The Future of Commerce

The Senior Manager of Social Impact at Shopify discusses the future of commerce and industry trends when it comes to social impact and eComm.
Future of Commerce

Impact Exchange EP 12: The Future of Commerce

Special Guest: Katie Boothby-Kung; Senior Manager of Social Impact at Shopify

On this episode of the Impact Exchange, we were joined by Sr. Manager of Social Impact at Shopify, Katie Boothby-Kung to discuss the future of commerce and industry trends when it comes to social impact. Katie shared social impact trends that they have seen at Shopify, and discussed ways that brands of all sizes can integrate social impact into their business strategy and customer journeys.

Defining Social Impact

When we think about social impact, it’s often viewed as a singular strategy— sustainability versus donations, fair wages versus non-toxic materials and ingredients, and so forth. But social impact should be a collective desire to do good in multiple ways and finding the intersection where doing good and doing well are balanced. There is no one “best” way to demonstrate social impact and brands who can diversify their activations for social impact will fare better in the long run than brands with a singular focus.

Social Impact at Shopify

At Shopify, Katie says that they’re thinking about social impact on a daily basis. As a company that builds products to help entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses, there is a huge opportunity to help drive impact for these businesses, large or small.

Environmental Sustainability

Shopify has taken an integrated approach to environmental sustainability in a way that their merchant partners can get involved with as well. Shopify launched their own sustainability fund to work on their initiatives to offset carbon emissions and also created the Offset app that their merchant partners can download to their store to help offset their shipping. Through the Offset app, the total emissions that were generated by a Shopify merchant’s shipped orders is calculated, which can then be used to neutralize their emissions that contribute to climate change. Additionally, users of the app can see the total amount of shipping emissions that they have offset and see the environmental impact benefit of those offsets, like how many trees they’ve paid to protect.

Connecting like-minded merchants through a community of impact

Shopify noticed a need for community from their merchant partners to be easily connected with other social enterprise brands. To fill this need, they created a slack channel where Shopify merchant partners could come together and talk about specific issues their businesses face and can learn from one another. Through this community, Shopify can also learn more about their merchant partners’ needs and identify any gaps that can be built for.

A great example of building for a gap in experience is Recurate. Recurate is working in a unique space in the resale economy, and saw the opportunity of bringing resale customers back to the brands they already love. 78% of textiles in pre-production are going to waste. Through their Shopify app, Recurate enables the customers of Shopify merchants to resell their used products directly on the merchant’s store, which creates a resale marketplace that helps boost traffic, sales, and sustainability.

Past, Present, and Future of Commerce

Even just five years ago, the thought of social impact and commerce coinciding together was rare. In the past, these two concepts were mutually exclusive from each other but as time goes on, more and more businesses are learning that they can use the power of their companies and of eCommerce to make a positive impact. Whether businesses are changing the way that they are sourcing materials, the way that they package their products, or even the way that they give back, they are harnessing the power that business has on our communities and the world.

Brands now more than ever are beginning to have conversations about social impact, and furthermore, including their customers in on these conversations and trying to understand what is important to them and what they value most when it comes to social impact. As conscious consumption grows, consumers are going to continue to choose purpose-driven brands and will ditch those whose values don’t align with their own.

Social Impact Amongst a Global Pandemic

No one has been unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s been amazing to see the amount of brands who have quickly stepped up to help their communities in a variety of ways. Some brands have been donating funds while others have been making masks and delivering care packages. The amount of positive impact that has come from the pandemic is nothing short of incredible. Brands were becoming social enterprises overnight, without even knowing it.

While we’ve been loving the good that brands of all sizes have been doing in response to the pandemic, we can’t help but wonder, “What if brands were this focused on social impact all the time?”. If every brand who stepped up to help their communities during the pandemic placed emphasis on social impact and donated time, funds, or resources year-round, imagine the amazing impact that our world would see.

Generation Impact

Generation Impact (Millennials and Gen Z) are changing the way that brands think about social impact, because these consumers are demanding it. This generation of consumers are micro-philanthropists and they’re looking beyond the product to focus on what the brand stands for and the people behind it. It’s no longer enough to offer lower prices on products to stay competitive. 71% of Millennials will pay more for something if they know that some of the profits will go towards charity.

And it’s no longer enough to make vague, blanket statements such as, “ethically-sourced”, because these conscious consumers will be seeking details on what your brand does to meet these standards. Generation Impact is buying with their values and voting with their wallets. They’re taking more time to check out a brand’s About Us page and are being more mindful about where they are spending their dollars, because they’re looking for retailers to help create impact during these turbulent times.

Social Impact in Action

One of Katie’s favorite social enterprises is Mara Hoffman. As a brand, they’ve done extensive research to ensure that they are sustainably sourced, that their products are made from sustainable materials, and also that the people who are creating their garments are being paid and treated properly. Even more, Mara Hoffman knows that it can be difficult for smaller brands to join the sustainability space because of their resource limitations. So they have created buying networks where they invite smaller merchants to come and join in on their purchase orders so that these smaller brands can buy the smaller quantities that they can afford while still enjoying sustainable materials.

Another great example of a social enterprise is one of our own partners, Blind Barber. Through their giving activations, Blind Barber has brought the experience of loyalty into the conversation and have made it a part of their entire mission. Social impact is integrated throughout the entirety of their customer journey, so they truly are a brand that is rooted in impact. They give back a percentage of proceeds on every purchase to the causes that their customers support, and they also empower their customers to use loyalty points to redeem additional donations.

Get Involved

It’s clear that the demand for social impact is only growing and conscious consumption will continue to shift buyer behavior in favor of purpose-driven brands. If you can take one thing away from this, we hope it’s the understanding that brands of all sizes can become social enterprises. If your brand is interested in becoming more socially-minded but are not sure where to start, we encourage you to check out Shopify’s Compass Courses. They are launching four new courses that will cover how to launch and grow a social enterprise on Shopify, regardless of brand size.

You can also connect with other socially-minded Shopify merchants through Shopify’s Social Enterprises Slack channel - sign up here.

This is a very exciting time for retailers to really get involved and go deeper into their mission and values and bring forth what they stand for to better engage with their customers. It’s never too early to get involved with social impact, and one incremental step is better than no step at all.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about Katie’s perspective on the following:

  • Where the future of social impact is going
  • How brands of all sizes can engage with purpose-driven consumers
  • What incremental steps your brand can take to become a social enterprise

We hope you enjoy this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time...stay healthy, stay mindful, and create impact.

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