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Taking a page from Costco to win with Conscious Consumers

Close your eyes and imagine this is your world. You are the CMO of a retailer with the following business model:

  • Customers have to pay a membership fee just to enter your store
  • You have no advertising budget
  • In-store signage is intentionally lacking, encouraging consumers to wander
  • Limited product selection and payment options
  • Cashiers don’t bag purchases

It seems like a nightmare, right?

So just how has Costco gone against conventional retail wisdom and become a $100 billion giant with 64 million passionate members?

Everything that is working for Costco is in line with Conscious Consumer thinking, especially when compared to their biggest competitor, Walmart’s Sam’s Club.

Without a consumer-facing marketing budget, Costco relies heavily on their employees to be their ambassadors and has been a leader with regard to the benefits and compensation they offer employees. 88% of Costco employees are full-time with access to company-sponsored health insurance and are paid on average $20.89 compared to $12.67 at Sam’s Club. CEO Craig Jelinek:

“I just think people need to make a living wage with benefits. It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.”

These straightforward business practices make Costco a good corporate citizen and respected by Conscious Consumers, despite prices being 3-4% cheaper at Sam’s Club. Conscious Consumers are willing to pay this slight premium because they believe in Costco’s social purpose. For Conscious Consumers, this is why they are members of Costco. By voting with their dollar at Costco they are demonstrating their beliefs.

A recent PwC study of workers and managers found an increasing disconnect between younger employees and older bosses when it comes to the defining what that business’ purpose is or should be. (To download this study, click here) Shannon Schuyler of PwC:

“The CEO is thinking it’s really around business development and revenue generation. Then the employees are saying ‘We don’t care about that part.’ They want something to bring meaning to what they do, and that can give them a strong sense of community.”

The PwC study asked both employees and business leaders to list their top three priorities and a distinct disconnect emerged.

Becca Graphic

 

“Senior managers can see purpose is important, but they are not changing their behavior,” says Schuyler. “They say they want this type of worker, and the workforce is saying it needs this in order to be loyal and stay. But they’re not recruiting people differently, evaluating people differently, or rewarding them differently.”

Pivoting back to Costco, they clearly are following this advice based on their 90% membership renewal rates and low (5%) employee turnover, while also demonstrating that when brands are focused and clear in their communication they can out market their competition versus outspend them.

Take a moment and think about what you believe your company’s purpose/mission is and then ask a few younger/junior employees in your organization what they believe it is. If the disconnect is similar to what the PwC study shows, give us a call and let us help you communicate more effectively and efficiently not only to your consumers, but also your internal audience.

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