Lately, there has been an uptick of coverage and commentary on social issues like climate change, pollution, waste, and the economic divide. This increase in awareness and attention has led to a movement of “minimalism” among Americans who want to live as sustainably as possible, reduce spending on “frivolous” items and focus more on experiences and relationships rather than accumulating things.
The movement, as popular as it may be, hasn’t halted spending altogether. Only a fraction of the population is trading in their homes for tiny houses and reducing their closets to ten items of clothes. However, a much larger portion of the population has become conscious about the way they spend money and accumulate items, looking to reduce unnecessary “things” where they feel it is practical.
With the traditional retail market already experiencing turbulence thanks to digitalization, minimalism can be seen as yet another threat. However, savvy retailers are turning this threat into a differentiator, hitching their wagons directly to the minimalist movement. These retailers and brands have found ways to leverage minimalism to increase rather than decrease the bottom line.
Appealing to the Moralistic Side of Minimalism
Many people who take a minimalist approach to spending do so because they know that so many people go without. A large portion of Americans take for granted the ability to buy new shoes just because we want them, not because we need them. Minimalists view this as an abomination and even a flaw of capitalism. However, those same people still need shoes, so they choose to buy brands with strong corporate social responsibility policies.
Companies like TOMS shoes have managed to find a way to make minimalists feel good about spending money. When someone buys a pair of TOMS, the company donates shoes to a child in need. Other successful companies have adopted this one-for-one approach, as well. Bombas donates socks for every pair they sell, Warby Parker donates eyeglasses, and Twice As Warm donates hats, scarves and gloves. These companies are doing quite well in the market, despite their sometimes higher-than-average price tags.
Greater Focus On Sustainability
Many people who consider themselves to be minimalist are concerned about sustainability. The consumption of things has led to increased pollution, increased human wastage and arguably, they maintain, has not led to any greater sense of happiness.
These consumers want to spend money with companies that are dedicated to sustainability. Clothing company Everlane focuses on sustainability and transparency through their entire operation. Their products are not cheap but construction is durable and the design is classic. The point of Everlane is that their clothes won’t go out of style any time soon, allowing customers to truly get their money’s worth out of the items.
More recently, Adidas announced the company will only use recycled plastics in their products by the year 2024.
Creating A Minimalist Experience
One could argue quite effectively that there is nothing “minimalist” about spending $1,000 on a piece of technology. But Apple has managed to tap into the minimalist movement in several ways and is still the tech brand of choice for the hippest minimalists around.
First, Apple focuses on minimalist store design. Displays are simple, showcasing only products. There are minimalist-style tables for customers to wait, and the environment is designed to provide shoppers with space, rather than bombard them with messaging. The more time someone spends in the store, the more they see which products are on the cutting edge, and which are not.
Apple is also attracting people to stores for reasons other than shopping. Their stores boast a regular schedule of seminars, classes, children’s activities, live music, and more. They want to create valuable experiences inside the store that create positivity around the brand, boosting customer loyalty.
Can You Leverage Minimalism For Profit?
It might seem backward to say you can leverage minimalism for profit, but many successful stores and brands are doing just that. These brands have succeeded because they know what their customers are looking for, and they deliver an experience and a product that reinforces their shoppers’ preferences. By digging into your own data, you may find that there is an aspect of minimalism that you too can benefit from by delivering on your customers’ values and preferences.