Engaging consumers in corporate social responsibility

Engage consumers Corporate Social Responsibility

Chances are pretty good that you’ve had the experience of being asked to donate to charity when checking out at your favorite retail store. Whether you consider these “checkout” appeals annoying or appealing, one cannot ignore the fact that according to one study, 71% of consumers said they have participated in a checkout campaign, and 55% said they enjoyed doing it. Additionally, many indicate they will contribute again in the future when given an opportunity.

A successful way to contribute to charity

The amount of money raised through these programs is revealing. One study found that point of sale charity donations raised $441 million in 2016. In aggregate, these large point of sale donation programs have raised over $4 billion over the past three decades. The practice has become embedded in our everyday lives.

Ways to engage consumers beyond checkout campaigns

There are the traditional “donate at the register” campaigns, but there are other ways to engage consumers in charitable giving. Like many of you, I recently participated in Amazon Prime Day. When I logged in, Amazon reminded me to go to Amazon Smiles to take advantage of my desire to donate to one of my favorite charities, St. Jude Children’s Hospital,  as a result of my purchases. In this example, I didn’t have to do anything extra – just make my purchases. Super easy! Amazon made me a loyal customer and made a donation to an organization important to me.

Engaging consumers in CSR is good business

Why do companies conduct these checkout charity campaigns and other consumer facing donation programs? It’s very simple. It’s good for their business. Consumers expect and want companies to give back to the community and demonstrate good corporate citizenship. While these programs are just one way companies engage, they are very visible to consumers, employees, and other key stakeholders.

Employees become ambassadors for the cause and invite consumers to participate. Checkout campaigns raise significant amounts of money but little corporate dollars are involved. Companies get recognition and the visibility without expending a lot of corporate resources.

Positive brand association with a cause

Point of sale campaigns are effective because they are often focused on a single charity or cause. This gives a company an opportunity to be associated with a cause. Having a single cause makes it easier to communicate with consumers and demonstrates a commitment by the company.

The cause does matter. Care should be taken to identify a cause that is relevant in today’s environment, appeals to a broad constituency, and fits with the company’s values, mission, and objectives. A study by Engage for Good found the most appealing causes were children’s health, disease-related charities, and campaigns focused on animals.

Corporate Social Responsibility continues to be a differentiator in the minds of consumers.  With more than 25 years of benchmark data, Cone Communications has consistently shown a steady increase in consumer’s willingness to purchase a product or support a company with a social benefit. Consumers have a more positive image of the company, are more likely to trust a company, and demonstrate loyalty to the company if they see an authentic commitment to social responsibility.

Checkout donation programs best practices:

  • Be authentic. Consumers want and expect transparency and authenticity from brands.
  • Use incentives such as discounts or coupons to encourage participation. It is estimated that 40% of companies offer some type of incentive to encourage donations such as bonus loyalty points, coupon books, and early access to sales and promotions.
  • Connect the donation to the company’s loyalty program.
  • Ensure a strong fit between the company and the cause. For example, a grocery store raising funds to combat hunger is very compelling and demonstrates authenticity.
  • Allow for competition between stores and employees.
  • Provide recognition of employees who are actively engaged and promote donation opportunities to customers.

The top five retail checkout champions in 2016:

  • eBay raised $56.6 million for over 34,000 charities
  • Walmart and Sam’s Club raised $37 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
  • Petco raised $28.4 million for the Petco Foundation
  • McDonald’s raised $281 million for Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Costco raised $22.5 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Just this week, we learned that Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals raises more than 60% of its revenue from the retail sector and primarily through checkout campaigns.

Checkout charity is just one opportunity to engage consumers, but it is a lucrative one. It’s a win-win for both charities and companies, and consumers like it.  The way consumers engage with retailers is changing but “doing good in the world is becoming a higher priority for consumers and employees.”