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hyped vs. Not Hype: Data Reveals Consumer Preferences for Sustainability and the Metaverse

The irony of retail is that the trends that generate the most conversations don’t always translate into sales. Consumers will always be obsessed with new and unheard-of products and experiences, but that doesn’t mean they’ll bet on the latest craze. Inundated with buzzwords and catchy titles, it can be extremely difficult for retailers to understand what consumers want and what is just hype.

To uncover the truth behind what really drives today’s shoppers shopping, Productsup recently published “The Trade Deficit” report. The report is based on a survey of nearly 5,700 global consumers and focuses on consumer expectations for some of the hottest retail buzzwords: sustainable shopping and the metaverse.

So what is really worth paying attention to when it comes to these “hot” topics?

“Sustainable purchases”

The notions of “buying local” and “buying green” have become very popular in recent years. Brands like Patagonia and TOMS have preempted this trend, using recycled materials in their products and offering incentives for sustainable purchases to reduce their environmental impact. But are sustainability initiatives worth the investment for the average brand or retailer? And if so, which initiatives do consumers care about most?

In short, yes – people want to be conscious consumers. Data shows that people are more likely to make a purchase if a product is reusable (71%) or recyclable (70%). But being a conscious consumer is not easy. One of the biggest barriers consumers face when it comes to sustainable shopping is a lack of information: 34% of consumers say it’s hard to find a product’s reusability, while 30% struggle to find its recyclability.

The lack of this level of detail in product information leads consumers to become skeptical of a retailer’s authenticity. For example, when asked what builds trust in a brand’s ethical and sustainable practices, consumers ranked initiatives that can be considered “cause washing” – such as partnering with global NGOs (26%) and generating positive press (22%) – as least influential. Instead, providing additional explanation about what makes a product organic, free or eco-friendly is the top way to build consumer trust in ethical brands and products (43%).

So when it comes to sustainable shopping, it’s all in the details. Retailers should take this trend seriously because ultimately the items that are added to shopping carts are those that consumers can easily identify as ethical purchases.

“The Metaverse”

Following Facebook’s rebranding to Meta last year, everyone’s attention turned to the Metaverse and what the future holds for virtual shopping. Some brands are already betting big on the metaverse – Nike has just launched its first collection of digital shoes, Crate and barrel appointed a metaverse SVP, and Gucci opened its own digital “square” for shopping and interacting. These investments signal that retailers are determined to enter the Metaverse, but are consumers ready for Meta Jogs and virtual fashion?

According to the Productsup report, 60% of consumers are not interested in purchasing virtual-only products. We see this reflected in declining sales of NFTs as people struggle to find utility in owning digital assets.

Does that mean the metaverse is a bust? No way. Research shows that there is still huge potential for virtual sales. Almost half (46%) of consumers said that the virtual experience of realistic features, such as viewing a digital painting in their home using augmented reality glasses, would entice them to make a purchase in the Metaverse. Digital assets with real-world applications are much more valuable in the eyes of consumers.

Considering that the Metaverse is still an abstract concept for the most part, there is still a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about what it is and what it has to offer. For example, 27% of consumers don’t think shopping in the metaverse will provide a different experience than shopping in the physical world. But with the promises of a hyper-fast internet and unlimited space for innovation, it’s clear that the metaverse will be unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.

So while there may not be overwhelming interest in the digital assets currently available in the market, it is a rapidly evolving space. As more brands and retailers experiment with virtual products and experiences, the industry will eventually figure out how to draw people into the metaverse. In a few years, the most competitive companies in the market will be those that took the metaverse seriously in these days of early adoption.

To learn more about what today’s consumers really want from retailers, including differences between countries and age groups, download Productsup’s report, “The Trade Deficit”.

The study’s findings can help retailers understand ever-changing consumer preferences and behavior, but that’s only the first step. Retailers need to be agile enough to deliver the experiences consumers want today and in the future. For example, having full control over their business operations with a product-to-consumer (P2C) strategy allows them to adapt to these trends, such as the ability to easily add recyclability information to product listings to meet sustainable shopping expectations.

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