Building a successful business isn’t just about quality products and competitive pricing. Consumer trends show that the values of your business, the identities of the people behind it and their commitment to social justice, carry significant weight — particularly in a nation rocked by racism and police brutality in recent years.
Motivated by current events, a rise in conscious consumerism has led to the introduction of online tools for minority-owned and led businesses. Yelp, Instagram and Google are among the platforms that have found ways to build support for businesses owned by people of color and other marginalized communities. For instance, Google now offers a “business identity attribute” that allows users to display their identities in the Shopping tab. Options include Black-owned, Latino-owned, Veteran-owned and Women-owned.
What it does:
- Displays an icon representing your identity on your product descriptions in Google Shopping
- Allows consumers to search for businesses by their identity attributes
- It’s an easy way to show your customer base who you are
- It may help attract new consumers who are socially conscious
Yes, customers want to support Black-owned businesses
Research shows that customers really do care about supporting marginalized communities. And while conscious consumerism isn’t restricted to social justice movements, increases in identity-based shopping (like supporting Black-owned businesses) are certainly influenced by them.
In the months following George Floyd’s death, Yelp reports that “there were more than 2.5 million Yelp requests for Black-owned firms, compared to 35,000 last year during the same window, a rise of 7.043 percent.”
In its 2021 Local Economic Impact Report, Yelp states that “consumer desire to support Black, Latinx, Asian and women business owners surged during the pandemic in light of the devastating impacts on underserved communities,” which was evident in search rates on Yelp for relevant topics. In February 2021, compared to the same time the previous year:
- Searches for women-owned businesses in the US rose by 264%
- For Black-owned businesses increased by 3,085%
- For Latinx-owned businesses, by 4,077%
- And for Asian-owned businesses, by 3,404%
Customers’ social consciousness is not only revealed through their searches — but also through their reviews. In the same report, Yelp notes that many users also referred to a business owner’s identity within a review. In February 2021, mentions of Black business owners increased 195% compared to the year prior; mentions of other minority business owners’ identities also increased to varying degrees.
Why people care
Surges of social activism occur in the wake of injustice. During these times, there is usually increased awareness that individual actions can contribute to systemic issues in our society — for example, racism. This awareness leads people to question their own everyday actions and often motivates them to become more conscious consumers.
Further, customers value the ability to choose where to spend their money. How they make this choice is entirely based on their own personal needs and values, but in recent years, consumer spending is increasingly tied to social causes. And younger generations are taking the lead: Gen Z represents the most values-driven consumers to date, with nearly two-thirds of the generation willing to spend up to 48% more to support purpose-driven brands, and earn 20% less to work for one.
Making it easier for the average consumer
There is some evidence that people who say they are conscious consumers, or seek out ethical products, don’t actually make values-based purchases when they get to the checkout line. The reason? As it turns out, the quality and functionality of the products they buy comes first.
It makes a difference, though, when “it becomes easier and more affordable for a person to become a conscious consumer.” Specifically, tools like Google’s identity attributes can help consumers shop for racial equity by making it easier to find the businesses they want to support.
How conscious consumerism makes a difference
When you look beyond a product’s surface value and “vote with your dollar,” you can begin to impact change related to systemic inequities. Even on the individual level, your dollar can help build growth for marginalized communities.
Wealth gaps between groups like Black and white people, or men and women, contribute to gaps in access to capital, which means that marginalized groups frequently receive smaller loans with higher interest rates. All of this translates to more and bigger businesses owned and led by non-diverse groups.
Shopping Black means investing in the Black community, and shopping from women-owned businesses means investing in families and communities (women invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35% for men). Moreover, garnering support for minority-owned businesses makes a statement; when enough individuals invest in a community, government officials are more apt to notice and make policy changes to reduce the wealth gap that does exist.
Promoting your business’s identity is a start. It’s clear that many consumers want to support Black-owned businesses, and you can help them do so by letting them know where to shop.
Adding your identity attribute on Google Business
Ready to add your identity attribute? Log into your Google Merchant center account, and select the tools icon. Under “About your business,” find the “Business identity attributes” section and choose the option that represents you. You can also check the box to include your business and products in promotions for the relevant identity attributes.
If these attributes don’t apply to you…
Google has a limited list of identity attributes. Whether your business is led by a different marginalized group or is not minority-owned, actively supporting diverse businesses shows that yours is values-driven.
Here are a few ways you can get involved:
- Partnering with other local businesses through promotional events and donations to their causes
- Interacting with them on social media by engaging in discussions about diversity, co-hosting social media events with them, or running campaigns together
- Showing support for who they are and identifying the value of their work — not just supporting them for being a minority-owned business
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