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Dec 22, 2021

Carbon is the New Black: Sharing Your Impact Through Key Product Information

Based on conversations I have had with companies that Akeneo works with, the impact of their products on the world around us has quickly become a to...

Keywords

Carbon Footprint

product experience management

product information management

sustainability

Based on conversations I have had with companies that Akeneo works with, the impact of their products on the world around us has quickly become a top priority for 2022. These companies have started to contract with platform providers who can measure this, with the promise of monitoring the entire supply chain and improving the carbon footprint of products.

Based on conversations I have had with companies that Akeneo works with, the impact of their products on the world around us has quickly become a top priority for 2022. These companies have started to contract with platform providers who can measure this, with the promise of monitoring the entire supply chain and improving the carbon footprint of products.

However, calculating carbon footprint is becoming a standard process today. Companies that aren’t doing this need to catch up as it allows consumers to make better purchase decisions. Product information plays an important role in this, enabling companies to be clear on their products’ manufacturing and services carbon footprint. That is their climate impact is measured in carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions.

Reducing the carbon footprint of products not only has an effect on company costs, but also on demand. While greener products tend to be more costly to produce, consumers tend to purchase more at a given price when products have a lower carbon footprint. The levels of brand sensitivity and involvement in this topic have a direct impact on the brand personality. And brand personality does actually influence brand trust, brand attachment, and brand commitment. Thanks to a survey we ran with OpinionWay in 2021, we learned that 52% of consumers would be willing to pay more when brand values are part of the product information shared. Certificates & quality labels should come first!

So where to start your green journey? And what will matter for consumers?

Their needs and concerns will be different, based on the respective business areas, consumer segments, and market. While some companies are targeting green consumers in developed markets (who tend to be more mature on the topic), others may be focused on the rapidly growing middle class in emerging markets, which means that the following recommendations will be highly relevant to many but not all businesses. Therefore, it’s vital to adapt your content and product information to what you know about your audience’s expectations. 

Here are 5 key ways you should invest in product information:

  1. Share your brand values through product content

Building strong relationships with people is only possible thanks to transparency. More than your products and services, people want to know more about your purpose, your mission, and thus your values. The more “real people” (usually the company founders or leaders) embody these values and share them, the better the impact they will have. Unfortunately, some brands struggle to do this well—if they do it at all. The good old “‘About Us Page” doesn’t always give us a sense of their history, personality, or passion. This is still too basic.

So what are the best practices?

Leading brands are doing a great job at expressing their ideas in an inspiring, engaging, and enticing way and a specific category of brands is ahead: the Digital Native Vertical Brands. You know, these brands that not only grow with their community but build the business with them. They share everything about the suppliers they work with, the material they use, their vision of the business, the concrete actions they take, and organizations they donate to.

All this provides meaning for consumers, and thus higher engagement and growth.

Two great examples from Everlane and Sezane.

2. Educate on certificates & quality labels 

Consumers are more familiar with product labels, and they know the most credible ones. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 confirms the absence of harmful chemical substances is a perfect example. So if you spend money in obtaining these labels, sharing them with consumers via the product page is a first step; being transparent about how you get the label is another interesting one. 62% of consumers consider certificates and quality labels as the #1 information that demonstrates brand commitment.

And this is not limited to the material used to create products. Being B Corp certified is recognised around the world, and testifies to the business partners’ work all along the supply chain. From the choice of production methods, raw materials and working conditions, to environmental footprint and engagement in the community, B-Corp certification requires a brand to undergo an intensive analysis, responding to over 200 questions. This is another great example to include alongside the standard information shown on a product’s description page.

Consumers are keen to learn more about certifications. They want to understand their sneakers’ carbon footprint like they do calories in food.

B-Corp certification requires a brand to undergo an intensive analysis, responding to over 200 questions.

3. Guide your consumers to the right products

If you invest in getting certifications and quality labels that matter for your consumers, it’s crucial for product discovery and search that they can filter e-commerce product lists according to their purchasing preferences.

