Let’s Get Down to Business, to Complete the Placement

Disney references aside, my next couple of days at The Body Shop were a lot more about work than fun!

I met a variety of people to talk through what they did and their thoughts on my research, as well as gain knowledge about the business which has important implications as I have been asked to write up an executive summary of my dissertation findings and even suggest practical solutions! This means I need to know what is feasible according to the people who work there.

I was mainly with the community fair trade team: the people who source the ingredients and suppliers for the products that The Body Shop sell, as well as communicating this through social media.

The manager of the team was talking to me about pushing the idea of radical transparency as a way of combating the mistrust young people have of big businesses; this would mean that the customer would know as much as anyone at The Body Shop would about their community fair trade scheme – both good and bad.

I was reminded by the person in charge of gifts and accessories that the programme began as a ‘trade not aid’ scheme – and as a business, not a charity, it is vital that demand is the most important thing. Also, that the team are incredibly proud of their own programme, which was one of the first (and in their opinions the best) scheme!

Passion was the driving force behind the person in charge of community fair trade communications! She believes that everyone has the right to earn a living, and this is the reason for her working at The Body Shop. The way to get this message across through social media is through personal producer stories – this is a way of continuing Anita Roddick’s (the founder of The Body Shop) tradition of story-telling at The Body Shop.

Research about UK customers by the customer relationship management team had been carried out in April 2013, but this was a more general survey about the store and online experience, so although this is cutting edge I probably won’t be using it in my own research. But the finding that the values are now expected to be there and have been ‘normalised’ mean that my research is really important in finding a way to get across that what they’re doing is still really important!

External communications explained to me that the reason there is no organic certification on most of The Body Shop products (despite the fact that most of them are) is that it is extremely complex due to the world-wide market, and different definitions of organic. This is very important, given my finding so far suggesting that organic is seen as important by young women.

It is really important that the values are embedded into all aspects of the business, including social media. Although there is a separate Twitter and Facebook account for community fair trade, The Body Shop’s own social media will also talk about the values in the business (or ‘Beauty with Heart’ as they put it). I was also tipped off by the person in charge of social media in the UK that Google+ is the future – so I’d better make an account!

So this is probably the end of my visits to Littlehampton and London for the summer! It’s clear that everyone who works there is passionate about what they do, and come from a wide variety of backgrounds (including one Geography degree!) but none of them were planned careers. I may pop back to the London offices to talk to the international customer relationship management team about qualitative research and use their statistical expertise! I’ll leave you with a picture of the coast of Littlehampton for now and the promise of another blog post later in autumn when I’ll be analysing the data and reflecting on my time at The Body Shop. Evening stroll at Littlehampton

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