By: Alyssa Mariano, Co-founder and CEO of Bazaara

Alyssa Mariano, Co-founder and CEO of Bazaara

Last year, the harrowing outbreak of COVID affected life in unfortunate ways: people were laid off, losing their main source of income; businesses shut down; and worst of all some lost their lives. The sudden onset meant that no one was prepared for such devastating changes, unsuspecting of how it would affect daily life and business. Retailers had to think on their feet, in the face of unexpected quarantine and limited store capacities. E-commerce was already gaining traction before the pandemic, and the shutdown of physical stores provided a final massive push for digitized retail platforms.

One of the most apparent consequences of COVID was the need for businesses to reevaluate their core mission, values, vision, and purpose. Last year’s blow to the economy shed a light on the damaging effects of certain industries, ultimately driving consumers to make purposeful decisions about where and how they spend their money. Specifically, there is a shift in spending habits, with more becoming conscious shoppers and wanting to support sustainable products and services. Another factor is the loss of jobs, resulting in decreased spending power, compelling many to be more mindful about spending.  

On consumer patterns, individuals grouped with “Gen-Z” make up a significant portion of consumers, preferring brands with a message they can resonate with, and those accessible at their fingertips. Technology has played a crucial role in a social aspect during lockdown, but perhaps even more so in the small business boom of the last year. Younger generations grasp the dire need for more sustainably sourced and made products, understanding the urgency of an environmental change. For example, 7 out of 10 Gen Zs react to social sustainability and 6 out of 10 react to environmental sustainability causes. With these numbers in mind, it’s important as a brand to choose a cause that aligns with your business’s mission, vision, and values. 

A good example is Patagonia. The outdoor clothing company acts on environmental issues around the world. It promises to donate 1% of its firm’s sales income each year to grass-roots environmental charities, and pledges to drive positive social and environmental change. While the company focuses its marketing and retail strategy on outdoor clothing for its customers, from hiking and skiing to surfing and more, they take on initiatives that show consumers they are also passionate. Not to mention, the CEO is a former rock climber, so the support for these initiatives from the top is evident, adding to the brand’s story, too.

With the drive to appeal to a new generation of consumers who are certain to endorse companies that align with their values, brands have had to restructure the pillars of their business and ethics. Many businesses have invested time and money to increase their visibility on social media, knowing many young adults support brands that have a story to tell. Developing and initiating an online service platform is imperative now for trackable growth.

Building a purpose-driven brand starts with finding out what the customers care about and aligning those concerns to the business’ goals and strategy. Once the mission and vision are set, all that’s left to do is to action and commit. Consumers want a brand that is authentic, unfiltered and spontaneous, but mindful of each decision that is made that may affect them or the industry.

Here are some tips on how to develop a purpose-driven brand in the age of a global pandemic: 

  • Be more authentic and unrestrictive in communications and marketing
  • Involve individuals that have contributed to the making of the brand in communications and marketing
  • Create inspiration through storytelling 
  • Generate interest into the brand’s narrative and purpose
  • Enable collaboration and entrepreneurship with consumers and brand partners 
  • Create to add value for the consumer throughout marketing communications channels

While I am championing secondhand and vintage fashion by day, I am extremely passionate about the environment and climate change. We only have one earth, so who is going to take care of it, if not us? This was the main reason I decided to launch Bazaara – helping to facilitate secondhand fashion sales (instead of the consumer buying new) can help offset approximately 5.9 pounds of CO2 emissions. With the fashion industry being the world’s third largest polluter and second largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and with fast fashion continuing to gain traction, these numbers aren’t sustainable long term. So, I made it our brand’s mission to help decrease the negative impact that the fashion industry has on the environment, contributing instead to make circular fashion the norm, rather than a trend.