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Tracy Strauss
VP of Marketing @ Yotpo
December 23rd, 2020

How eCommerce Brands Can Take a Stance on Social Causes in 2021

With these strategies, brands can help increase issue awareness, activism, and charitable giving, all while deepening relationships with customers.

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The election is over, but involvement in our communities and political processes never ends. Taking a stance doesn’t necessarily mean endorsing a candidate or policy position — it can mean encouraging people to vote, offering important resources, or finding new ways to be a part of an ongoing, important, national conversation. Increasingly, it’s expected of companies, making it savvy business too.

Here’s what you need to know before jumping in, and some strategies to consider.

Customers believe it’s important for brands to express their views

Research conducted by Sprout Social shows just how important it is for brands to express their values. Here’s what they found:

  • Two-thirds of consumers (66%) say it’s important for brands to take a public stand on social and political issues.
  • When consumers’ values align with what brands are saying, 28% will publicly praise them. When consumers disagree with the brand’s stance, 20% will publicly criticize them.
  • While 17% of respondents have joined a boycott as a result of a brand speaking out on issues, 24% have gone on to purchase a product from that brand.

Brands face risks when speaking out, but the risk is bigger in staying silent. You may lose customers by taking a stand, but you’re likely to offset that loss with even more new ones. In fact, research from Fleishman Hillard found that 61% of consumers surveyed said that even if they disagree with a company’s position on an issue, they believe it’s important for companies to express their views.

Authenticity is crucial

Consumers do want brands to take a stand, but only when it’s genuine. It’s not enough for brands to try to jump on the bandwagon; your values need to carry throughout your entire organization — from your products, to your campaigns, to how you treat your employees.

For example, Patagonia is known for its commitment to sustainability and environmental activism. They had an election hub this past campaign season with helpful information about candidates who support fighting climate change and resources for how to get involved, but their engagement began long before then. The company has a self-imposed 1% “Earth tax,” has sued the US government for reducing the size of Bear Ears National Park, and participated in a boycott of Facebook ads over civil rights concerns.

The company tries to practice its principles internally too, auditing its supply line to humanely and sustainably source its products and materials. It even famously took out a newspaper ad telling customers not to buy its clothing to reduce waste. And on Election Day, they closed all of their stores, offices, and distribution centers and encouraged employees to vote.

Patagonia isn’t just jumping on a cause to raise their profile; they’re donating money to that cause, encouraging people to get involved, and ensuring their employees have the resources they need to be active members in environmental and democratic causes.

Strategies to encourage activism in 2021

Here are some ideas for how you can forge stronger relationships with your customers by encouraging them to get involved. These efforts aren’t just about voting (though voting is important and happens more often than every four years); they’re about putting your company’s values into action, and using that action to create a stronger bond with your customers.

Use SMS to drive campaigns

With an SMS platform like SMSBump by Yotpo, you can ask your customers to share photos of themselves volunteering, demonstrating, or with completed voter registration forms or absentee ballots. (Remember, state and local elections happen every year.) Then, your brand can donate on their behalf to a non-profit organization dedicated to a related cause.

Reward shoppers for taking action

If you already have a loyalty program, you can easily adapt it to offer your customers rewards for taking action. You can reward them with points or discounts for submitting proof of voting, donating to causes, participating on social media (retweet, shares, posting with hashtags etc.), or interacting with content on your website. For example, women’s clothing brand Mara Hoffman offered rewards members 50 points to vote.

You could also offer a small gift. Even a little freebie helps customers feel like they’re a part of your community while encouraging them to take action!

Educate voters about issues

Brands can take a stand by educating consumers on the issues that matter to them. This can be an information-filled hub on the brand website, posts on social media, email communications, and more. It demonstrates that you care about causes, and that you want your customer base to care, too.

Skincare company Lush has taken on numerous human, environmental, and animal rights issues, but one of their earliest causes was against animal testing of cosmetics. In 2012, they staged a controversial public performance of animal testing practices being used on a human actor. The company has eliminated animal testing and even egg products from all of their items, and continues to provide information on animal rights on their website.

Donate a percentage of sales of specific products to a non-profit

A popular and effective way to align with a cause, you can sell exclusive or limited-edition merchandise and then donate a portion of those proceeds to an organization you care about.

For example, designer Michael Kors has produced a limited edition shirt to benefit the World Food Programme during the COVID-19 pandemic. All proceeds “will support relief efforts directed at providing vital nutrition to help keep kids healthy whether in school or at home as a result of the emergency.”

Meet your customers where they are

To encourage your customers to get out and act, you can send them a quick text with helpful resources. With a platform like SMSBump, you can even help direct them to personalized local resources based on their location. Knowing their location, you can text them local charities and organizations to donate to or volunteer for. And if you ask them about their interests, you can even personalize the organizations too. Donations and volunteer work often have a bigger impact on smaller, local organizations than on big national ones.

Highlight community members who vote or contribute

If you’re selling cause-themed merchandise, create a gallery of selfies to celebrate your customers using these items. For example, showcase people wearing your special items for Pride Month. Or, you could create a gallery of customers who submitted selfies at Pride events. This can show potential customers that your brand cares about LGTBQ+ rights, and can help deepen your relationship with your existing community.

Let your customers donate loyalty points to charity

Instead of redeeming points from your loyalty program for discounts and free stuff, your customers could donate that value to charity instead. Several companies are already doing this with great success: cosmetics retailer Sephora allows customers to donate points to the National Black Justice Coalition at a rate of two cents per point, and American Express allows users to choose from several non-profit organizations to donate to at seven cents per point. If you’re a Yotpo customer, then consider using Shopping Gives to add charitable giving to your loyalty program.

Year-round opportunities to take a stance

While you can promote your cause year-round, it’s often easier to drive engagement when the effort is tied to something timely. Annual observances and holidays can thus be an excellent opportunity to promote a cause.

Here are just a few annual dates to consider when highlighting your organization’s work and values:

  • Third Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February: Black History Month
  • March: Women’s History Month
  • March 8: International Women’s Day
  • March 31: International Transgender Day of Visibility
  • April: Arab American Heritage Month
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • May: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
  • May: Mental Health Month
  • May: Jewish American Heritage Month
  • Last Monday in May: Memorial Day
  • June: Pride Month
  • June 19: Juneteenth
  • July 14: International Non-Binary People’s Day
  • September: National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
  • First Monday in September: Labor Day
  • September 11: Patriot Day
  • September 15-October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • September 23: Bi Visibility Day
  • October 1: International Day of Older Persons
  • Second Monday in October: Indigenous People’s Day
  • The Tuesday in the week of Nov 2-8: Election Day (Primaries, state, local, and special elections will vary)
  • November 11: Veteran’s Day
  • November 20: Trans Day of Remembrance
  • December 1: World Aids Day
  • December 2: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
  • December 3: International Day of Disabled Persons
  • December 10: International Human Rights Day

Make your brand’s voice heard all year round

If your brand hasn’t already made a commitment to stand for something, now is the time. Urging your customers to donate and participate is a great way to build relationships and show them who you are.

How is your brand helping to mobilize activists? Tag @yotpo social and share your campaigns!

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