Luxury Retail: The Power of Positive Communication


Diana Verde Nieto | June 22, 2017

Once it was enough for a business to make a good product, or offer a good service to win over their customers. However, a growing environmental and social consciousness among consumers means that to succeed companies must now be able to demonstrate a purpose beyond profit.

The EY Beacon Institute defines purpose as 'an aspirational reason for existence that is grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action.' This purpose-led approach appeals to consumers, particularly Millennials, who seek companies that align with their own values and are looking to invest in this ethical connection. Research shows that 68% of consumers are prepared to pay more for products and services from companies who are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

Purpose is also increasingly important within business structures too, helping deliver value above financial gain to stakeholders and improving employee retention. LinkedIn’s recent Purpose at Work report revealed that 74% of candidates want a job where they feel that their work matters.

Many luxury brands have been built around this purpose-led outlook – community is often central to the heart of business and, particularly in recent years, the imperative to invest in sustainability has grown. Yet these brands should not take for granted that simply doing is enough. Many companies may undertake positive efforts within the realms of environmental and social good – yet struggle to articulate this to a wider audience, the results remain encased within a yearly CSR report and rarely reach their customers. Actions may speak louder than words, but communicating the story is crucial too.

At Positive Luxury, our role is to help brands tell their story. We know that a growing number of people care about sustainability, however this information is often difficult to access so there is a gap between a customer’s values and their actions. By awarding brands our interactive Butterfly Mark we provide a simple breakdown of a brand’s environmental and social impact, helping consumers buy better by identifying brands they can trust. 

We want to close the trust-gap between brands and their customers – research shows that 45% of people say their trust in a brand increases if they believe it has contributed to the greater good – but if brands aren’t sharing their achievements successfully, how can consumers work out who to trust?

Retailers offer an excellent platform to tell these stories – they are, of course, often the frontline between brands and customers. In the UK, Positive Luxury has recently partnered with luxury department store Selfridges to feature the Butterfly Mark alongside awarded brands from our community on the website and app. For example, when buying Belvedere Vodka, a customer can tap or click on the Butterfly Mark next to the product to discover that the brand is working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and sources recyclable packaging, among several other positive actions.

Belvedere Vodka launched their (Belvedere)Red campaign, #MakeTheDifference, in partnership with music artist John Legend.

This partnership is the latest part of Selfridges’ Buying Better, Inspiring Change campaign, which encourages people, both partners and customers, to buy responsibly and champion sustainable products that contribute to healthy and happy communities. The store is at the forefront of this innovative approach to sustainable story-telling – using in-store displays and events to engage and educate its customers. From the ongoing Project Ocean initiative that is taking steps to remove plastic waste, such as bags and single-use bottles from the store, to its Bright New Things project that showcased a new generation of ethical fashion designers earlier this year. It’s no surprise that the store won the World’s Best Sustainability Campaign at the Global Department Store Summit in 2016.

Selfridges is part of a growing shift of retail leaders who are changing the way people shop. Online retailers Maison de Mode, Wolf & Badger and Gather & See are all on a similar path towards sustainability – selecting the brands they sell for their environmental and/or social credentials, and supporting these efforts by telling their story of their brand so that consumers are given the option to shop better  For many decades, a retailer’s role was to encourage customers to buy – this mindset is evolving, and theymust now also inspire them to be part of a bigger movement too.

As we enter a new era of inclusive exclusivity within the luxury industry, the experience of being a part of a community is becoming increasingly important. Consumers want the products they buy to have a positive effect on people and the planet.  Brands and retailers that  are advocates for purpose-led business and tell their story effectively will be those that win over consumers’ hearts and loyalty for years to come.. The business winners of tomorrow, will be those that are striving for change today.

Every brand has a story to tell – what will yours be?