The Empowered Consumer

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the sustainability of the goods and services they buy. A 2013 study by GlobeScan, BBMG and SustainAbility, 86% of consumers said transparency about ingredients is extremely or very important. However, just a little over half (57%) said they regularly check the list of ingredients before purchasing products. 

How do we explain that gap in consumer behavior? One explanation is that understanding the ecological footprint of the products we buy is complicated. From the lack of clarity regarding “organic” and “natural” labels, to the lack of transparency regarding a company’s supply chain, it takes time, patience and tenacity on the part of the consumer to understand the impact of their purchasing choices.  

The good news is that this month, a new app — OpenLabel — was launched. This app will allow shoppers to find information about a product’s sustainability by scanning the item’s barcode. It allows the public to create their own labels, and virtually attach them directly onto products, where other consumers can rate them. OpenLabel describes their mission as “creating a centralized place for people and organizations to share environmental, political, social, animal and health & safety information … the OpenLabel Project will make commerce more transparent, and help consumers make smarter, more responsible choices.” 

OpenLabel, which is backed by Amazon, Google and Facebook, could be a game-changer for both consumers and companies and, if successful, will open the door for a new category of products to help consumers more easily navigate the sustainability landscape and thus make informed, educated decisions. 

Products like OpenLabel empower consumers to vote with their wallets — letting companies know what they are looking for in the products they buy. 

Some key lessons that marketers should take away from this are: 

  • Transparency is going public: Gone are the days when companies could be “transparent” by burying information in end of year filing reports. 
  • Listen: Not only will consumers be able to understand the products they buy, but it is also an opportunity for companies to better understand the needs and wants of their consumers. It may even open the door for innovation and new product categories. 

Let me know at @Brigid_Milligan and in the comments – would you use an app such as OpenLabel to make purchasing decisions?

1 comment about "The Empowered Consumer".
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  1. Drake Bozarth from ACCO, February 19, 2015 at 4:17 p.m.

    Love this. Potential game-changer for sure. Just passed along to my favorite nonprofit CEHN.

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