A good buy used to mean consumers making the choice to invest in a good product. But what happens when good isn’t good enough? In the 21st-century, the way to the heart of the modern customer is through appealing to their values. No greater industry than fashion showcases this notion the most — millennials and members of the Gen-Z generation are choosing to wear their hearts on their sleeves, literally. Retailers are obliged to reflect the thinking of their consumers through sustainability initiatives or else lose out.
UNRESERVED speaks to Shasha Ahmad, Category Manager at ZALORA Malaysia and she describes modern-day shopping tribulations: ‘With an abundance of brands and offerings… consumers have greater freedom to choose their preferred products. Brands are now being evaluated beyond their products, it is important for organisations to recognise the evolving needs of a consumer and they now want their things to align with their identity.’ It is clear that the modern consumer has access to a wide range of products and the dialogue has undoubtedly shifted. We now shop with two questions in mind. The first is what does this product stand for? and the second: what am I signalling to other people if I carry this product around?
How are retailers answering these questions?
Shasha reveals in a survey conducted by ZALORA in 2020, 90% of participants presented some level of interest in sustainability products while 50% of consumers were willing to pay a premium price for products that aligned with their personal values. Thus ZALORA is very much aware that their customers are forward-thinkers and she tells of the organisation’s approach, “We strive to build on our sustainability offerings. From launching our sustainable capsule collection to releasing a special edit of all of our products that meets the sustainability criteria… we are constantly working to meet the demand of customers.”
It becomes obvious that in the modern age, aligning with consumers is simply better for business. More and more of Gen Z are entering the workforce and elevating their spending power. As one of the biggest e-commerce players in the region, it is ZALORA who must give conscious consumerism a great push. One achievement Shasha notes is localising this issue through collaborations with local designers like Jovian Mandagie and Rizalman. As head of the modest-wear category, Shasha leads a team of ten people and they are tasked to bring sustainability and modest wear together. Localising sustainability is an effort to bring the conversation to a Malaysian level.
Despite having a myriad of initiatives related to being environmentally-friendly, Shasha notes that navigating in a diverse and ever-evolving region like Southeast Asia can be difficult, stating that a ‘one-size-fit-all solution does not work’ and calls their work in relating their offerings back to the local landscape is ‘crucial.’ Although there is demand, through evidence that their consumers are interested in the sustainable conversation, it must go beyond collaborations or usual sustainability efforts like transparency or worrying about their carbon footprint.
It seems obvious to the modern consumer: why support a brand financially if their social and environmental values aren’t agreeable? This is true but we are now at the point of the conversation where we are able to face the consequences of our shopping habits. What must happen is retailers must catch up with offering consumers substantial and dynamic initiatives while not harming the environment. Without a plan, they’ll be left in the dust.