Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Sustainability and environmental efforts of brands will impact where two thirds of consumers shop over the Christmas period

Climate anxiety is a top concern for UK consumers, and this is being reflected in shopping preferences. As the “Golden Quarter” of 2021 approaches, digital marketing can help brands make their green efforts clear to consumers.

In response to the climate crisis, consumers are increasingly changing their habits in an effort to reduce their impact on the planet. 81% of British consumers have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues since the pandemic hit. Many are choosing to shop more sustainably. From zero-waste grocery shopping to sustainable fashion, consumers are willing to spend more on sustainable items, and brands are increasingly seeing the value in eco-friendly products and practices reflected in their bottom line. 

We surveyed 2,015 UK consumers about their shopping plans in the run up to the festive period, asking them whether brands’ eco-friendly efforts impact their purchasing decisions. The survey found that the majority of Brits (67%) pay attention to the sustainability and environmental efforts of retail brands, with over a third (37%) searching for more sustainable retail brands online. Read on to learn more about our survey findings.

1. Sustainability During the Golden Quarter

How do consumers research brands’ sustainable practices?

Consumers increasingly expect companies to be environmentally conscious in their advertising and communications. When it comes to learning about brands’ sustainable and environmental practices, there was a noticeable generational divide. The most widely used source of information across generations was online search, with 37% overall using a search engine to research the sustainability and environmental efforts of retail brands. But many other sources were also used, including TV and radio adverts, newspapers and magazines, social media and word of mouth. 

Younger people were more likely to use social media platforms to research brands’ green credentials, while older people looked to TV and radio adverts, recommendations and print media. 

Here are the top five information sources used by generation:

It’s clear, that brands need to have a solid understanding of their target market - and the markets they want to grow into - in order to select the most impactful marketing channels (and create tailored content for those channels) to demonstrate their eco-friendly credentials to different demographics.  


Younger people are more likely to research brands’ sustainability efforts

There was a noticeable generational difference in the percentage of people who said that they take note of brands’ sustainable efforts, with 93% of Gen-Z and 90% of millennials researching brands’ sustainability efforts, compared to 66% of baby boomers and 68% of the silent generation.

It’s clear that the sustainability of brands is a key factor younger people consider during their purchase journey. For those brands who target younger generations, making their sustainability efforts clear in their marketing is sure to have a positive impact.

2. Buying Habits and Black Friday

What will people buy during Black Friday 2021?

Consumers plan to buy a wide variety of items during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, including clothing, electronics, toys, entertainment and household items, spending an average of £357.39. 


The beginning of the end of Black Friday? 

Data from Statista appears to suggest that Black Friday fever peaked back in 2019, when 35% of consumers overall planned to buy retail goods during the Black Friday sales. In 2020 this figure dropped to 29%, with the downward trend even more apparent among Gen Z and Millennials (down from 51% to 35% and 43% to 31% respectively). 

Although the pandemic and resulting lockdowns are likely to have had an impact on spending habits while consumers were unable to visit physical stores, our survey findings from 2021 correlate with this downward trend. Overall, 56% of people surveyed planned to spend less or not make any purchases during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, compared with 43% planning to spend the same or more than last year.

Statista figures show that younger people generally are more likely than older people to buy products during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This could in part be due to older people being more affluent and therefore able to make purchases outside of discounted periods. So it is interesting that our survey found that 41% of Gen Z and 39% of Millennials planned to spend less or not make any purchases on Black Friday 2021. 

In recent years there has been some backlash against the consumerism of Black Friday, with movements like Buy Nothing Day gaining popularity around the world. This downward trend in spending could be a sign that consumers are moving away from purchasing items based on reduced prices alone, and making more considered purchases in the name of sustainability. 

Our survey found that almost a third (30%) of people will prioritise buying from brands that communicate their sustainability and environmental efforts during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. Nearly half (47%) said that sustainability will somewhat impact where they shop during the period, with only 22% saying that sustainability and environmental concerns will not impact where they shop.

3. In-store Vs Online Shopping Trends

Online shopping continues to dominate during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. The impact of non-essential retail being closed continues to affect consumers’ buying habits, with almost half of respondents (49.5%) saying that they were likely to purchase expensive items online without viewing them in future. Only 16% said they were very unlikely to do so, showing that trust in online shopping remains high. However, this doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the high street, as some are predicting.

Two-thirds (66.6%) of respondents planned to shop both online and in store over the Black Friday weekend.  This increased to over three-quarters (75.88%) when consumers were asked about their shopping habits over the Christmas period. Just 7.8% of people said they were likely to shop only in-store during Black Friday, compared to a quarter (25%) likely to shop solely online for discounts. 

This trend of combining both online shopping with visiting retail stores reflects our predictions that the future of retail is “phygital” - a combination of both physical and digital shopping experiences. 

Online shopping isn’t going to go away. The majority (90%) of UK consumers are open to buying directly from brand websites during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which will be driven by cheaper prices (54%), speed of delivery (36%) and free returns (35%). How can physical stores compete with this kind of offering? With phygitall, they don’t need to. 

In response to the rise in online shopping, retail stores need to adapt their offering. From promotional events and product launches to experienced staff who can demonstrate products and help customers with purchasing decisions, physical shops can be about more than sales. For many luxury brands, flagship stores offer an opportunity to reach new audiences by creating an on-brand experience that consumers feel aligns with their style, values and aesthetic. 

Combining these elements of physical stores with a strong online presence means consumers can enjoy all the benefits of personalisation and tailored marketing that comes with digital shopping, with the experiential elements of a physical store that can’t be replicated online, with brands reaping the rewards through increased sales and a wider customer base.

What does this mean for marketers?

The results of our survey have four key learnings for marketers to take away:

1. Communicate sustainability efforts across all marketing channels

Consumers want to know what efforts brands have made towards sustainability, so make it easy for them to find out, no matter which channels they use to consume media.

2. Prioritise optimisation for search around relevant sustainability search terms 

Search engines were the most widely used research platform across generations. Make it easy for consumers to find out about your sustainability efforts by creating a dedicated landing page and optimising it. 

3. Focus on offering quality year-round, and don’t depend on Black Friday to attract consumers

Fewer people are engaging with Black Friday, and many sustainable brands are opting out of the discount holiday altogether. Focus instead on attracting consumers year-round. 

4. Online or in-store? The future is phygital

With more and more consumers happy to shop online, physical stores must adapt to offer shoppers an experience that elevates your brand above the competition.