The world is in the throes of a sustainability revolution. Customers are increasingly shopping with their hearts in favour of brands that adopt eco-friendly processes. The Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report showed that 73% of European millennials are willing to spend more on a brand that they know is sustainable. Furthermore, an impressive 81% of millennials expect companies to publicly share their corporate social responsibility efforts.

What does this cry for corporate social good mean for the retail experience? It means to remain competitive and relevant your environmental and social efforts need to be both impactful and obvious.

As with anything that evolves quickly, the new wave of conscious consumption has left many with a watered down understanding of what ‘going green’ actually means. In truth, it’s a full circle, all-encompassing vision that takes into consideration material origin, manufacturing waste output, energy consumption, processing, packaging, transportation and recycling when it’s reached the end of its use.

In the midst of all of this, many companies get so caught up in the eco-friendliness of the product and packaging itself, that the in-store brand experience can be an afterthought. In reality, your customers are going to be casting just as critical an eye over your retail displays.

Today’s consumers don’t want to buy a product, they want to buy into a lifestyle that’s congruent with their own values, choices and preferences. For brands, this moves in-store sustainability up a gear from an opportunity, to a necessity.

Materials make or break

With ‘Europe’s Single-Use Plastics Directive’ proposed for June 2019, finding alternatives to plastic is at the top of most companies’ lists. Bamboo is an excellent substitute to single-use plastics as it’s tough, renewable and also grows fast (3 to 5 feet per year) in comparison to forest trees.

Recycled materials can be used creatively and will be appreciated by eco-conscious browsers. Recently San Francisco-based sustainable fashion brand, All Birds, mirrored their world-friendly approach (Campaign Live, 2018) to making sneakers out of eucalyptus and sugar cane by using natural materials in their shop displays too. They use greenery and moss throughout the shop, and an interactive wall displaying laces encased in 100% recycled plastic bottles.

Minimize energy usage

There’s no need to use an unnecessary amount of energy in your in-store experience. Modern advances in LED, computer and connectivity technology have dramatically improved energy efficiency on the whole. To minimize energy use, make sure your brand is leveraging all of the options available. Smart and sparse use of the latest generation of LEDs in lighting, for example, will deliver real impact while using almost no power.

Consider transportation

Better materials and energy use are highly laudable, but remember to consider how it’s all all being transported in the first place.

Getting your in-store experience from A to B in a considerate way is a point that many companies completely forget to factor in. If your display parts are packed in bubble-wrap, polystyrene and an abundance of non-sustainable materials, you need to look into other options. It’s natural to want to protect your investment in the most effective way, but there are structured card protection options, and even easy to assemble flat-packed designs that can do the job just as well.

Smaller box sizes also have the added benefit of using less fuel while en route to your destination, so it’s a win-win all round.

Be smart with digital use

Integrating interactive digital elements into your in-store brand experience not only bridges the gap between on- and offline retail, it also presents a great opportunity to replace traditional physical marketing materials with virtual ones. No need for printed brochures or wasteful and gimmicky giveaways – give shoppers a digital takeaway instead, and if you’re smart about it you could convert their interest to a sale in the process.

Communicate your efforts

Communication is the key to everything, so spread the word across all your communication touchpoints. Tell your customers (and the world) all about your sustainable efforts and you’ll soon reap the benefits and enjoy the natural ‘feel-good’ effect of your business contributing to a more sustainable world.

Remember, in the wise words of Pete Seeger: “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”

Get started on your sustainability and you’ll soon have an in-store brand experience you can proudly promote.