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A Lesson from Levi’s: How Selling Sustainable Products is a Win-Win for Merchants

Levi's has driven customer loyalty due to its quality products and focus on sustainability. Is this approach right for your small business?
Photo credit: Levi's

Do you assume your customers always prefer the most affordable option? If so, you could be selling yourself and your customers short. Here, Mike Clark explains how selling better-quality, sustainable products can benefit both your customers and your business’s bottom line.

TOP TAKEAWAYS:

  • Small businesses can learn a lesson from Levi’s. The apparel retailer’s “Buy Better, Wear Longer” ad campaign promoted the idea of buying fewer, better-quality pieces of clothing and keeping them longer. Instead of selling a product, Levi’s focused on selling the experience of purchasing a product the consumer would treasure.
     
  • Quality and sustainability aren’t just fads. A growing market of consumers prefers sustainable, long-lasting products, and is willing to pay more for them. In many cases, well-made, more expensive products offer the customer better value than cheaper options. 
  • Sustainable, high-quality products have built-in selling points. There is usually a story behind their manufacture. Customers who care about the planet are more likely to be loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to the core values they share.   


EXPERT INSIGHTS:
 

When customers visit your store, what approach do you take when recommending products? The product that fits their budget best? Maybe it’s a brand you know you got a great deal on from the distributor, so there’s a big markup to be had. Or do you try to offer your customers something that represents value and longevity? By focusing on elements beyond the price tag, you can offer customers more value. 

In 2021, Levi’s launched its “Buy Better, Wear Longer” ad campaign, targeting younger generations and featuring popular influencers like actor Jaden Smith, 18-year-old activist Melati Wijsen, and soccer player Marcus Rashford. 

The campaign focused on raising awareness about the environmental impacts of apparel manufacturing and consumer consumption. Contending that Levi’s denim should be “worn for generations, not seasons,” Levi’s brand president Jen Sey explained that the campaign encourages customers to “be more intentional about their apparel choices: to wear each item longer, for example, to buy secondhand, or to use our in-store Tailor Shops to extend the life of their garments.” 

The company invests in technologies and materials like organic cotton, cottonized hemp and sustainable manufacturing. It takes a lot of water to produce a standard cotton T-shirt — 715 gallons’ worth, to be exact. To reduce the amount of water used in manufacturing its apparel, Levi’s developed a process called Water<Less technology 

More Than a Fad 

You could argue that Levi’s campaign simply pays lip service to sustainability, but it’s more than popular YouTubers promoting long-lasting clothes. Levi’s Vice President of Product Innovation, Paul Dillinger, explained that the campaign is about the experience of enjoying your apparel. 

“You experience the difference when you have jeans that have been through it all with you, or when you go thrifting for secondhand jeans,” Dillinger said. “A pair of Levi’s holds up better and holds its value longer. It’s both a physical and an emotional durability that we strive to offer consumers by investing in quality and designing for lasting value.” 

Levi’s is driving home the idea that purchasing from companies that invest in refining and improving their products makes sense. 

What can your business learn from how a global manufacturer sells its products?  

Selling Experiences, Not Just Products

No matter what type of product you sell, quality is one of your top priorities. But maybe you haven’t been thinking about it on all fronts. For example, you may source products made with high-quality materials and run quality checks on customers’ orders before the packages ship out. But where else are you providing value? 

Think back to what we talked about at the beginning of this article. What’s your usual approach to offering customers your product? For example, suppose you sell customizable, screen-printed apparel to businesses. When a customer approaches you for a job, do you suggest purchasing shirts from the cheapest bulk apparel manufacturer, or recommend a company that offers higher-quality garments? They cost a bit more than the bargain option, but the construction is better, the stitching is sturdier, and the fits are more flattering.  

Perhaps you’re thinking, “My customer is on a budget, so I am not going to push something that they can’t afford and aren’t interested in.” 

What if you thought of it less as selling your customer a product and more as selling them an experience — something that stands the test of time? 

The Benefits of Long-Lasting Products  

There are a few key reasons why focusing on high-quality goods is good for your business. 

It tells a story. High-quality, sustainable goods generally come with some product information from the manufacturer on how they’re made and what the company’s goals are. If you can incorporate some of that language when explaining why you sell the product or recommending it to your customers, you’ll be promoting an authentic story instead of just trying to upsell. 

