82% OF UK CONSUMER ACTIVISTS FAVOUR VOTING WITH THEIR WALLETS BY BUYING FROM COMPANIES WHO ‘DO THE RIGHT THING’ – NEW STUDY

Wednesday 31 January, 2018

Poll tips surge of support for businesses who act responsibly but quality, customer services and prices are still motivating factors

LONDON January 31 2018 – Businesses may be missing a trick if they don’t use responsible behaviour to drive commerce, according to findings of a survey of 1,000 UK consumer activists published today.

The study from Weber Shandwick and its research partner KRC Research, Battle of the Wallets: the Changing Landscape of Consumer Activism, reveals the extent to which the modern consumer will respond to a company’s good behaviour by preferring its goods or services.

The growing phenomenon – dubbed “BUYcotting” – follows a generation of boycotts promoted by consumer activists and NGOs wanting to express their disapproval with the way certain companies behave.

According to the new evidence, BUYcotting is expected to grow faster than boycotts in the coming years – an important consideration for UK companies reviewing their approach to burning issues such as plastics, tax and workplace discrimination.

The research looked at the attitudes and activities of 1,000 UK consumers who were screened on the basis of having taken some sort of action – with their wallets or otherwise – for or against a company or brand.

It found that 91% of this group had engaged in boycotts, with 58% BUYcotting. The group had boycotted a company on average 6.3 times in the past two years, with BUYcotters taking an average of 5.6 positive steps to buy from a ‘good’ business.

Interestingly, 29% expected to step up their BUYcotting in the next 24 months, with 22% expecting to boycott more regularly, a statistically significant difference suggesting that BUYcotting is growing in favour. Both boycotters and BUYcotters felt that social media makes such campaigns more effective, with 76% and 79% respectively agreeing.

A generational dimension to this shift in behaviour is reflected in the fact that younger respondents were more likely to favour BUYcotts, over boycotts, further supporting the expectation of the rising BUYcott movement.

A parallel study of US consumer activists also found a close correlation with the UK findings.

Commenting on the research, Jon McLeod, Chairman UK Corporate Financial and Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, said: “The boycotting phenomenon blossomed among baby boomers who grew up with successful boycott campaigns led by the likes of the anti-apartheid movement.

“The next generation of consumer activist looks very different. Brought up on social media, they will increasingly reward companies that provide a high-quality product whilst also doing the right thing.

“Businesses will be missing a trick if they don’t prepare and respond to this impulse by linking their corporate social responsibility and consumer marketing strategies to commerce, so that they can reap the rewards of changing company behaviour on key issues like the environment, fair trade, gender rights and quality goods. However, consumers’ message to businesses is clear: changes in social responsibility should not come at the expense of quality.”

Emma Thompson, Chair of Weber Shandwick’s UK Consumer practice added: “Insights like these need to be acted on in a fast-changing consumer marketing environment.

 “It is not enough anymore for companies to adopt ethical policies, they need to engage with their consumer audiences in a relevant way that enables advocates to become activist customers.

 “The relevance of social media to this change cannot be overstated, and smart communications teams will move fast to prove their worth to their companies by leveraging goodwill into commerce across all their platforms.”

Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick said: “The influence that consumer activism has on company reputation should not be overlooked. While many companies may be concerned about the financial impact of a boycott, the effect on reputation is often the consumer activist’s priority.

 “Companies should consider this ramification when faced with a boycott, and, alternatively, look for opportunities to leverage the power of BUYcotters who are willing to support and positively influence a brand’s reputation.”

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