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Socially conscious consumers support causes through purchases, study finds

March 27, 2012
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Forty-six percent of global consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society, according to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Citizenship Survey. The New York City-based market research firm survey was comprised of more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries and defined the respondents as socially conscious consumers.

“It’s clear that corporate social responsibility efforts resonate with a specific group of consumers,” said Nic Covey, vice president of Nielsen Cares, Nielsen’s global corporate social responsibility program, in a statement. “Marketers need to know who those consumers are in order to maximize the social and business return of their cause marketing efforts. This understanding allows brands to engage in social impact efforts that appeal to the right consumers with the right causes and through the right channels.”

Overall, younger consumers are more willing to spend extra for products and services from socially responsible companies, the study finds. Fifty-one percent of all respondents aged 15 to 39 are willing to pay extra for such products and services compared to 37 percent of respondents older than age 40.

Sixty-three percent of consumers younger than age 40 consult social media when making purchase decisions and are most concerned about environmental, educational and hunger causes, according to the study.

Of the consumers in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America, 55 percent, 53 percent and 49 percent, respectively, responded that they are more willing to pay extra for products and services from socially responsible companies compared to consumers in North America and Europe, of which 35 percent and 32 percent, respectively, indicated a willingness to spend more. According to Nielsen’s survey, the highest concentration of socially conscious consumers is in the Philippines, where 68 percent of respondents are willing to pay extra for products, and the lowest concentration is in the Netherlands, where 21 percent of respondents indicated a willingness to spend more.

Among 18 causes reviewed, Nielsen’s study finds that 66 percent of socially conscious respondents prioritize environmental sustainability, 56 percent prioritize improvements to science, technology, engineering and math education, and 53 percent prioritize the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger for companies implementing programs.

“Knowing what causes are most important to the socially conscious consumer may help brands prioritize their social investments,” Covey said in a statement. “The next step is to understand precisely what causes are important to a brand’s individual customers.”

When it comes to brands and advertising, 95 percent of global, socially conscious consumers trust recommendations from people they know and 76 percent look for opinions and information posted by other consumers online, the study shows. Socially conscious consumers are 13 percent more likely than other survey respondents to use social media to help make purchase decisions, it adds.

“In order for cause marketing efforts to affect sales, customers must first be aware of a company’s efforts,” Covey said in a statement. “Nielsen’s information indicates that social media is a critical tool for effective cause marketing.”

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