Great User Experience, the key to mainstreaming sustainable solutions and behaviours



As an eco-minded person, I have always been intrigued by the gap between people’s good intentions towards environmental issues and the reality of their actions. 73% of global consumers say they are willing to green their consumption to reduce their environmental impact, however, the market share of most of these product categories are under 5%. Thankfully, developing my expertise in Customer/User Experience has made me realise that this emerging discipline could be game-changing to bridge the attitude-behaviour gap in sustainable consumption.

Sustainable technologies and services are still niche

If you are reading this article you probably belong to the early adopters of 100% renewable energy providers, organic fruit & veg box deliveries or even beeswax food wraps - if you’ve never seen them check them out, they’re great.

As you are probably surrounded by like-minded people, you may also be biased to think that these types of new sustainable services are gaining a lot of momentum.

The reality is there are many green brands and start-ups but very few have actually scaled up or contributed to the emergence of significant green categories. If we look at the UK market in 2019, organic food and drinks represented only 1.6% of the market.

What are the barriers to wider adoption of green products and services?

Let’s just focus on the potential market, the 73% of consumer saying they would definitely change how they consume to reduce their environmental footprint and the 38% of consumers willing to pay extra for eco-friendly products.

The reality is that these well-intentioned shoppers often opt for the regular option because green alternatives are limited, below standard quality or have poor product design, bad purchase experience, or aren’t convenient or available.

On the other hand, the last two decades have seen some of today’s most valuable brands emerge by mainstreaming disruptive practices and even shaping new customer expectations.

The barriers to adoption of green alternatives and the success of Apple, Uber, Airbnb alongside a few green brands such as Patagonia or Tesla have a lot to do with user experience.

The art of outstanding User Experience

Customer or User experience* covers all the interactions between an organisation and its users across channels and over time, from the consideration to the client stages. It is the perceived result of all marketing and sales activities. It's about brands creating positive emotions and enhancing users’ lifestyles. For this reason, I would even say that price is part of the overall customer experience because its perception influences the user's expectations and can also create both positive or negative sentiments.

How to craft great customer experience?

Through user-centered design, which aims at solving a problem or pain point and catering to users’ needs, whether they are expressed or not.

Let’s look at Uber. The service was created to solve many pain points such as struggling to find a cab, waiting in the rain, high fares, rude taxi drivers, having to get cash out to pay…and now people use Uber as an alternative to public transport and continue to use it even when the price surge makes it more expensive than the regular taxi.

The other key aspect in which the leading brands excel is implementing seamless user journeys:

  • Promoting their products and services on offline and digital channels and across all distribution points that are relevant to their audience and category.

  • Making sure the omni-channel journey is frictionless to maximise conversion.

  • Providing excellent onboarding and after-sales service so that clients use the service, experience its benefits and become advocates.

Customer experience excellence is the new growth hack

"Customer Experience is the new competitive battlefield" Gartner, 2015

Luckily that is something some leading sustainable brands understood a while ago.

Think about a Tesla car, a Method spray bottle or a Patagonia coat, they are so well designed and marketed that most of their customers actually don’t buy them because they are sustainable but just because they’re great. When the customer experience is amazing, from purchase to product look and usability, the sustainability aspect is the cherry on the cake, but not necessarily the top buying criteria...Great customer experience becomes the Trojan horse of sustainability, and that’s probably the best way to mainstream green products.

“Companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above the market.” Bain & Co.

The beauty of all this is that achieving great customer experience shouldn’t cost the earth. When ingrained into product design, marketing strategy, company culture, great customer experience offers unbeatable ROI, because it creates a virtuous circle where prospects are efficiently converted into clients and are so happy they bring you referrals.

customer journey forming a virtuous circle
The end game: creating a virtuous buying journey

Author: Marie Geneste, founder @ The C Collective

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