Aligning shopping with values is emerging as a hallmark of U.S. consumerism, with millennials aged 25 to 34 dominating that trend, according to a report emailed to Retail Dive from consumer intelligence platform Resonate.
Gen Xers also make their mark in what Resonate calls activist shopping, especially when it comes to a brand’s ethics. Those shoppers, mostly Gen X women with older children, favor companies "that treat their employees fairly, are honest and trustworthy, have truthful advertising and price products fairly," and are the largest segment Resonate found.
Along with "ethical shoppers," Resonate identified environmental and charitable shoppers. The first prefer "companies that reduce their energy use, reduce their packaging and provide safe products" and represent about 34% of the U.S. adult online population or 77 million people, according to the report. The charitable shopper looks for companies to donate to charities and support the community and is the smallest segment of activist consumers, about 24% of the population.
Consumer activism is most obvious at high-key moments that involve polarizing issues or people. In recent years, the Trump name and brand, guns, and transgender and gay rights have all flared up and attracted boycotts, or at least headlines, that have threatened to lose retailers business.
About a year ago, Nike decided to flip the script on that by tapping Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who endangered his football career with his kneeling protest against police brutality toward people of color. That invited hot reactions from all sides, but most marketing experts seem to agree that it elevated the brand in the minds of younger consumers who care about fairness.
But Resonate's research — leveraging data from 250,000 surveys "conducted on an ongoing basis with digital and physical footprint data at scale" — shows that consumer activism isn't just ignited during times of rage or by hot topics. The consumers described by the report are generally women going about their day, thoughtfully, and doing business with major brands like Honda and Toyota (Prius), Best Western and Hilton, Delta and American Airlines, and Little Caesars and Starbucks.
The takeaway, according to Resonate? "Brands need to take a stand on the issues that align with their consumers," according to the report. That means both understanding what's important to customers, and marketing any efforts made in those realms.