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Online Retailer: The purpose of purpose

The 11th annual Online Retailer conference started not with a bang but a question: What is going to change the e-commerce game moving forward?

The question is timely, with the e-commerce market in Australia continuing to mature, and sales events, such as Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, growing at a rate of 28 per cent year over year, and teaching customers to wait for a bargain.

How can online retailers change the game?

Cue Clothing CIO Shane Lenton said they can do so through contextual commerce – the ability to purchase via smart speakers, smart TVs, social platforms, virtual and augmented reality, utilising faster and simplified checkout systems, Apple and Google Pay, buy now pay later. It’s about allowing customers to transact the moment they come across the urge to buy, rather than pulling them away from what they are doing and forcing them into a traditional purchasing channel. Instagram Shopping is a good example of contextual commerce.

Booktopia founder and chief executive Tony Nash was unsure there’s a ‘game changer’, saying it will become more important to position yourself to be there for your consumer; while Flora & Fauna chief executive and founder Julie Mathers said there is a game-changer: purpose.

In the opening session of the day, Mathers pointed to data about the millennial market, soon to overtake boomers as the largest market, which showed 88 per cent want to work for a business that reflects their values. Seventy-five per cent would take a pay cut to do it. And 93 per cent would buy based on their personal values.

The concept of purpose ran throughout the rest of the day. In a panel discussion about the ‘woke’ consumer, Vogue‘s sustainability editor Clare Press said customers are looking for brands that are aligned with their personal values – be that sustainability, veganism, climate action, feminism, or modern slavery. According to Press, consumers want brands to take action on these issues, and will switch to a competitor if a brand fails to do so.

Matthew Traynor, brand manager at Outland Denim, a brand that is centred around three pillars – purpose, people and planet – said that while it’s important to have a purpose, you need to be able to back it up.

It isn’t enough for a brand to say it supports a movement, it needs to ensure that isn’t just an empty statement and that this purpose penetrates each level of its business.

“For us, product is the critical vehicle to carry our mission forward,” Traynor said.

Despite a higher price point, Outland Denim has enjoyed repeat purchases – both from customers who decide to spend more based on their message, and those who would typically spend more than what Outland Denim charges but decide to purchase their product based on message.

As Traynor put it: the first purchase is based on mission, but the second is based on the product’s quality.

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