisation’s in-store and online operations continue to run as separate functions, suggesting that while year-on-year, more retailers are offering seamless shopping experiences, there is still room for improvement.
[Image credit: Green Retail World]