Communicating Authentic Sustainability Stories with Bluebird's Jamie McCroskery
From carbon footprint to circularity, sustainability buzzwords have entered the DTC founder’s everyday vocabulary and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Today’s emerging brands are making bold sustainable claims, especially the ones targeting young consumers. According to a First Insight study, Gen Z is 73% more likely to pay 10% or more for sustainable goods.
For any new personal care or apparel brand launching in today’s landscape, sustainability is practically table stakes. So, how can brands tell if they’re actually making a difference and driving long-term growth? And, how can they communicate their sustainability journey to customers?
Bluebird is making it easier to produce low carbon and sustainable goods while helping brands communicate the sustainability of their products back to customers. Working with cutting-edge upstarts (Dieux Skin, Plus) to more established brands (Beautycounter, Glossier), their team is on a mission to decarbonize the consumer products industry.
To better understand how brands can measure their own sustainability efforts and authentically communicate those practices with customers, we chatted with Jamie McCroskery, cofounder of Bluebird.
The New Era of Sustainability
According to a recent Deloitte survey, climate change/protecting the environment is Gen Z’s number one concern.
Brands know that younger customers care about sustainability, yet they have no clue where to start or even how to measure the work they’re already doing.
In terms of understanding their own environmental impact, brands have no information. They’re trusting vendors. They’re hiring consultants. But, they don’t know what’s really going on and how to tell those sustainability stories to customers.
They’re building out an easy way to diagnose a single product, so brands can better understand the sustainable impact they’re driving and how to best communicate that with customers.
“It’s all about getting an end-to-end view of your materials, transportation, manufacturing, and packaging. You can’t do that with some online calculator,” says Jamie.
Bluebird’s core technology helps brands approximate carbon emissions and product circularity. Their software is especially helpful for brands within apparel and beauty/personal care—two of the top ten carbon-emitting supply chains in the world.
Most personal care brands have been building out products the same way for as long as they can remember.
Now, due to the sustainability wave in ecommerce, they have to learn and internalize a new skill set, which includes carbon measurements and recyclability analysis.
“You need real-time information about sustainability. With data, you can understand how you’re doing and how to start talking about sustainability with your customers.”
Getting Started: A Gut Check on Sustainability
At its core, Bluebird is a software company—internalizing sustainability knowledge and creating algorithms that assess the sustainability of materials at scale.
Every brand has their own sustainability story.
For some of Bluebird’s clients, sustainability is the cornerstone of their entire brand (i.e. Plus), but that’s not the case for everyone.
For that reason, the Bluebird team always starts with a high-level orientation about sustainability—what it means, buzzwords, and best practices.
When they’re partnering with beauty/personal care brands, most of that conversation revolves around carbon emissions and circularity—two of the biggest environmental issues in that space.
Next, the team dives into their entire supply chain and creates a roadmap for improving and ultimately communicating sustainability practices back to the customer.
That storytelling component is at the heart of Bluebird’s work today.
“We help brands authentically live out their values and communicate their good work back to the customer. Customers can see the data, so they’re not just taking the brand’s word for it.”
Sustainability Drivers, Obstacles, and Opportunities
Regulation is one of the top sustainability drivers, which doesn’t exist in the United States today.
But, it exists in Europe. Just in cosmetics alone, the EU has banned 1,000+ harmful chemicals.
The US is lagging behind. And, that’s in part because sustainability—especially packaging—is hard to get right.
Jamie says, “The whole market around recycled plastic infrastructure is absolutely wild.”
A few years back, the price of recycled plastic was much lower because it was seen as an “inferior product.” But, now companies are buying up all the PCR in the world, and smaller brands can’t hit minimums or even get reasonable prices.
Packaging is what consumers see and expect as it relates to sustainability efforts. But, in some cases, supply chain improvements are even more impactful than eco-friendly packaging. It’s just invisible to the consumer.
“If you look at the average consumer brand’s carbon emissions profile, most of that number comes from hidden things in the supply chain. Those are actually way easier to change and even more cost-efficient,” says Jamie.
In addition to marketing, down the line, Bluebird hopes to help brands source, produce, and transport low-carbon products. As more brands join the platform, the Bluebird team can negotiate on the brand’s behalf since they’re all buying the same thing.
“Authentic storytelling leads to retention benefits. Either, consumers will feel a warm glow around your product, knowing they made a good choice, or there’ll be a brand-level perception benefit.”
Driving Value and Growth via Authenticity
Bluebird is democratizing access to sustainability tools, so small and medium-sized brands have the same sustainability capabilities as the big guys.
Right now, they’re honing in on telling those authentic, sustainability stories. From their research, they know that when companies act authentically and live out their values, there’s clear positive feedback from customers and retailers.
For some of their clients, they’ve even seen them get way better placement in retailers—because of their authenticity.
The long-term value of sustainability can also be seen through the lens of post-purchase emails. For example, an email that says, “Hey, you made a good choice. Here’s why your purchase is impactful,” can help build trust with a customer. Plus, it leads to that warm glow customers feel when they know they made a good decision.
Those direct improvements impact a brand’s bottom line. Research from NYU Stern shows that from 2015 to 2019, “Sustainably-marketed products grew 7.1x faster than products not marketed as sustainable.”
“People aren’t doing sustainability because it’s going to move metrics immediately. It’s something that customers are asking for, and it’ll lead to value and growth down the line.”
Looking Toward a Sustainable Future
Across the production of sustainable goods, there’s innovation happening everywhere.
New technologies are sprouting up. Now, brands have way more opportunities to differentiate themselves in the market and make real, meaningful improvements.
Plus, the innovative companies producing low-carbon plastics need small brands in order to scale their technology before it’s ready for the Unilevers of the world.
Some brands might think that post-consumer recycled plastic is the only option. But, there’s actually tons of exciting stuff happening behind packaging—and that includes Bluebird’s work.
“From raw materials to formula to packaging to transportation, there’s innovation happening everywhere.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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