How Business Rules Can Help Your Socially Conscious Consumer
cheryl wilson 270003VHSH firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  business-rules decision-management-softw... green-products point-of-sale brms social-responsibility business-rule-management
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I was pleasantly surprised by this data point: According to a recent Nielsen survey of 28,000 online respondents in 56 countries, 66 percent of global consumers say they prefer to buy products and services from companies that give back to society.
This stat was plucked from a McKinsey on Society post, How to Turn Consumers Green, contributed by Dan Ariely and Aline Gruneisen of Duke University. According to Ariely/Gruneisen, we shouldn’t be too surprised by such a large self-reporting of magnanimity because research supports the notion that humans can, and do, make decisions that favor others, even sacrificing immediate personal gain and comfort to do so.
Why does the socially conscious consumer need help?
As it turns out, being socially conscious is not that easy. There’s something called the “Intention-Behavior Gap,” which Ariely explains like this: “… we do care, but we have a hard time aligning our behaviors with our intentions,” which is why so many diet, exercise and energy conservation resolutions fail. And a reason why we may have trouble aligning behaviors with intentions is that our tendency to focus on the present makes future goals less potent by comparison, makes them easier to put off until tomorrow. Additionally, the sheer size and complexity of certain environmental issues makes it hard to project success (e.g., “it’s no easy task for anyone to calculate the environmental impact of a one-degree increase in global temperature”).
On the positive side: There are some approaches, described by Ariely/Gruneisen, that can overcome our intention-behavior gap, such as focusing on “one-time decisions that have a large impact on energy consumption” like installing energy-efficient appliances when you buy or renovate a house. And some of these approaches can be enabled by business rule management technology.
Green Applications for Business Rules? Yes, the Socially Conscious Cross-sell / Upsell and the Socially Conscious Loyalty Reward Program
Whether it’s a large one-time decision or many of those small, everyday purchase decisions, it seems that consumers are most apt to change old habits when:
· their habitual decision process is interrupted at key activity points, such as when they’re buying a house or shopping for lightbulbs
· intervention is automatic (this is why automatic payroll deposits to savings accounts work so well)
According to Ariely/Gruneisen, humans find it “cognitively exhausting” when confronted by too many energy-related decisions. So, there’s an opportunity for companies to help their consumers make better, greener decisions at the point of sale and to reward them for their social responsibility. For example, using a business rule management system, imagine blending three types of decision at the point of sale, like this botanical beauty care retailer (page 53) to help your socially conscious consumers make greener purchases, while increasing their satisfaction and your sales revenue at the same time.
Applying this case study to a socially conscious retail experience, imagine your altruistic consumer entering her new magnetic loyalty card into your system while her items are scanned. Using the business rules in a common repository, your operational decision management system would do three things:
· automatically calculate the price of the purchased items taking into account all applicable promotions and coupons for the best possible price
· automatically calculate the number of “socially responsible” reward/loyalty points, according to the rules of your reward program (e.g., green consumers get double points for green purchases)
· automatically recommend “greener” or more energy-efficient products to buy next, printing out the coupons for those products
When the card is returned to your customer, the back of the card shows the total price and discount rate, the current balance of socially-smart loyalty points and the green product recommended as the next purchase. The printing on the card is erased the next time your customer uses it, and the card is reprinted with new messages. The automatic calculations deliver a personalized, less cognitively exhausting, experience for the socially conscious customer.
Why should you care about using business rules to help your socially conscious consumers?
In a related McKinsey on Society post -- The Rise of Mindful Consumption – the author discusses recent research that points to how consumer trust in corporations has declined recently, which creates an opportunity for organizations to make “trust” a competitive brand differentiator.
“Consumers today respond to companies that care about them and the larger world. When we asked our respondents to name the most important thing a company can stand for, ‘kindness and empathy’ shot up by 391 percent between 2008 and 2012. This was the single biggest movement in any brand attribute over that time period—and in the history of our model going back to 1993.”
So, given the current socioeconomic, political and environmental pressures, companies can help their consumers make more socially conscious choices at key activity points, like the point of sale. In doing so, you can gain some goodwill and trust from your consumers, while increasing revenue by supporting the natural tendencies of humans to give back, to link their good intentions to day-to-day behaviors. And business rules or operational decision management systems are key enabling technologies that can link those good intentions to equally good actions.