In her latest Viewpoint article, Pennies’ CEO Alison Hutchinson CBE reflects on new ways to meet the needs of the growing number of conscious consumers, and the role Pennies can play in helping support retail and hospitality as they adapt to shifting consumer demand.

This week I had the privilege of joining a session at Salesforce’s Innovate Together digital event, where we explored how ecommerce retailers can engage customers moving forward from the pandemic which is expected to become an endemic – and the themes apply to physical retailers and hospitality too.

It’s hard not to recognise that what’s important to consumers has changed over these last 13 months. And it’s important for retail and hospitality brands – and the partners that work alongside them – to recognise how businesses can respond.

Conscious consumption
As described by Mike Green from Salesforce, what we’ve all witnessed over the last year is a rise in “conscious consumption”. Consumers are now decidedly putting their purchase power behind the brands that can be seen as giving back to their communities; and shopping with companies that resonate with them from an ethical perspective.

Even prior to the arrival of COVID-19, a Nielsen poll in 2019 revealed that 73% of global consumers care; stating they would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. And a global survey by Accenture last year found that that consumers “have dramatically evolved”, and that 61% stated they were making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic.

Digital first – in bricks and clicks
Obviously, lockdowns have forced customers online – and it is paramount that retail now thinks in terms of ‘digital first’. But at the same time, as we tentatively return to ‘bricks’ from ‘clicks’, customers are looking for their experience to be matched across channels.

Conscious consumerism: A customer makes a micro-donation on a card terminal, a customer ordering pizza is offered the chance to add a micro-donation to their order

Just as we are warmly welcomed back in-store – the old familiarity breaking through the new peculiarities of sneeze-screens, sanitizers and masks – we want to see imagery, ethos and this new way of shopping reflected in terms of our journey, safety and comfort online too.

Michael Broughton of Furniture Village was also interviewed by Mike during the session – and it was interesting to hear retailers have successfully expedited change and transformation over the last 12 months. And that’s not just improving the customer experience online but getting ready for an improved customer experience in the stores as they reopened to really deliver on the new levels of customer service and colleague support.

Platforms for change
There is now a unique opportunity to become “platforms for change”. What do I mean by this? Well, in the case of working with Pennies, its enabling consumer micro-donations in order to scale the impact you can have in your communities and for causes close to your heart. After all micro-donations matter now more than ever at this crucial time for the charity sector.

It’s also about meeting the expectations of more socially conscious consumers who want to give back easily and affordably – and are seeking ways to do so that fit with their lifestyles, and re-energised shopping and socialising habits.

As I wrote in my recent blog, consumer confidence is high right now, and we’re all primed – after being denied the ability to get out into our towns and cities for so long – to start to spend again. Early insights seem to suggest that the high confidence expectations have been justified with record sales last week being discussed across many retailers not least charity shops, some of whom have anecdotally suggested their sales have doubled over that experienced in the same period in 2019.

Speak to Pennies
I’d love to speak to brands, paytech and fintech organisations, and charities – as the team does every day – about exploring micro-donations and its benefits and opportunities, across all of our industries.

Most of all, I’d like to help as you pivot your brand into a more overtly purposeful whilst also profitable company – that delivers for customers, colleagues and shareholders whilst helping the causes that your business cares most deeply about.

If you missed the Salesforce Innovate Together event, you can watch again, right now for free – via Innovate Together on demand (Pennies’ session is available on Channel 1).

Conscious consumerism - discussion at Saelsfroce Innovate Together event

And it you’re interested in joining the Pennies’ family, you’d be joining the UK micro-donation movement that’s worth a potential £1bn per year for UK charities – and one that’s seen consumers click ‘yes’ to donate to charity at the checkout over 100,000,000 times.

Alison Hutchinson CBE, CEO, Pennies

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