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Addressing Social and Political Issues in Retail: Insights from Consumer Survey
In today’s market, consumers want to engage with companies that share their beliefs and positively impact the world. This means that retailers must understand and address the issues that matter most to their customers to maintain relevance and attract new customers. According to a 2019 study, 64% of global consumers indicated that they would either support or boycott a brand based solely on its stance on a social or political issue. This underscores the increasing importance of brands taking a clear and meaningful position on important societal issues.
A recent survey conducted by Fuel Cycle and Welspun aimed to identify the top social and political issues that consumers care about and how retailers can respond. The study included 1,005 retail consumers and was conducted between February 22nd and March 15th, 2023. Let’s take a look.
Insights on Social & Political Issues in the Retail Industry
The Fuel Cycle and Welspun survey included twelve social and political issues for respondents to rank. The top five issues ranked highest by the respondents were: supporting USA products, women’s rights, disability equal rights, racial equality, and justice, and supporting veterans.
Interestingly, issues that are often considered divisive, such as LGBTQ+ equal rights and gun ownership, received lower ratings than other social issues in the survey. However, this does not imply that these issues were unimportant to customers.
For instance, gun ownership rights received a “very important” rating of 32%, which is not negligible. Nonetheless, when compared to other issues, such as disability equal rights and supporting veterans, which both received a “very important” rating of 49%, it is evident that these issues are of greater significance to consumers.
Supporting USA Products
The survey found that older and middle-aged consumers value products made in the USA more than younger consumers. Supporting products made in the USA is important because it creates jobs, supports local economies, and reduces the carbon footprint of transportation.
Some retailers prioritizing selling products made in the USA include The Frye Company (leather goods), Kiehl’s (skincare), and Vitamix (cookware). This issue has a significant impact on the retail industry as consumers become more aware of the impact of their purchases on the environment and the economy.
Younger consumers ranked women’s rights as one of the most important issues. Retailers taking a stand on women’s rights issues include Target, which after Roe v. Wade’s abolition, vowed to cover travel for employees living in states where abortion is banned.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, J. Crew Group CEO, Libby Wadle, utilized LinkedIn to express the company’s support for individuals who have had their right to bodily autonomy significantly undermined. In her statement, Wadle affirmed that both J. Crew and Madewell stand in solidarity with people worldwide affected by this ruling.
The impact of this issue on the retail industry is significant as consumers become more aware of gender disparities and demand greater representation and equality.
Disability Equal Rights
Based on the data, consumers value disability-equal rights because it promotes inclusivity and accessibility. Retailers that have taken steps to promote disability-equal rights include Nike, which launched its FlyEase line of shoes for people with disabilities, and Target, which has an accessibility team that works to improve the shopping experience for all customers.
This issue significantly impacts the retail industry as consumers demand greater inclusivity and accessibility in all aspects of their lives.
Racial Equality and Justice
The survey found that consumers value racial equality and justice because it promotes fairness and inclusivity. Retailers taking a stand on racial equality and justice issues include Ben & Jerry’s, which supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and Patagonia, which supports Indigenous land rights. The impact of this issue on the retail industry is significant as consumers become more aware of racial disparities and demand greater representation and equity.
The survey found that supporting veterans is more important to older customers. Retailers with programs to support veterans include Lowe’s, which offers a 10% discount to active military members and veterans, and Starbucks, which has a program to hire veterans and their spouses. This issue significantly impacts the retail industry as consumers become more aware of the sacrifices made by veterans and demand greater support for them.
What The Data Tells Us About Consumer Behaviors in Retail
Most consumers did not have strong or divided opinions on which social initiatives retailers should prioritize. For instance, the “community initiatives” category received a relatively low ranking, with 23% of respondents indicating that it was neither important nor unimportant and 43% stating that it was somewhat important.
Contentious social issues failed to make a significant impact because not everyone altered their shopping behavior based on their political views. Both high and middle-income earners were equally likely to modify their purchasing preferences based on these factors, whereas lower-income individuals prioritized product value.
Generally, younger consumers preferred retailers that support the issues they care about and were even willing to boycott brands that did not. This trend has led to a greater likelihood of younger and middle-aged consumers boycotting specific brands based on their social beliefs.
Why Retailers Need to Be Addressing Their Political Stance
In conclusion, the top five social and political issues identified in the survey are supporting USA products, women’s rights, disability equal rights, racial equality, and justice, and supporting veterans. Retailers need to address these issues to remain relevant in today’s market.
Market research, such as the survey conducted by Fuel Cycle and Welspun, is essential to keep a pulse on what is most important to consumers. By addressing the social and political issues that matter most to their customers, retailers can build customer loyalty and contribute to positive social change.
The Fuel Cycle Research Engine stands out from other options by providing retail and CPG organizations with the capability to collect detailed qualitative and quantitative insights throughout the customer journey. This exceptional blend of characteristics offers unmatched versatility, enabling CPG and retail enterprises to obtain immediate insights that guide strategic decision-making and stimulate progress, unlike any other offerings.
Learn more about Fuel Cycle’s market research solution for retail here.
Read the whole Welspun and Fuel Cycle survey report here.