For example: “We carry these tote bags because they’re made by an American company in North Carolina that quality assures their stitching before the bags leave the factory. Plus, they use recycled fabrics, so they’re not creating any extra waste.” 

It opens your door to new customers. It may take a bit of effort to convince some of your long-time customers of the value of high-quality, sustainable goods. But there’s a massive market of customers who already appreciate the value of these products and actively seek them out.  

According to a 2022 survey by Shopify: 

  • 76% of shoppers globally are looking for quality items that last 
  • 43% of consumers are more likely to buy from sustainable brands 
  • 40% of consumers will pay more for climate-conscious products  

If you make it known that you strive to provide customers with high-quality, sustainable products, you’ll attract much more than a niche market.  

It differentiates you from your competitors. Don’t keep your commitment to quality and sustainability a secret. Your marketing messages should let people know you offer quality products that last and sell goods focused on making the world a better place.  

You might worry that selling long-lasting, sustainable products that don’t need replacing right away will eliminate repeat business. Not so. Promote your core values, and consumers who share them will become loyal customers, returning again and again.  

Getting Started with Sustainability

Adding sustainable and higher-quality products to your offerings doesn’t have to be an overnight move. Nor do you have to phase out all your budget-priced options; sometimes that’s the only option for a customer. Instead, think of it as a gradual adjustment. Talk to your distributors about what kind of options they offer to help step up the quality of your products. You may even want to create a separate category for sustainable goods on your website or in your store.  

Talk to your customers, too. What sustainability issues matter most to them? Perhaps they want products made from recycled materials. Maybe they’d like their orders shipped in minimal, environmentally friendly packaging instead of boxes filled with Styrofoam peanuts.  

Take a page from the Levi’s campaign. When you focus on experiences over selling, it’s all about providing the best options for your customers instead of getting them to buy something. 

This article was previously published by Impressions Magazine. Mike Clark serves as a copywriter for InkSoft and is freelance writer. He has written for newspapers, online publications and print magazines, and has covered decorated apparel industry topics for the last six years.

 

A Lesson from Levi’s: How Selling Sustainable Products is a Win-Win for Merchants

by | Sep 22, 2023

Levi's has driven customer loyalty due to its quality products and focus on sustainability. Is this approach right for your small business?

Do you assume your customers always prefer the most affordable option? If so, you could be selling yourself and your customers short. Here, Mike Clark explains how selling better-quality, sustainable products can benefit both your customers and your business’s bottom line.

TOP TAKEAWAYS:

  • Small businesses can learn a lesson from Levi’s. The apparel retailer’s “Buy Better, Wear Longer” ad campaign promoted the idea of buying fewer, better-quality pieces of clothing and keeping them longer. Instead of selling a product, Levi’s focused on selling the experience of purchasing a product the consumer would treasure.
     
  • Quality and sustainability aren’t just fads. A growing market of consumers prefers sustainable, long-lasting products, and is willing to pay more for them. In many cases, well-made, more expensive products offer the customer better value than cheaper options. 
  • Sustainable, high-quality products have built-in selling points. There is usually a story behind their manufacture. Customers who care about the planet are more likely to be loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to the core values they share.   


EXPERT INSIGHTS:
 

When customers visit your store, what approach do you take when recommending products? The product that fits their budget best? Maybe it’s a brand you know you got a great deal on from the distributor, so there’s a big markup to be had. Or do you try to offer your customers something that represents value and longevity? By focusing on elements beyond the price tag, you can offer customers more value. 

In 2021, Levi’s launched its “Buy Better, Wear Longer” ad campaign, targeting younger generations and featuring popular influencers like actor Jaden Smith, 18-year-old activist Melati Wijsen, and soccer player Marcus Rashford. 

The campaign focused on raising awareness about the environmental impacts of apparel manufacturing and consumer consumption. Contending that Levi’s denim should be “worn for generations, not seasons,” Levi’s brand president Jen Sey explained that the campaign encourages customers to “be more intentional about their apparel choices: to wear each item longer, for example, to buy secondhand, or to use our in-store Tailor Shops to extend the life of their garments.” 

