Consciousness in purchasing and consumption is about the introspection and awareness regarding its impact on the individual’s life and the society in which one resides. While it has its own advantages and disadvantages, there is a rise in conscious consumption as more people move inward and become purpose-driven.
- Consciousness arises from thoughts, senses, feelings, and intuitions.
- Conscious consumption focuses on caring for self, community, and the nature in which one lives so that there is mental, physical, societal, and environmental well-being.
- Creating sustainable experiences by the brands for their consumers helps retain them for a longer period, bringing them contentment and fulfillment.
Today’s dynamic and fast-moving world requires taking a pause and creating awareness and consciousness among people, especially regarding their purchasing and consumption patterns. Though people are moving inward, more awareness is required to observe the effect of the consumption choices made by an individual on the family, society, and the community at large. (Milne et al., 2020) states that consumers’ consideration for pricing and quality aspects and other economic elements while making purchasing decisions have always been among the conscious decision-making choices; their mindfulness shall further bring wellness to non-economic aspects of life, such as the community and environment at large.
Defining conscious consumption
Conscious consumption means being mindful and concerned about the impact that will be created on the surroundings, society, and environment by the personal consumption choices made by an individual. Thus collectively, the consciousness induced by the individuals at personal levels creates an optimistic and considerable change in society. It emphasizes consuming in such a way that minimal loss is made with no harm to anyone, and there remains no insufficiency of the produce for others in the future. There is always a purpose or a cause that shall drive conscious consumption, and that cause could be anything purposeful from reducing plastic waste, recycling products, reducing energy consumption, ensuring no cruelty to animals to supporting a small sustainable local business. Therefore, ensuring that to build up the monetary value, no harm is done in any form to the people, animals, and surroundings, and thus no negative impact is created leads to conscious consumption choices.
Need for conscious consumption
The ultimate idea behind conscious consumption is to dig deep into self and genuinely understand the fundamental importance of the purchasing decisions made, intriguing deep into the needs, emotions, clarity of the choice, relevance, and the worth and value that the purchase of the product or service brings along with it. In order to reduce overconsumption or instant mindless purchasing decisions, there is a need to change attitudes and habits, and it requires a strong mindset. According to (Sheth et al., 2011), a mindful and conscious state of mind includes three aspects, the one that cares for self which includes making oneself feel joyful and financially stable; the second aspect includes caring for the community, which is essentially required for collective well-being. The last one includes caring for nature and preserving the environment and natural resources. Conscious consumption choices have enormous implications on an individual’s blissfulness, mental and physical well-being, family well-being, and financial and societal well-being, along with bringing sustainability to the environment. This also leads to more interest in purchasing sustainable products. Overconsumption leading to excessive materialism and undue over-engagement make self-introspection and human relations weak, thus devaluing the real things in life. Likewise, the load and harm it creates to the environment and surroundings is also a deterrent result of unconscious purchasing decisions.
Exploring conscious consumption in various market segments
The impulsive buying behavior among consumers is mostly observed on a regular basis while purchasing food items, clothing, accessories, and various other fast-moving consumer goods, which gets influenced by various factors, including lucrative offers, attractive displays, fellow shoppers buying choices, and various other temptations which lure consumers to do impulsive buying. Süle (2012) states that conscious buying decisions vary among males and females, as females are considered to be more sensitive towards the prices of the products and adopt the hedonistic consumption approach, whereas males, on the other hand, prefer well-established brands. Lin et al. (2019) and Lin and Wang (2020) mention that while making purchasing decisions, males are concerned with interactivity, whereas women show the behavior of perceived risk, want to understand the clearness of indicative information, also commitment, privacy risks, and social factors play a significant role in building purchasing behavior among women as compared to men. It is observed that there are gender perception differences while making such conscious decisions.
Thangavel et al. (2021) state that mostly among Gen Z, it has been observed that they usually framed their choices and buying patterns through digital shopping platforms. It becomes difficult to change their buying behavior, whereas if we observe the generation of millennials, they are more open to adopting conscious and sustainable purchasing choices. The age and the generation factor have a considerable role to play as the tastes, preferences, interests, desires, and societal influence vary among different generations of consumers, and so make their conscious purchasing decisions.
Consciousness among high-end fashion brands is also evolving gradually as awareness is being spread by adopting new behaviors and practices among consumers using high-end fashion brands. Bianchi and Gonzalez (2021) report that these practices include reusing clothes, making purchases from second-hand retail stores, and showing more concern about creating a positive impact on the fashion industry, encouraging local initiatives in the fashion industry, promoting the relevance of encouraging sustainability in fashion, and contributing towards a better lifestyle. Conscious consumption calls for internal motivation and self-introspection, which drives the consumers even more toward understanding conscious consumption.
Framing out a plan and strategically knowing your needs and essentiality, understanding the specifications of the product in terms of its quality, performance, the manufacturing process of the product (if it is cruelty-free or not), if the product is organic or environment friendly and considering such other attributes is the primary research and development while making the purchase decision which has to be done. Hence planning, identifying, analyzing, looking for various alternatives, choosing the alternative, making the purchase decision, and then making a final follow-up is required for making the conscious purchase.
