The digital age has made us more connected than ever with the devices we use and seemingly endless communication channels on offer. Buying has integrated with lifestyle, shopping is just a click in a social feed, ads blur into content and data is customising our experiences. Yet there is a deep and growing need for the digital experience to ‘remain human’. So when it comes to online shopping, can we humanise transactions?

We talk to brands every day about their purpose. Some want to find their purpose, build ‘giving into the DNA of their brand’ from the ground up, or incorporate it into an existing business. The common factor is the wish to connect authentically with customers, differentiate and share their ‘purpose beyond product’.

There is also a deepening appreciation, especially amongst millennials, of how little the stuff we buy actually matters – that the stuff of human connection; meaning and experiences, is what’s valuable and worth purchasing. This underpins the double-digit growth in the travel industry, whereas retail seems to have run out of ideas.

This presents a profound challenge to retail and – for those that understand it – an enormous opportunity. How to turn what are essentially ‘meaningless transactions’ into ‘meaningful experiences’?

Interestingly, while most digital tools are designed to add value to our lives, retail has used these tools almost exclusively with the intention to sell more. It’s as if retail existed in a vacuum, attempting to endlessly seduce with the same tricks, rather than authentically engage in conversations that build a tribe (and a larger customer base) around their purpose.

Many successful brands now stand for much more than the products or services they sell. They have integrated purpose into their business model. Research shows brands that clearly demonstrate their purpose, often return up to six times more value to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals. So a clear purpose can drive significant revenue but it must be committed to (and communicated) authentically and transparently.

As ‘eliciting joy, enabling connection, inspiring exploration, evoking pride and impacting society’ are the five values millennial consumers most appreciate in businesses today, then where to start?

Tom’s Shoes give a pair away with every pair you buy. Intrepid Travel offers purposeful travel that directly invests in the communities you visit. Social enterprises like Thankyou donate 100% of profits. With i=Change, brands like CamillaPandora, and others both large and small give back a clear dollar amount with every online sale and their customers get to choose where it goes after checking out. The final experience is now inspiring, meaningful and memorable.

i=Change provides a 100% transparent giving model, where funds raised and the impact made can be tracked live. The value is not just for customers who are surprised and delighted – and often become brand ambassadors as a result – CEO’s say their employees’ feel significantly more engaged and proud of their workplace. We’re also finding messages about a brand’s giving at the point of purchase can increase conversions (by reducing abandon-cart) up to 6%,

So if you’re wondering how to authentically connect with your customers, start with the issue you care deeply about and make a sincere commitment to turn your business into part of the solution. Your work will have a profound new layer of meaning, and your brand a powerful point of difference. It will inspire and delight, and keep customers coming back.
Jeremy Meltzer is Founder of i=Change, the world’s first cause-marketing solution for online retailers. i=Change is Australia’s fastest growing social enterprise tech start-up. Over $350,000 donated by iconic brands (& counting), is positively impacting over 90,000 people in 14 countries.

www.iequalchange.com