Purpose beyond profit

India - Internet retailingThe business of experience

The term ‘experience economy’ was first coined in 1998, to describe wrapping a service in a memorable customer experience. Uber since evolved the taxi service into an experience, adding human touches that engage and personalise. Suddenly, taking a taxi became a talking point and happy drivers became salespeople.  

In 2000, Net-a-Porter’s luxurious hand-delivered, black boxes wrapped in grosgrain ribbon ensured every transaction surprised and delighted. This memorable experience mirrored their bricks-and-mortar stores, and customers became powerful brand ambassadors. This inspired many online retailers to begin investing in every touch-point, to turn a simple sale into a happy memory and into something to look forward to again. 

The evolution

Almost twenty years later this trend has become a movement. Yet while nine out of ten consumers now expect brands to do more than exist ‘just for profit’, most Australian brands still offer their customers ‘just a transaction’. Now more than ever, alongside the trend of mass customisation, brands must humanise the purchase experience.

How to stand out?

To lift your brand above the fray, first connect with your ‘why’. If giving to a cause resonates – you could use your business to support an issue close to your heart. Research shows 93 per cent of millennials prefer to shop brands that give back – and have a clear purpose beyond profit. The ‘business of giving back’ is now backed by a strong business case. However, a word of caution. Your giving must be authentic and transparent. Millennials will call you out if it seems disingenuous, or exists only for marketing.

Be genuine and committed

Giving ‘one per cent of profits’ doesn’t mean much to consumers. Nor does 100 per cent of profits from one special scarf, for example. This is disingenuous. You want us to believe in your authentic commitment when you give back an unclear amount from one item you sell?

i=Change brands give back $1 or more from every sale – and their customers get to choose where it goes. They also give in real-time, measurably and transparently, and engage their customers in their giving as a key experience with each purchase.

Interestingly, research shows that letting customers know a brand gives back can also increase conversions by reducing ‘abandon-cart’. The psychology of this is fascinating. When knowing a purchase will help someone less fortunate, customers report feeling their ‘quiet guilt alleviated’, and more free to finalise their purchase.

A sale is fleeting. An experience is memorable.

As powerful examples of consumers backing experiences that give back, Toms Shoes started the one for one model. They give a pair of shoes away to children in need with every pair sold. Toms have become the fastest-growing shoe company in the world. Intrepid Travel, who genuinely invests in the local communities they visit, have been enjoying double-digit growth for a dozen years.

So, find your purpose

Most of us have passion for a cause. So tell your story, integrate it into the DNA of your brand, make an authentic long-term commitment to use your business to build the world you wish to see. Your purpose will powerfully galvanise your customers and staff, and every day at work will have deeper meaning. Enjoy the experience.

Jeremy is the founder of i=Change and is speaking on Day 1 at Inside Retail Live.

Inside Retail is donating $2 from every ‘Inside Retail Live’ ticket sale via i=Change to protect children in Australia, build women’s futures in Rwanda and educate children, who’ve been rescued from trafficking in Nepal.

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