The growing national conversation around issues like social justice and sustainability has infiltrated retail too, particularly in relation to brand marketing. But new data from Pitney Bowes suggests that this emphasis may be outsized, with consumers choosing quality of experience over aligned values when push comes to shove.
In the most recent edition of its weekly consumer BOXPoll, Pitney Bowes found that 75% of consumers would pick an easy order experience over buying from a retailer that shares their beliefs. While many shoppers would ideally purchase from a brand that fulfilled both criteria, 40% of respondents across demographics said that free shipping alone is more critical to making a purchase than sharing political & social beliefs with the seller.
These results contrast with recent trends in brand marketing, which increasingly feature messages about social justice and ethical engagement in an attempt to connect with consumers. Yet Pitney Bowes experts stress that this doesn’t mean that customers don’t care about these issues; rather, brands need to ensure that once they’ve caught shoppers’ attention, they aren’t pushing those customers away with a bad shopping experience.
“All other things equal, I don’t think there is any question that most consumers would rather spend their money with a brand they respect and that aligns with their social values,” said Gregg Zegras, EVP and president of global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes. “But, all things are not equal, and our survey found that consumers aren’t willing to compromise the quality of critical aspects of their shopping and post-purchase experiences, simply because a brand shares their values. For example, fast and free shipping and free and easy returns are table stakes. If a brand fails on those aspects of the post-purchase experience, they’re likely to lose market share regardless of their social or political stances.”
This is even true for younger shoppers, despite recent studies showing that they are more likely to be liberal and engaged in modern social justice movements than older age groups. In fact, Pitney Bowes found that Baby Boomers were the demographic that most shopped according to their values, at 33%. Meanwhile, millennials and Gen Z-ers opted for fast shipping over shared values at the highest rates of all demographics, at 36% and 40% respectively.
The emphasis on marketing is not wasted, however. The same BOXPoll found that boredom is increasingly driving purchases for consumers, especially younger ones: 48% of Gen Z-ers and 38% of millennials reported shopping as a result of that motivation. Additionally, 40% of Gen Z reported spending more time searching for new brands than they did before the pandemic, creating an opportunity for small brands to expand their customer base.
To capitalize, Pitney Bowes recommends brands target their marketing on social media: When driven by boredom, these groups were more likely to start their purchasing journey on social channels than when browsing for other reasons. Facebook was the most likely to benefit from this source, scoring 15% higher with bored shoppers than regular shoppers, compared to Instagram (11%) and Twitter (8%).
“Focus on these channels that drive the greatest response versus over-diversifying,” said Zegras. “Use content on those channels that is purpose-built to turn boredom into interest. With that said, expect the cost of those channels to go up as large brands shift ad spend from out-of-home to online. When consumers do get to your site, free shipping with clearly-defined estimated delivery dates [should be] out front in your advertising.”