If users are unable to adequately filter product lists, their ability to tailor their shortlist to contain only items of interest is severely restricted and they may be unable to find what they need.

The ability to use key information such as a certification or a quality label as a filter needs to be anticipated and managed in the central system you use to manage product information. Some PIM (product information management) software like Akeneo PIM Enterprise Edition makes it easy to update a whole range of products and create information that will be used as filters thanks to automatic rules based on information they contain.

Akeneo customer, Bergfreunde.com / L’alpiniste.fr, makes it easy for consumers to filter on what matters for them in term of sustainability.

4. Reappropriate your second-hand products

The rising awareness around environmental issues and conscious spending has led consumers to buy more in the resale market. While saving money used to be the main factor driving second-hand shopping, consumers are now also eager to find eco-friendly products, meaningful gifts, or to get a more personalized experience that doesn’t involve shopping at big box stores.

Companies have quickly understood that they have a big opportunity in reappropriating their second-hand products instead of letting people sell it on dedicated (online) stores or resales platforms such as Vinted, Vestiaire Collective, ThredUP or the RealReal. Big brands such as Patagonia and Isabel Marat have shown it’s possible to sell used products alongside new items; other brands can also tap into the trend by offering buy-back programs or easy recycling or resale options for used products.

Promoting second-hand products alongside new ones requires a different approach to how products are discovered and described across the places where they are sold. This is where the best practices of Product Experience Management (PXM) come into play as part of a PIM implementation. You’ll save time, and make sure of the product data quality if you inherit information from a trusted foundation you have built (even from the oldest collections) instead of re-creating them.

Example from Akeneo customer, Isabel Marant, who has launched its vintage clothing boutique, available online, on June 21.

Young consumers especially understand that conscious consumption and participating in the circular economy is key to reducing climate footprint. As a direct result of their awareness, Gen Z is driving much of the growth in the second-hand luxury market.

As this has become a major issue worldwide, this is not limited to the Fashion industry. And because repair is better than replace, France has launched the Repairability Index in 2020 for electrical and electronic equipment and plans to replace it with a Durability Index, whereby manufacturers will disclose not only how repairable their goods are, but also describe the full lifecycle for each product.

Akeneo customer and French startup, Back Market, resells PlayStations, household appliances, and smartphones and raised $335 million in May 2021.

5. Switch to a more climate-friendly shipping solution and reduce packaging

The demand for fast deliveries in e-commerce has never been higher. Already today, worldwide freight transport accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions, with last-mile shipping making up a large proportion of this footprint.

Effective ways to reduce the impact of shipping from e-commerce are already available, and will continue to grow. Major carriers including DHL, FedEx and UPS offer environmentally-friendly programs such as paperless invoicing, carbon neutral shipping via carbon offsetting, and greener shipping options including bikes and electric vehicles.

You can also reduce last-mile delivery by establishing convenient pick up points near customers or partners so that orders can be dropped off in one stop instead of driving to each customer individually. In any case, clearly display the possibilities you offer alongside your products.

Retailers often use standard boxes to ship all items and fill the free space with additional packaging material. Shipping items in smaller boxes will not only avoid unnecessary packaging material and waste, but also saves space on the transport, making it more climate-friendly. Given that packaging makes up a big part of the e-commerce carbon footprint, this is a very important reduction lever for your company.

Zara ​boxes with a past. All cardboard boxes that arrive in stores are reused up to 5 times before being recycled into new boxes for online orders.

Are you now ready to take action and enhance the key product information you can share with your consumers to make a difference? It may seem overwhelming at first if it’s something you haven’t started implementing yet. But as mentioned before, sharing how you are minimizing your carbon impact can have significant impacts on the loyalty of your customers and the growth of your business. Everyone at Akeneo is here to share their expertise and guide you along that green journey. All you have to do is ask!

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