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Consumers Value Values—and Their Loyalty Depends on Them

Win customers by aligning with their values.

The original version of this piece appeared as an Adweek post

From eco-conscious shoppers willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods to socially minded customers who disavow brands over political positions, consumers have increasingly signaled the importance of tying purpose to their purchases.

Instead of ignoring these shifting consumer preferences, brands should take proactive steps to demonstrate their values to shoppers—and reward consumers for theirs.

In research by Edelman, consumers reported changing their purchasing behavior based on a brand’s response to pressing social issues. According to respondents, top issues include employee treatment (75%), climate change (64%), economic equality (60%) and racial justice (60%).

To win new customers in this environment, brands must focus on both value and values. To do so, they should integrate purpose-driven marketing into their messaging, using personalization to reach customer segments who care about brand values and gated offers to provide a financial reward for doing so.

Personalized Communications

The issues consumers care about are much bigger than themselves. When looking to make purchases with values in mind, they’re personally trying to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Personalized communications allow brands to speak consumers’ language—while also clarifying how they can help them live their values. A brand targeting eco-conscious customers, for example, might use a monthly newsletter to highlight sustainable practices that can help them actually embody their principles in their day-to-day lives.

An online storefront, on the other hand, might promote ethically sourced products on its social channels to reach consumers concerned about fair labor practices. This tailor-made content speaks directly to consumers’ concerns by translating their abstract values into concrete actions that guide them toward purchases that reflect their worldview.

When brands personalize their communications based on consumers’ values, they effectively become trusted partners in their customers’ journey toward living those values. And brands, in turn, become a go-to source for shoppers’ future purpose-driven purchases.

Gated Offers

The issues consumers care about require large-scale and long-term changes that may take many years. But brands are in the unique position to activate value-driven customer segments by using gated offers to reward consumers for living their values today.

Run-of-the-mill promotional offers cast a wide net and provide value to anyone who has a coupon book or simply shops during a particular season. By contrast, gated offers provide exclusive value to consumers who are verified members of a specific group like teachers, healthcare workers or charity volunteers. This makes gated offers ideal for attracting purpose-driven customer segments because their members define themselves by their everyday actions—and purchases.

There are many ways brands can use gated offers to attract value-centered customer segments. For example, Ben & Jerry’s appeals to consumers who support racial justice by providing gated offers to those who donate to a cause like Black Lives Matter. Big-box retailer Target appeals to customers even more broadly by using gated offers as a way to support teachers. Every July, the company offers teachers a back-to-school discount to help them save money on school supplies.

Target is doing well by doing good. Honoring groups like teachers appeals to consumers who care about how businesses show up in the community. It’s also profitable: Target knows that an exclusive offer for teachers drives customer acquisition by increasing loyalty among teachers, who feel rewarded for their work, while also generating an affinity for the brand in the minds of everyone else grateful for the value teachers provide.

More broadly speaking, gated offers not only speak to core aspects of consumers’ identities but also reward them for embodying their values with everyday decisions like purchases. When consumers see businesses honoring the values that define their lives, they also start to see how those businesses can fit into their own lives.

Ultimately, reflecting consumers’ social values is as good for brands as it is for the much sought-after segments they’re trying to reach. While businesses tap into a customer base that’s willing to pay for what they believe in, consumers are shown an actionable purchasing path that lets them do it. That’s a good deal for all of us.