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HOI research | Online shopping favors environmental labels, in-store promotes social labels

Service firms aiming for sustainability can benefit by aligning their marketing strategies with consumer motives across different shopping channels. A new study published in the Journal of Service Retail reveals that online shoppers select products with environmental labels, while in-store shoppers pick products with social sustainability labels.

(This image was generated using AI.)

The problem of sustainability in service

Aligning sustainability goals with consumer purchase decisions remains a challenge in the service industry. Despite a high consumer interest in sustainability, products carrying sustainability labels only have a 16% market share. Understanding consumer behavior towards these labels in different shopping contexts is crucial for effective marketing strategies to drive top prioritized sustainability goals.

Methodology: Real-world retail data analysis

The study analyzed nearly 900,000 grocery and beauty product purchases from real-world retail datasets. The purchases were categorized as either in-store or online. A quasi-experimental design was used, employing propensity score matching and difference-in-differences analysis to compare consumer behavior across these channels.

Key research findings

  • Consumers are more likely to purchase products with environmental labels when shopping online.
  • Products with social sustainability labels are more likely to be purchased by consumers when shopping in-store.
  • The fit between self-oriented benefits and online shopping, and other-oriented benefits and in-store shopping, drives these preferences.
  • The effect is consistent across different product categories and types (utilitarian vs. hedonic).

Future of sustainability label marketing

The study emphasizes the need for service firms to adapt their strategies based on shopping channels and types of sustainability labels. Recognizing the distinct consumer motives in online and in-store contexts can enhance the effectiveness of sustainability marketing.

Meet the researchers

  • Emelie Froberg: House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics
  • Svetlana Kolesova: Center for Retailing, Stockholm School of Economics
  • Sara Rosengren: Center for Retailing, Stockholm School of Economics


House of Innovation Digitalization Entrepreneurship Environment Marketing Retail Sustainability Technology Article Journal Research