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Survey: Retailers more invested in sustainability than one year ago

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A study by Retail Systems Research shows that retailers with better-than-average growth also happen to be putting more than a superficial effort into ...

A study by Retail Systems Research shows that retailers with better-than-average growth also happen to be putting more than a superficial effort into sustainability programs.

Approximately 48 percent of retailers participating in the organization's study see sustainability as strategic to their entire business, compared with 44 percent 12 months ago. While Retail Systems avoids correlating this mindset with improved financial performance, it just so happens that the retail concerns with growth higher than the 3 percent average tend to be the ones focusing most on sustainability --  not just as an operational concern but as a brand reinforcement. Here's the Reuters news article discussing these results.

The complete report is at this other link.

Want an anecdotal illustration that focuses on green issues could help a retailer?

Consider the example of Greenfeet.com, which just so happens to be an e-commerce player that focuses entirely on selling products that are considered relevant for "green living."

By proclaiming this fact to the general public AND by investing in a reviews platform called PowerReviews in September 2008 to help customers comment more easily and specifically on the credentials of the products that it sells, the organization has managed to hold its own in this nasty economic environment, says Jill Richard, Web marketing manager for the Chico, Calif.-based company. That has been demonstrated in a 16 percent increase in its visitor conversion rate. So, sales haven't necessarily skyrocketed, but they haven't plummeted to earth either.

Richard attributes at least part of this to the new reviews, which underscore Greenfeet's commitment to the environment and help raise its profile on Web search engines among buyers concern themselves with these things.

The reviews also have also helped Greenfeet understand how to market certain products in its line (it realized that some of its marketing descriptions weren't in alignment with how things were being used). And, it has also helped Greenfeet decide which products NOT to continue carrying.

Greenfeet pays for the hosted reviews platform as a service; among other things, PowerReviews will help vett the content before reviews go live to make sure they are legitimately focused on the product (and that they aren't simply spam content).

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure