Last updated: Sustainability in business: Key to brand survival, large and small alike

Sustainability in business: Key to brand survival, large and small alike


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More than ever, shoppers want brands they can trust and that share their values. For brands, this means sustainability in business is vital. For small and midsize businesses – which have no margin for error – it’s especially critical.

All the economic and operational disruption going on today underscore the importance of engaging with customers in a meaningful way.

The ability to shift customer experiences as people’s values and preferences evolve separates businesses that are agile from those that are at risk of failing.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals reflect today’s consumer values. The UN adopted these goals in 2015, recognizing that ending poverty and other forms of human deprivation go hand in hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth.

Businesses can establish these value-based strategies with technology and contactless engagement to build resilient customer experiences.

Sustainability in business fuels brand resiliency

While the pandemic has impacted businesses of all sizes, small and midsize companies have been hit hard. They’re overburdened in every aspect of their business right now.

They’re scrambling to address supply chain shortfalls with new sources of capital, raw materials, and logistics. They need more digital channels to attract and engage customers. And there are compliance challenges with ever-evolving mandates for everything from employee and customer safety to financial reporting.

Focusing on values-based customer experience will help them weather the storm and position themselves for future growth.

In its report, “Digital, Resilient, and Experience-Driven,” Oxford Economics found that 53% of top performers – companies with the strongest revenue growth and profit-margin change – consider the quality of their customer experience as their top strategic priority for the next three years.

The rationale behind this finding is 100% clear among surveyed participants: deep, personalized connections support the resilience and agility needed to weather volatility and plan for growth in better times. The study was based on a survey of more than 2,000 small and midsize businesses.

The quality of a customer experience can be measured in many ways. But for top performers surveyed in the Oxford Economics study, three attributes rank at the top of their list:

  1. High-quality products and services (88%)
  2. Competitive pricing (82%)
  3. Fast, convenient delivery of products and services (80%)

Also high on the list for top performers: Sustainable practices (73%) and ethical and socially conscious operations (also 73%).

Individually, these elements of the customer experience are essential. But when combined, they can fuel powerful customer engagement that helps small and medium-sized business survive and thrive in today’s uncertain environment.

Take, for example, electronics manufacturing.

Traditionally, this function is commonly relegated to the supply chain. Yet, it still plays a distinct role in the customer experience because product reliability and ease of use influence brand perception and sentiment. Every component must be designed, fabricated, and installed in ways that ensure continuous, high-performance operation, affordable and profitable pricing, and on-time delivery – all through environmentally sustainable means.

Knowing – and delivering on – what matters most to customers

To achieve the level of customer centricity throughout the business, decision-makers require a better understanding of what shoppers value. They need to conduct a preliminary analysis of the “past norms” customers are buying, talking about, and abandoning altogether and “next norms” that are shoppers are embracing.

Reviewing the insights based on categories (for example, demographics, geography, and psychographics) helps flesh out precise details for each persona, such as age, location, income, family status, interests, and goals.

With this insight, businesses can determine which sustainability development goals are most relevant and meaningful to different customer segments. Then, they can create individual campaigns with the assistance of digital marketing tools to target each of those personas and later test, observe, and track results to refine segment-based messaging and conversion.

The current crisis will continue to threaten every company’s success, potentially even their survival. But if they transform customer experience around new sustainability values with the right insights and technologies, small and midsize businesses can fuel growth to compete in the years ahead.

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