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Sustainability and Flooring Marketing: 'Green Should Feel Good'

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on Jan 30, 2012 9:45:00 AM

This is a 3 minute read.
Green and the Retail Experience'Green should feel good' appeared in the January 17-31, 2011 issue of Floor Covering Weekly.

Although focused on sustainability, the article relates green to the retail experience and the marketing of flooring.

Green Should Feel Good

By Christine B. Whittemore

In the midst of the ongoing economic doom & gloom, what has inspired me most is Green. I’m entranced with Green roof and Green wall buildings, GeoHay protecting the Gulf Coast from oil devastation, community-based stewardship of critical waterways such as the Conasauga River, and witnessing my child learn about Green at school as she eagerly participates in community garden projects.

Green is innovative, creative, collaborative and beneficial. It produces tangible results: energy savings, better insulation, diminishing greenhouse gases, protecting the shoreline… It’s a positive journey toward a better world.  Green makes me feel good.

So why doesn’t buying green make me feel better?

In the marketplace, I’m intuitively skeptical of green claims. I assume it’s all or mostly greenwash; I resent being fed a mound of green gobbledygook, signifying nothing, which leaves me feeling that I’ve been had.  Combine that with the complexity of the flooring purchase process sans green, with seemingly thousands of shades of beige to wade through, and I’m stressed before even reaching a decision!

I want to feel good as a result of my purchase decisions. I don’t want to feel stupid and too many aspects of buying – whether green or not – make me feel stupid.

I’m not alone.

According to MSNBC, 15 retail practices really annoy customers! From up-selling, bait and switch and too much fine print, to rebates and constantly rearranging shelves and a few more in-between.  These practices make customers feel stupid, which in turn makes them angry and unlikely to buy.

Many of those irritating retail practices parallel the ‘Sins of Greenwashing’ described in Terrachoice’s 2010 “Sins of Greenwashing” Report.  These include: hidden trade-offs, no proof, vagueness, irrelevance, the lesser of two evils, fibbing and worshipping false labels… The report states that “more than 95% of consumer products claiming to be green were found to commit at least one of the “Sins of Greenwashing”.”  Interestingly, Big Box stores were almost twice as likely to offer legitimate green certifications as either specialty stores or green boutiques. That means that Green is more likely to feel good for customers shopping at Big Box stores…

Imagine banishing the reputation-damaging claims of Greenwash and embracing instead the positives of Green: sincerity, authenticity, transparency, intense customer focus, fierce refusal to misrepresent and a desire to involve your constituents in this Green journey.

Here are tips for ensuring that Green Feels Good for you and your customers.

1. Embrace transparency.  Jack Laurie in Ft. Wayne, IN deliberately replaced all product labels so they transparently stated pricing to establish trust with customers. That was in November 2008 when I visited. Don’t deliberately obfuscate. When in doubt, simplify and clarify.

2. Assess how green your green products are. Understand your green claims. If they aren’t fully green, be realistic about what benefits they offer.  When in doubt, banish Greenwash!

3. Participate in your community’s Green programs and activities. Go help clean up your local river. Donate dated carpet samples to community gardens to keep weeds down. Offer your store as a community meeting place. Green is social; it’s about community. Be part of it!

4. Review your own business’ energy practices. Are you energy efficient? Do you recycle? How well do you and your business associates practice Green? If you look at your processes from your customers’ perspectives, might you uncover improvements that also support your customer-focus? 

5. Make your store more efficient for customers.  Time is our most precious resource. Can you rethink your store so it resolves the frustrations customers experience when they shop? Can you edit your store selection so that the options make sense for your customers? Can you make better use of the various communication tools available to listen to and communicate with customers? 

Green should feel good.  Are you ready to make buying Green feel good, too? Do you want to sell Real Green? Or are you just going to slather on the Greenwash?


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Topics: Floor Covering marketing, retail experience, FCW

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