Capturing the eco-focused consumer

For over a year now, the mere thought of sharing items and handling used goods has been enough to set alarm bells ringing. However, despite concerns, the second hand market, particularly in fashion, has experienced considerable growth and success, with an increasing number of shoppers becoming more open to making pre-loved purchases for clothing and accessories.

In fact, data from eBay has revealed a 404% year on year increase in pre-loved sales since 2018. And in 2020 alone, over 12 million people in the UK purchased a pre-loved item of clothing, dismissing any virus spreading concerns and instead, showing clear evidence for a shift in attitudes.

According to Nate Burke, CEO of Diginus, it’s patterns like these which businesses need to adapt to in order to survive the volatile commercial landscape that has been carved by pandemic uncertainty, digital transformation, and now, increasing environmental concern. Having worked closely with many retail businesses in recent months, overcoming disruption and creating more adaptable marketing models, the CEO of the proprietary software solution company, offers advice on how retailers can capture the eco-focused customer without jeopardising caution during this unpredictable period. 

Across all sectors, sustainability and environmental concern are at the forefront of business leaders’ minds. For most, concern is being driven by governmental pressures, and rightly so as the climate crisis edges closer to irreversible damage. However, increasingly, consumers are forcing greater action from businesses too by collectively exercising their buying power and choosing those doing more than simply ‘their bit’ for the planet. 

For example, in fashion, this is evident in the rising demand of the resale market. Consumers are beginning to condemn wasteful practices, such as fast fashion, and instead, opt for more sustainable alternatives by either investing in higher quality items designed to last, or buying second hand in order to extend the life of clothing and prevent landfill pile up. 

For businesses, adapting should be seen as more than just a temporary adjustment to a passing trend, and rather, a permanent solution to a growing and urgent concern. Again, in fashion, we have seen both large and start-up organisations respond to the resale shift by investing in the development of new business models in order to capture and retain the growing segment of eco-focused customers. For example, the likes of Vestiaire Collective, The Real Real and ThredUP have all been set up specifically for the reselling of luxury second hand clothing and accessories. Similarly, established retailers, such as Selfridges, have added pre-loved services to their offerings. 

Although these businesses may have had the capital to make such significant investments, there is also opportunity for those with smaller budgets to engage the increasing number of eco-conscious consumers by restrategising marketing and communications’ practices. 

The biggest opportunity is through use of a marketplace selling strategy, whereby third party providers, such as eBay, Amazon and Depop, can be used for the reselling of goods that may be out of season, or have been returned because of small faults, or via a new buy-back initiative. These platforms are already in frequent use by consumers buying directly from other consumers, allowing businesses to target users in safe and familiar spaces, with the additional benefit of a trusted brand name. 

But of course, with these marketplaces already saturated with items from a variety of sellers and sources, marketing efforts, such as PPC, can be used to help increase visibility of your products. Much like any advertising strategy, promotions for pre-loved items need to be well-targeted for the best return on investment. 

A targeted approach also creates a strong case for focus on alternative shopping channels, such as social commerce platforms like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace. This is because of an alignment of demographics, with those more likely to buy second hand (gen Z), also making up a large segment of users of the social media platform. 

Again, PPC tactics can be implemented on social media to ensure products are being seen by the right users. As well as this, a social commerce strategy can also be supported by brand partnerships and influencer campaigns with individuals who have established followings within the niche, such as Depop influencers. 

These ads or partnerships can help create a seamless journey from discovery to conversion, and even lead to repeat purchases and advocacy through a follow and share, without a user even having to leave the app. In doing this, brands are also able to raise awareness of their eco-commitments, while encouraging engagement and conversation that in turn, can help spread word even further. 

But implementing strategies like this across platforms and alongside traditional ads and marketing tactics for current product offerings can become time consuming and a drain on resources. Although, with software and technology that can help streamline activity through automation, machine learning and data and insights for informed decision making, any issues can quickly be ironed out. 

While the shift towards resale is particularly evident within fashion, it is by no means the only sector having to deviate from the norm in order to accommodate the growing eco-focused segment. In fact, Ikea has introduced a similar buy-back initiative for popular furniture items, which will be resold at discounted rates. 

In a sense, this is widening accessibility to certain products and increasing the pool of potential customers for many businesses in both the eco-segment and within various financial demographics. And when you think of it in those terms, it makes complete commercial sense to consider a move into the pre-loved market, despite how cautiously you may be inclined to act because of current uncertain conditions.

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