by Brandon Pemberton -- August 21, 2014

A handful of young e-commerce retailers are increasingly focusing on “conscientious consumers” who prefer well-designed and fairly-priced product made by factories that offer equitable and safe work environments for employees. These start-ups are working in tandem with large established retailers and brands that have made ethics in manufacturing a corporate mantra.

Retailers Wooing the "Conscientious Consumer"

Everlane and Zady are two outstanding examples of companies that now cater more directly to the growing consumer demand for greater transparency throughout the supply chain. Customers who navigate to the Everlane website are provided with tools that allow them to determine exactly where the products they may purchase have been manufactured. In addition, a short narrative about the discovery process, the factory capabilities and its owners is nestled in the site alongside photographs of the facility and the workers. 
Another good example of this approach can be found on the Zady website. Though Zady sources clothing primarily in the U.S., its website provides consumers with additional information identifying where the raw materials are sourced and where they are sewn together. This approach allows Everlane and Zady to neatly offer buying opportunities to a segment of consumers who are disproportionately interested in the ethics of the manufacturing process that produced the clothes they put on their back.

Changing Buying Behavior and Consumer Expectations

The connections being made between consumers and producers is exciting and the resulting changes to buying behavior and consumer expectations will continue to impact the larger retail format. Providing customers with greater information about the origin of the products they buy will inevitably deepen the level of brand and product intimacy in the same way that nutritional information on packaged foods does. Retailers have an opportunity to change their relationship with consumers by supporting the desire of these customers to make more informed buying decisions about the products they buy, including the source of the product (and all of its component parts).

A New Dimension for Brand Building

Linking the consumer to the manufacturer creates a new powerful dimension for brand building. For retailers that pursue this strategy, the producer becomes just as important a component of the brand identity as the product design, quality and customer experience. This connection to the manufacturer allows interested consumers to spend more time with the retailer and the products. Retailers can deepen that relationship even further by bringing more transparency to the source of manufacturing for house brands, as well as by partnering with key vendors that are able to do the same.