Challenges faced by producers and consumers in maintaining conscious consumption
Many challenges are faced while maintaining consistency in conscious purchasing and consumption; the consumers are more concerned about the prices of the product they avail rather than looking for the sustainability or consciousness factor in the product. Often the brands producing ethical, sustainable, and conscious-driven products are costly and are not easily affordable to the customers.
It is challenging to remain consistent with conscious consumption as instability arises among the customers; many factors divert the mind of the customers and force them to be less considerate to make the conscious purchase decision. In the internet and social media world, many external drivers can easily influence customers to make impulsive buying without much consideration. The idol time scrolling on mobile phones and opening Instagram, Facebook, and shopping apps induce customers to purchase and then lure over the discounts, offers, and various other sales promotions, adding an extra influence over the buying impulse.
Reassuring and retaining customers for a longer period of time can become the greatest challenge as customers need constant upgradation and cannot settle for less. For the producers and businesses, there is a significant risk in terms of making a profit with sustainable, conscious-driven products. As profit-making is the essential prerequisite of the business, it can get challenging to tackle consciousness and profit simultaneously, thus requiring smart strategy formulation and implementation.
It is challenging to educate people about conscious consumerism and bring the required amount of understanding along with the nobility and purpose it brings for individuals and society. Especially if generation Z is to be observed, they are very much preoccupied and adamant about the possessions they want to have, thus making it challenging to educate and bring awareness about conscious consumerism. Brands willing to promote sustainability and bring consciousness into production use minimal packaging and branding techniques to not harm the environment. However, then again, it does not receive a good customer base at the time of purchase as very few customers prefer such products.
Rise in conscious consumption
In this ever so fast growing electronic and materialistic world, consumers, especially those living in the big hustle and bustle of cities, desire a conscious and organic lifestyle wherein they can use the products that give them a sense of well-being along with it contentment and happiness that they are using something which is good for the environment and is contributing to some noble purpose. The brands creating their marketing drives with empathy and concern and bringing a human touch to the services are winning the hearts of conscious customers. A product with a purpose, giving value and purpose to its customers, is surely raising consciousness, the environmental considerations of the brands by showing concern for the soil, water, carbon emission, and waste produced at the time of packaging and making the product reach to the customers helps in bringing awareness among the customers. Thus, building a sustainable customer experience can help retain them for longer, bringing them contentment and satisfaction.
Cohen and Munoz (2017) state that “it has been observed that around 40% of US consumers have participated in a $ 300 billion conscious consumer market” (p. 1). As the conscious consumer markets are increasing, sustainable and conscious production has been considered to bring a competitive edge in the market. However, bringing sustainability and social and environmental considerations increases the cost for the producers. Inducing long-term sustainable practices by the producers, help in increasing the market share, enhancing investments, and building easy acceptance among the customers, thus ensuring long-term retention and reputation building for the producers.
Brands are creating personalized, involving, considerate, and value-driven services and after-sale services that are positively impacting the customer and are leading to long-term retention. Maintaining good after-sales services and communication with the customers, understanding their preferences, and attaching a cause to their consumption journey truly enhances producer-consumer-conscious relations. Customers are the natural observers and contributors as the citizens of the place where they reside. They pay due care and attention to how the business contributes to their society, yet, is there something impactful and purposeful that the business is doing at the local and national level so that real change can be observed? Naming a few brands such as Amazon, H&M, KFC, Nestle, Unilever, IKEA, Zara, Ford, and other lists of exhausting brand names are involved in conscious practices focusing on sustainability and bringing real change. These brands are contributing in their own ways towards bringing consciousness by involving in using sustainable fabrics, reducing carbon footprints, using sustainable packaging material, reducing plastic wastage, coming up with green initiatives in order to reduce environmental hazards, being eco-conscious, using biodegradable and recyclable packaging and various other initiatives are taken by various brands. Involving in all such practices automatically attracts the customer’s loyalty and builds awareness for conscious consumption among the buyers. The opportunity built for creating a user-friendly and shared conscious experience by the brands surely helps the brands in standing out and building a purpose-driven approach. Thus, it is visible that there is a rise in consciousness both at the producers’ and consumers’ end, thus leading to conscious production and consumption.
From the above discussion, it can be observed that unpretentiousness and instrumentality bring a new dimension to conscious consumption.
The rise observed in conscious consumption induces consumers towards unpretentious and minimal purchase choices intrigues the possibility of understanding the same. The challenges that the world has seen in terms of the pandemic, war, economic instability, climatic changes, and many other major events have surely made individuals move inward and have laid an individual responsibility on everybody to do their bit of good towards society by inculcating unpretentious buying behavior so that less harm and more good is done by them for the society.
It brings instrumentality among the customers, that if they attach themselves to purpose-driven brands and contribute towards something good, they shall be rewarded with the same, which can be in the form of contentment, self-appraisal, feeling of satisfaction by working towards making a difference, an appraisal from the society and many such positive motivators becomes the reward for their contribution. If mindless and hasty purchase decisions are made, they shall bring negative rewards with them, but on the other hand, if mindful and conscious buying decisions are made, they shall bring positive rewards with them. Therefore, building an interlinking relation between the purchase decisions and their outcomes brings instrumentality to consumption. The article draws attention to the need to move inward and ask oneself what, why, how, and whom while making a purchase decision for any product. Creating strategic business models that make smart decisions for inducing sustainability and ensuring customer retention and profit-making for the business is the current need of the time to bring strategy and consciousness together.
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