Consumerism has more than one definition.
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One definition of consumerism deals with the society as a whole becoming more materialistic and that the consumption of more goods is always desirable. This is one of the reasons that the main reason for attending college is now monetary reward as opposed to gaining respect or helping others.
In a free market economy, this is viewed mostly as a positive thing. The desire for more and more product and wealth drives workers to exceed expectations and create opportunities for advancement. However, there are certain social concerns that are presented in the face of complete capitalism.
The other definition of consumerism deals with consumer advocacy. This is more pertinent to a small business owner.
Of course, the first definition of consumerism can help small businesses that are trying to sell luxury goods. Materialism is an ally of any non-necessity good selling entity.
However, consumerism as it relates to the power relationship between buyers and sellers can hurt small businesses if they are not prepared for the struggle.
Consumerism as it will be referred to for the rest of this piece is an organized movement of citizens that strives for more buyer power in relation to sellers.
This can include transparency of information, socially responsible marketing processes, etc. Actual changes in products that have come out of these movements include ingredient labeling, nutritional facts, product dating and other innovations that help consumers.
Ralph Nader is a leading force behind many pro-consumer movements in the United States, and once eloquently wrote that "The consumer must be protected at times from his own indiscretion and vanity." This sums up the consumerism movement in a sentence.
Small businesses can do several things to prepare for a more consumerist society.
Communication is crucial when dealing with this group of activist citizens. Their main concern is not being misled by sellers of products. Having in place a sound marketing ethics platform can prevent this from happening at your small business.
A holistic approach that can avoid any of the common pitfalls of unethical marketing can save your company the hassle of dealing with customer complaints. Also, having a happy customer base will only create more growth opportunities for the company.
So, ignore trends in consumerism at your own peril. It's a phenomenon that can impact your organization's bottomline profits – for better or worse depending on your response.