Half of UK consumers say kindness is important in buying choices

28 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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A majority of global consumers now define the ‘kindness’ of a company as a key factor in purchasing goods and services – with 61% saying it has caused them not to make purchases in the last two years. UK consumers are considerably less invested in the matter, however, with that figure falling to 50%.

In a world where customers increasingly expect the brands behind their products to take ethical stances on issues close to their hearts, many firms have sought to roll out policies convincing shoppers they have no reason to abandon their goods. That doesn’t just mean firms need to try to address issues such as climate change, diversity, and animal rights, though. Many firms are finding that reflections of how ‘nice’ they are through word of mouth, social media and the press are crucial to maintaining business.

A new report from Baringa suggests that customers are moving away from brands which they feel are unkind. A 61% majority said that if they felt a company was “unkind”, they had refused to buy a good or service from the entity in the last two years.

Have you refused to buy a product or service in the last two years because you felt a company was unkind

In contrast, 49% of consumers said they were more likely to seek out goods to purchase from “kind” companies they wanted to succeed. At the same time, 48% said they were focused on kind companies because it was “more crucial than ever to consider the consequences of your actions.” Of the 6,028 global consumers polled by Baringa, 76% said they sometimes or always considered the behaviour of a company or its CEO when making a purchase.

Illustrating how important this was to consumers, many consumers said that they would avoid products of firms regardless of price. A majority of 53% of respondents said that they would avoid a product of service if a firm was known to treat its employees unfairly – even if the price was cheaper.

Meanwhile, 56% said they would avoid products on these terms if the provider was dishonest to customers – charging hidden fees, or using forceful behaviour to chase debts – while 55% said this of firms which were known to be cruel to animals. A 54% chunk added they would avoid these firms if they behaved poorly to communities they operated in.

Factors consumers always consider when making a purchase

Commenting on the findings, Guy Dent, a partner at Baringa, said, “The assumption is that when times get tough, ethical choices become a luxury and people make decisions based on price. But the increased awareness of unkind business practices might be changing this. As we head into a possible recession, we are seeing more people prepared to take a financial hit to choose kind firms, often in an act of solidarity. Even when this ‘pays off’, if you ditch your environmental and social commitments, lower your customer service standards, switch to unscrupulous suppliers, or cut staff in a manner that is plainly arbitrary and unfair, you risk improving your balance sheet today only to damage your sales tomorrow.”

There is one market where the Cyril Sneers, Monty Burnses and Vince McMahons of the world still seem to have more of a foothold, however. The UK is notably less concerned with ‘kindness’ than its international counterparts. There, only 50% of consumers said they had dropped a product from providers they felt were unkind in the last two years – the lowest portion of any of the seven countries Baringa surveyed.

This translated throughout the UK responses. Only 31% of shoppers “always consider” how a company treats its employees, when making a purchasing decision. This sinks to 23% when it comes to the impact it has on the environment, and 21% when it comes to the role it plays in society. Meanwhile, as the country remains mired in scandals relating to the conduct of its top politicians and entrepreneurs, just 13% said the behaviour of a company or its leadership always mattered to them.