Business case for equality shows retail opportunity

ShoppingWould you return to a store and part with your money for goods or services if you had been disrespected by its staff because of your culture, gender or sexuality?

The answer is most likely no, and new research from Deloitte shows that the business case for diversity is something that retailers can’t ignore – with one in three customers from diverse backgrounds ceasing a sale in the past 12 months because they were not treated fairly or respectfully.

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The new report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Deloitte found businesses that fail to meet the needs of their diverse customers are missing out on sales and customer loyalty. But this isn’t to say retailers aren’t cognisant of the complex issue at hand.

“When retailers found out that someone had been treated disrespectfully or unfairly, two thirds of the sample [1,200 consumers nationwide] said that their issue was dealt with appropriately, so I do think that there was a sort of authenticity and appropriateness of the response once it was made known,” Juliet Bourke, Deloitte Human Capital partner and co-author of the report told IRW.

“But the issue is that retailers and product designers are not always looking for what works for diverse customers, so it’s that sort of proactive mindset – are our products and services designed for the ‘non-template’ customer or do we really assume basically everybody is kind of the same?”

On the flipside, the report also found that when organisations send a message – which says that they’re supportive of marriage equality, gender equality, disability, cultural background and age – customers are likely to be influenced irrespective of whether the campaign was targeted at their particular demographic. Half of those surveyed were positively influenced by messages of equality.

“The old advertising mantra was ’sex sells’, now it’s ‘equality sells’,” said Bourke. “In a diverse and globally accessible marketplace, customers have choices.”

Organisations often imagine customers come in one shape and size and overlook diversity, according to Bourke.

“And that’s a huge opportunity…many customers feel alienated by political messages of disrespect and we want to express our humanity and we can do that with our buying choices and the brands we support.”

“The campaign message also affects up to one in two consumers who practice a noticeable faith, who also say they have already made a buying decision in the last 12 months based on ‘your’ support for gender equality,” said Bourke.

“The research is saying our community is more likely to lean into a message which is pro-equality and make a purchasing decision rather than be turned off by it.

ANZ’s head of marketing, Australia, Carolyn Bendall said this year, the banking institution had more people than ever participating in the Mardi Gras Parade with more than 200 staff, family and friends marching.

Meanwhile cosmetics retailer, Sephora, celebrated this year’s Mardi Gras event with in-store events including colourful treats, flashy glitter makeovers, a live DJ and beauty offers at its Pitt St flagship in Sydney’s CBD.

Bourke said the research has had resonance with retailers as we have all had experiences as consumers that simply aren’t good enough.

“When people talk about the business case for diversity, they are often talking about a one-to-one relationship, ie if I have this product or service I will capture that market,” she said.

“But what this research shows is that it’s a message of one to many, that taps into this underlying sense of who we want to be.

“We think it’s all about the individual but community is our village.”

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