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Consumers get socially conscious

As people around the world become more aware of their environmental impact, products and companies must evolve, writes THOMAS VAN DER LINDE, LG’s General Business Manager.

The stereotype of the spacey tree hugger is well and truly dead. Today’s eco-bunny isn’t found chained to a tree, they’re your average young consumer who chooses to engage critically with the brands they consume.

According to BBMG, more than a third of the global population are ‘aspirationals’, who believe they have a responsibility to consumer brands that are good for the environment and society. That accounts for more than 2 billion consumers around the world.

What’s interesting about these surveys is that the most socially conscious consumers are found in emerging markets. A 2014 Nielsen study found that 63% of Africans feel they should buy socially responsible brands, compared to just 42% in North America and 40% in Europe.

Among consumers in developing nations, there is a generation gap between those willing to pay more for socially conscious brands. The study found so-called Millennials were much more agreeable to sustainability efforts than those 35 and above. Meanwhile, a second Nielsen survey entitled The Global Socially Conscious Consumer identified environmental sustainability as the leading concern among under 20s.

These attitudes are only set to become more prevalent as younger generations become an even greater percentage of consumers. Pertinently for companies, these consumers are not afraid to use their voices when it comes to causes they believe in. Lip service to environmental causes is not enough when anyone with access to a smartphone can fact check information and call brands out on social media.

Engaging with these socially conscious consumers isn’t easy, especially when it’s become positively trendy for brands to crow about their green credentials. In South Africa, just about every company of a certain size has a corporate social investment (CSI) strategy in place, leading to a natural wariness from consumers. The term “greenwashing” has been coined to disparage those companies that spend more money marketing how environmentally conscious they are than on actual efforts.

According to the Target Group Index, the largest single source brand survey in South Africa, local consumers are very willing to spend more money on socially conscious brands. They advise, however, that in order to win the hearts and minds of consumers, “marketers must be sure to get their green marketing messages aligned with consumer expectations.”

An appliance that’s been marketed as green but breaks down after six months is a good example of a misalignment. Another example would be a product that’s sustainably sourced but remains unaffordable to the target market.

Get the balance right and consumer loyalty will naturally follow. Woolworths, which recently embarked on a campaign with Pharrell Williams focused on sustainability, is one of South Africa’s most valuable brands. The brand has committed itself to ethical trade and sustainable production methods since 2007.

Today’s socially conscious consumer is a connected one, so it’s no surprise that the electronics industry is leading the way in consumer-first corporate sustainability practices. Companies like LG are making great strides in bringing long-lasting, energy efficient products to market. The majority of its products carry Energy Star ratings, a label that designates savings of $150 million in electricity costs over a product’s lifetime.

Nor are these efforts limited to the products themselves. The company has an e-waste programmes active around the world that seek to recycle electronic waste like old cell phones and discarded packaging. In the face of load shedding and electricity shortages, LG’s Switch-On campaign highlights energy-saving tips and educates consumers on what certain energy ratings mean.

As consumers choose to engage with brands such as these in increasing numbers, other companies have incentives to improve their own sustainability efforts. The socially conscious consumer is one with an enormous amount of power right now, and that can only be good news.

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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