Which matters more in the retail market today: Sustainability or digital? They are the two most mentioned words in the industry right now. Every brand and company wants to prove that they can deliver digital excellence and a sustainable business.
Or at least, every company wants to say that they are leading the way in both fields so that they can claim the kudos and column inches that comes with that perceived leadership.
The truth is that, in many cases, companies see both sustainability and digital as easy wins which they can talk about and gain publicity without putting in too much effort, innovation or – importantly – money.
This is wrong. On every level.
Shoppers today, especially younger shoppers who are becoming the driving force in the industry, want excellence and engagement in the digital realm and they are demanding action and tangible efforts on sustainability. And they can tell the difference.
In many cases, companies see both sustainability and digital as easy wins which they can talk about and gain publicity without putting in too much effort, innovation or – importantly – money
Right now, especially in travel retail and luxury, it is digital that is grabbing the headlines. Mark Zuckerberg and his team made the metaverse the topic of every other conversation when they put it front and centre on the Facebook rebrand, and concepts and platforms such as WeChat, social media and omnichannel are cited in every discussion and announcement.
Digital is easy to talk about. It is attention-grabbing and it is sexier than sustainability. Importantly for brands looking to emerge from the pandemic and build, or rebuild, their business, it also offers faster results by creating new sales opportunities and revenue streams, while driving shopper engagement.
In all this excitement, sustainability it at risk of getting lost – or at least being reduced to the addition of “fully recyclable” packaging on new products.
Sustainability is harder to deliver. It costs time, money and effort from the brands in question. It requires a deep look at how you do business and a focus on delivering actual change.
In fact, the truth is that the same goes for digital. Companies think they can roll out a social media campaign and claim they are delivering on digital. They are not.
Nor are those who say they will reduce emissions by 2050 creating a sustainable business.
Both of these concepts require actual effort, investment and change to deliver properly. They also require proper expertise and knowledge. But sustainability has one key difference.
Both of these concepts require actual effort, investment and change to deliver properly. They also require proper expertise and knowledge
Digital is constantly evolving. It will keep doing so. New ideas and platforms will develop and new opportunities will have to be assessed, evaluated, grabbed and made the most of.
Sustainability is a constant. It is a wholesale shift which society and the world demand; it is something which we must do. It is a journey and a process, but the goalposts are not shifting and evolving in the same way.
The truth is that all brands and companies must be doing both sustainability and digital – but at the moment, many brands are not fully delivering on either.
There are many who would argue that mastering digital is securing the future of your business. They are right. But if you think sustainability is too big to tackle right now, then your business may not have a future to realise.