The company invests in technologies and materials like organic cotton, cottonized hemp and sustainable manufacturing. It takes a lot of water to produce a standard cotton T-shirt — 715 gallons’ worth, to be exact. To reduce the amount of water used in manufacturing its apparel, Levi’s developed a process called Water<Less technology 

More Than a Fad 

You could argue that Levi’s campaign simply pays lip service to sustainability, but it’s more than popular YouTubers promoting long-lasting clothes. Levi’s Vice President of Product Innovation, Paul Dillinger, explained that the campaign is about the experience of enjoying your apparel. 

“You experience the difference when you have jeans that have been through it all with you, or when you go thrifting for secondhand jeans,” Dillinger said. “A pair of Levi’s holds up better and holds its value longer. It’s both a physical and an emotional durability that we strive to offer consumers by investing in quality and designing for lasting value.” 

Levi’s is driving home the idea that purchasing from companies that invest in refining and improving their products makes sense. 

What can your business learn from how a global manufacturer sells its products?  

Selling Experiences, Not Just Products

No matter what type of product you sell, quality is one of your top priorities. But maybe you haven’t been thinking about it on all fronts. For example, you may source products made with high-quality materials and run quality checks on customers’ orders before the packages ship out. But where else are you providing value? 

Think back to what we talked about at the beginning of this article. What’s your usual approach to offering customers your product? For example, suppose you sell customizable, screen-printed apparel to businesses. When a customer approaches you for a job, do you suggest purchasing shirts from the cheapest bulk apparel manufacturer, or recommend a company that offers higher-quality garments? They cost a bit more than the bargain option, but the construction is better, the stitching is sturdier, and the fits are more flattering.  

Perhaps you’re thinking, “My customer is on a budget, so I am not going to push something that they can’t afford and aren’t interested in.” 

What if you thought of it less as selling your customer a product and more as selling them an experience — something that stands the test of time? 

The Benefits of Long-Lasting Products  

There are a few key reasons why focusing on high-quality goods is good for your business. 

It tells a story. High-quality, sustainable goods generally come with some product information from the manufacturer on how they’re made and what the company’s goals are. If you can incorporate some of that language when explaining why you sell the product or recommending it to your customers, you’ll be promoting an authentic story instead of just trying to upsell. 

For example: “We carry these tote bags because they’re made by an American company in North Carolina that quality assures their stitching before the bags leave the factory. Plus, they use recycled fabrics, so they’re not creating any extra waste.” 

It opens your door to new customers. It may take a bit of effort to convince some of your long-time customers of the value of high-quality, sustainable goods. But there’s a massive market of customers who already appreciate the value of these products and actively seek them out.  

According to a 2022 survey by Shopify: 

  • 76% of shoppers globally are looking for quality items that last 
  • 43% of consumers are more likely to buy from sustainable brands 
  • 40% of consumers will pay more for climate-conscious products  

If you make it known that you strive to provide customers with high-quality, sustainable products, you’ll attract much more than a niche market.  

It differentiates you from your competitors. Don’t keep your commitment to quality and sustainability a secret. Your marketing messages should let people know you offer quality products that last and sell goods focused on making the world a better place.  

You might worry that selling long-lasting, sustainable products that don’t need replacing right away will eliminate repeat business. Not so. Promote your core values, and consumers who share them will become loyal customers, returning again and again.  

Getting Started with Sustainability

Adding sustainable and higher-quality products to your offerings doesn’t have to be an overnight move. Nor do you have to phase out all your budget-priced options; sometimes that’s the only option for a customer. Instead, think of it as a gradual adjustment. Talk to your distributors about what kind of options they offer to help step up the quality of your products. You may even want to create a separate category for sustainable goods on your website or in your store.  

Talk to your customers, too. What sustainability issues matter most to them? Perhaps they want products made from recycled materials. Maybe they’d like their orders shipped in minimal, environmentally friendly packaging instead of boxes filled with Styrofoam peanuts.  

Take a page from the Levi’s campaign. When you focus on experiences over selling, it’s all about providing the best options for your customers instead of getting them to buy something. 

This article was previously published by Impressions Magazine. Mike Clark serves as a copywriter for InkSoft and is freelance writer. He has written for newspapers, online publications and print magazines, and has covered decorated apparel industry topics for the last six years.