New shopper expectations – is your store carrying socially responsible brands?

July 26, 2018By Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Independent Pharmacy, Step into Natural


by Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager, for the Step into Natural blog series

Something extremely interesting is happening with today’s consumers. Have you seen this in your pharmacy yet? They don’t just want their products to function as they should. (That’s like the bare minimum.) They don’t even want to just “identify” with the brands they buy. They want the companies behind the brands to do good for the world, and not only by paying a charity lip service either.

According to New Hope Network, more than 40 percent of consumers say they're willing to pay a premium for personal care products that support a cause they believe in, or are made by companies that pay workers fairly, provide safe working environments, and are making efforts to fight global warming.

The blanket name for brands actively giving back to the world is called “social responsibility.” While not exclusive to natural products, brands in the natural realm have taken the lead on this, which is one of the many reasons those brands are attracting more mainstream shoppers.

According to this Forbes article, “Millennials are looking for four major qualities in socially responsible companies:

  • They want companies to be actively invested in the betterment of society and the solution of social problems.
  • They want companies that prioritize 'making an impact' on the world around them.
  • They want companies to be open and honest about their efforts — and to be public about their pro-social initiatives.
  • Finally, millennials want companies to involve their customers in their good works. They want an opportunity to give back — whether it’s with a gift of their time or their money.”

What began with millennials (more than nine in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause according to The Healthy Living Experience report by Natural Foods Merchandiser) has only expanded with the next generation – generation Z.

This generation, the oldest of which are college-age, expects brands to use their platform for good according to the study “Voting With Dollars: Young People + Brands as the Agents of Social Change” from DoSomething Strategic, reported by Mediapost. It’s their baseline expectation, and in the next ten years they will evolve to be one of the primary shopper demographics, side by side with millennials.

Brands are communicating the good they do for the world at shelf through packaging (stories, certifications, and symbols), on their websites, and through their social media presence. Some companies are getting B Corp certified and placing the symbol on their packaging as a signpost for shoppers. The non-profit group that runs the certification describes a B Corp as a, “for-profit company certified by B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

What could you do within your store to highlight brands that are social responsible? How about a temporary or permanent display with signage that says “Brands Doing Good” or “We Support Responsible Brands?”

In addition to potentially stocking socially responsible brands, particularly in the natural space, could your store demonstrate its own social responsibility? You could try, “for every [type of product] sold, we will donate $x.xx to a specific cause.” Let your shoppers vote on the cause to help them feel involved. Perhaps the product type can change monthly.

Get familiar with socially responsible natural brands and give them a try. You might be surprised at how your customer base responds!