How Retailers Use Sustainability and Modern Marketing to Drive Brand Loyalty

Jan 26, 2023 9:15 AM ET

Feature by Kelly Cannon

Between now and the time you finish reading this article, 120 truckloads of apparel will have been burned or buried in a landfill.

The fashion industry contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and creates massive amounts of waste. One study found that the footwear industry alone is responsible for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and despite efforts to recycle unwanted shoes, 90% of them end up in a landfill at the end of their life.

The Fashion Industry Faces a Global Reckoning

Consumers, investors, and governments are finally recognizing the link between fashion and the detrimental impacts of climate change, sparking a growing market for sustainable shoes and apparel.

At SAP, we believe the future of fashion will be sustainable, responsible, and conscious.

Who Is the Sustainable, Modern Retailer?

Sustainable retailers seek ways to identify and appeal to customers who are searching for eco-friendly products. Sustainable business practices help retailers differentiate and gain customer loyalty by offering greater transparency on individual product life cycles.

As more retailers put sustainability at the center of their processes, they also need to go a step further and deliver high-quality experiences to their eco-conscious consumers. Through hyper personalization, seamless omnichannel shopping, and unique in-person experiences, sustainable fashion companies can build enduring, long-term customer relationships by offering their customers what they want – maybe even before they know it – in unique and innovative ways.

So​,​ how can fashion retailers leverage data-driven insights and predictive systems to​ differentiate themselves from their ​competition? It starts with hyper personalization.

Taking Marketing Personalization to the Next Level to Generate Interest

Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and a similar portion say it is frustrating when this does not happen. ​​Basic segmentation​​ targeting to create value for customers will no longer suffice. Shoppers desire and expect proactive and personalized engagements across every touchpoint. And now, with technology solutions like SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement, retailers can deliver personalized, real-time engagements at scale to grow customer lifetime value and turn shoppers into loyal customers for life.

Let’s take Brianna, a 32-year-old, eco-conscious sneaker enthusiast. She receives a targeted advertisement from one of her favorite brands, S.Fashion. She clicks on the ad and explores the Web site. The personalized Web experience serves relevant content, including a small infographic describing the environmental and social impact of each item. Content dynamically rearranges based on her behavior. She adds a pair of shoes, with the option to customize, to her shopping cart. Her phone rings, and she abandons the checkout ​​process.

What’s next?

Creating Seamless Omnichannel Experiences to Keep the Buyer Engaged

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated fashion brands’ transition from offline to online shopping channels. And now, these same brands are finding innovative ways to bring these journeys together. With SAP Commerce Cloud, businesses can engage customers on any device, unlocking business agility and innovation at scale.

Seamless omnichannel shopping helps retailers reduce costs, improve agility, and increase consumer satisfaction by optimizing, streamlining, and integrating online and offline experiences. While bringing customers a dynamic and innovative buying journey, an omnichannel approach gives retailers a centralized view of inventory, improves fulfillment and delivery times, and simultaneously lowers the amount of carbon emitted during the delivery process. With solutions like SAP Customer Data Platform, retailers can elevate customer engagement through unified customer data from all online and offline sources.

In Brianna’s case, a few days after the targeted advertisement she receives an e-mail from S.Fashion, sharing details about a shoe customization event happening at the store in her city with live music and a sustainable fashion show. Brianna registers, suddenly remembering her abandoned shopping cart. She buys the sneakers and chooses to “click and collect” in store, so she can customize them onsite with different colors, fabrics, and patterns. The online and offline integration guarantees the correct sneakers are at the store, which serves as a micro-fulfillment center, maintaining appropriate stock levels for in-store and online purchases.

Reimagining the In-Store Retail Experience through Experiential Marketing

Today, online shopping offers convenience, while in-store shopping adds value with a memorable customer experience. Both serve as critical customer engagement channels. To compete, physical stores are reimagining the in-store experience and the role it plays in cementing lifelong customer relationships and driving increased consumer spending. Through experiential marketing, brick-and-mortar stores can add value to their customers in unique ways while increasing sales – customers shopping in stores spend 31% more than those purchasing online – and building brand equity.

Brianna arrives at the S.Fashion event, instantly engrossed in the music coming from the DJ located next to a long catwalk with models wearing the latest sustainable sneaker designs. Brianna checks in using a QR code that provides Maria, a friendly staff member, with Brianna’s customer profile and alerts her about Brianna’s purchase. Maria greets Brianna and shows her some of S.Fashion’s latest product offerings and takes her on a digital journey through the sneaker production process. Brianna is excited to learn how S.Fashion’s technology solutions provide sustainability insights at every step of the product life cycle, making it easier for her, as a customer, to make climate-friendly purchasing decisions. Maria brings Brianna the shoes she bought online and takes her to the shoe customization table where she watches her one-of-a-kind shoes come to life right before the fashion show begins.

The Foundation of a Loyal Customer Base

Insight-driven personalization, seamless omnichannel shopping, and engaging in-store experiences lay the foundation for a loyal customer base and deliver growth and profitability. In the example of S.Fashion, this sustainable sneaker company personalizes its engagements, bridges its online and offline interactions, and hosts sustainable fashion shows and sneaker customization events that drive sales, loyalty, and brand evangelism.

In case you missed NRF and want to learn more about SAP’s retail technology ecosystem in an immersive fashion experience, follow SAP Experience Center on LinkedIn for exciting news about the opening of SAP Experience Center NYC on February 15.