What’s being demanded by the empowered buyer?
It’s good to take a look at this shift in the
buyer’s thinking. There are statistics to confirm it,
in case you have doubts.
The research company GlobeScan annually surveys a thousand top thought leaders, as well as the general public, in a majority of countries around the world on some pertinent issues. GlobeScan Radar program, a syndicated service offering based on global public opinion research, covering a variety of issues around business in society. GlobeScan has been tracking issues and societal expectations for business across the world since 1999.
It’s no surprise there is now a strong belief that a company should be rewarded for being socially and environmentally responsible, but there is an even stronger sense that a company should be punished for harming social and environmental health. Globscan reported in a 2011 study 31 percent of social media users said they had rewarded a socially responsible company. While 23 percent of social media users said they had punished a socially irresponsible company by criticizing them or boycotting their products.
In 2014 GlobScan reported that both current and future stainability leaders generally rate business as low on transparency, future leaders have a lower perception of business transparency in general: 31 percent were notably more likely to say that business is characterized by a lack of transparency while 20 percent of current leaders rated businesses as low on transparency.
The research in 2007 showed how rapidly the consumer’s sense of empowerment is increasing. Does the consumer believe they possess the power to influence a company’s behavior? Over the last few years, there is strong and steady growth in mainstream activism in most countries. The sense of empowerment in the U.S. is exceeded only by that in Canada and Australia. Forty-five percent of Americans polled consider themselves mainstream activists on some level and obviously feel empowered to affect corporate behavior—a statistic that has grown at a rate of 7% in two years.
Now, that’s a sense of empowerment.
When it comes to companies reporting their activities, leaders worldwide hold two interesting perspectives. While most admit to having purchased something, or invested in a brand, based on a corporate social responsibility report (CSR), 35% strongly agree, and 41% somewhat agree that stainability reporting is used to improve a business’ image and is therefore unreliable.
These statistics indicate there are a growing number of individuals around the world who feel they can apply pressure that will force companies to comply with their desires authentically. And, of course, they are right. Companies desperately need those who will purchase their products or services. There is no business without someone to do business with.
It is interesting that the sixties helped us distrust authority, but it took until now—sometime after the turn of the century—to really understand that the buyer, not the seller, has the power.
Whether you agree with environmental thinking or not, it is refreshing to finally regain, as a culture, our own strong sense of values and a desire for purpose beyond “stuff.” We are all buyers in one role or another. As buyers, either for a business we represent or directly for ourselves, we know we can choose products and services that align with our values, functional needs, time lines, personality, budget, and a grander sense of purpose. But conversely, this can be intimidating for you from a business perspective. If you’ve become accustomed to focusing on whatever you want—whatever you want to offer, the way you want to offer it—and use a branding, advertising, or sales strategy that says whatever it takes to entice the buyer, you’ll likely need to make some changes.