Should retailers act more like charities?

In spite of the continuous reports of economic gloom, with consumers cutting back on spending and the high street suffering the effects of the downturn, recent findings from the World Giving Index reveal that the UK is the second most charitable nation in the world, continuing to regularly give money to charity, with 79 per cent of Britons donating to charity every month.

It seems that although consumers are scaling back spending in light of the rising cost of living, they are continuing to give money to charity, despite such challenging times.

Given that consumers have less money to spend yet are donating more to charitable causes, how can businesses take heed of this and echo this generosity by taking a more cause-led approach to appeal to their customers?

The retail industry is a prime example of a sector that would benefit from a more cause-led approach. Rather than offering huge bulk discounts on products and holding sales events, retailers need to now look at offering more tangible benefits to customers. Consumers are not interested in 2 for 1 offers; they would much rather receive rewards that they need, such as cash or essential items.

Moreover, in such a challenging economic climate, it is more essential than ever for businesses to retain and grow a loyal customer base. Therefore, by offering customers valuable rewards in return for their custom, retailers are showing that they are listening to consumers‘ generous inclinations to give them something they really need.

Businesses should also look to make the most of consumers‘ inclination to give to charity by introducing corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes as an opportunity to build long-term loyalty.

Consumers want to give money to a worthwhile cause and businesses that are active in their community or entering into partnerships with charities will not only raise awareness of issues, but encourage customers to spend more money and enhance the business‘s reputation as being a socially-responsible organisation.

For instance, rather than relying on the annual January sales, retailers should approach this more cause-led offering to build and develop their customer base.

The coming year is set to be tough; economists have already predicted that this year will be extremely difficult for businesses and consumers alike.

Marketing budgets are set to be reduced further, resources are already stretched and there is little job security. In order to weather the storm and ensure that customers stay loyal, businesses should look at the charity sector for inspiration in terms of branding and marketing.

It‘s essential that they are careful with marketing and branding resources and budgets. Being seen to spend budgets wisely is extremely important and looks set to become even more crucial in the coming year.

Businesses should now focus their efforts on creating the most valuable marketing and branding campaigns so that customers give back, both financially and in loyalty.

Mike Spicer is the CEO of marketing agency Pulse Group


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