National Volunteer Week was observed April 10-16 this year, as hundreds of thousands of people across the country pitched in to help out in their communities. Finding opportunities your store can help people out may be more than just an opportunity to give back — it can be a sound business choice.
That might sound like it's missing the point of altruism, but Retail Expert and Content Strategist Francesca Nicasio over at Vend says that in addition to doing the right thing, volunteering and contributing can show your store has corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is becoming an increasingly important trait in the eyes of shoppers. Be sure to check out some of her ideas, and let us know if you use any of them in your store!
Research has shown that 87% of customers consider CSR in their purchase decisions, and that “given similar price and quality, consumers [91%] are likely to switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause.”
Clearly, engaging in corporate social responsibility can earn you extra points (and sales) from customers. That’s why if don’t have any CSR initiatives in place, you may want to cook up ways in which you can align your business with ethical practices and good causes.
Here are a few ideas to help you do this:
Donating revenue or products
One of the most common ways to engage in CSR is to support a charitable organization. Look for a group that supports a cause you believe in, get in touch, and strategize on how you can support them.
You can, for example, donate a portion of your revenues to that charity. That’s what the GAP is doing in its Give Twice initiative. For every gift card sold, the retailer donates 2% of the purchase to organizations such as CARE or Communities in Schools.
Other retailers are opting to donate products. Take medical apparel retailer FIGS, for example. The company has a program called Threads for Threads where it donates a set of scrubs to a healthcare provider in need, for every set of scrubs sold on its website.
There are also businesses that decide to set up their own foundations. Companies such as Starbucks and Chipotle have taken charitable giving into their own hands by creating organizations under their own brands. Of course, this route may be a bit more complicated, so for a lot of SMBs, it might make more sense to partner up with existing organizations.
Sponsoring a community initiative
There are likely plenty of CSR opportunities right in your backyard. Do some research on what’s going on in your community and see if there are any charitable initiatives or events that you could support.
Is a local non-profit org hosting an event? Are members of your community raising money for a new recreation center? Do what you can to support these efforts. You could, for example, sponsor that local event or donate a portion of your revenues towards the fundraising effort. Doing so will not only enrich your neighborhood, but it could also boost your image in the community.
Invest in your workforce
CSR isn’t just about external initiatives. The concept of giving can also be applied to your employees. Remember that it pays to treat and compensate employees well. Studies have shown that retailers who invest in their workforce not only have more motivated employees who provide better customer service, they also tend to be more profitable.
In a New Yorker.com piece about retail staffing, James Surowiecki cites a Wharton School study that found that “every dollar in additional payroll led to somewhere between four and twenty-eight dollars in new sales.”
One retailer that exemplifies this is Costco, which has reaped the benefits of paying and treating employees well.
As TriplePundit’s Leon Kaye put it:
While most big box retailers insist on paying low wages with the claim that thin margins require reduced labor costs, Costco for years has been breaking the mold. Wall Street squawks that the membership warehouse giant should push for higher profit margins and reduced labor costs, meanwhile the company, led by its iconoclastic founder and former CEO, Jim Sinegal, constantly flicks his chin at The Street and its yammering analysts. The results: happy employees, enviable stock performance and a brilliant shopping model that, let’s face it, bludgeons consumers into shopping happily for more.
Already engaging in CSR? Here are tips to boost awareness (and sales)
If you already have CSR efforts in place, here are a couple of tips to help spread the word:
Include it in your packaging
Be sure to talk about your initiatives in your packaging. If revenues for a particular item would go to charity, see to it that this fact is mentioned in your packing. Doing so not only spreads awareness, but it also encourages shoppers to buy the product.
In a survey by Nielsen about CSR, they found that about 52% of global respondents “say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact.”
Nielsen also saw “an average annual sales increase of two percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of five percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs.”
Actively market your efforts
When you launch your CSR efforts, market it like you would for an event or a promotion. Mention your initiatives to customers, put up in-store decals, posters, or signage, talk about them in your newsletter, and dedicate a few social media updates to your cause. If you have a website, create a dedicated page for it as well.
Celebrate the success of your initiatives
Once your CSR program has gained traction, be sure to celebrate its success. Customers love to hear that their money is being put to great use, so update them on all the good that you’ve accomplished.
Document the results of your efforts (i.e. money you raised, number of people that you’ve helped, etc.) then spread the word through your site, employees, newsletter, and social media accounts. It’s always great to communicate good news and this move could also encourage customers to buy from you and support your cause even more.