Clarry, your ethical shopping assistant

Tarek Madany Mamlouk
Apr 26 · 6 min read

Prominently debated topics like climate change are on people’s minds for decades but in the last few years interest boomed and sustainability became mainstream. The sustainability and ethical life movement now has its permanent place in the media and in our everyday life. We find vegan menus in our cafeteria, we pay co2 compensations for our business trips and we promote circular economy to replace the throw-away-society.

Nevertheless, we still find cheap fast-food restaurant on every street corner and have Amazon as the primary supplier for our everyday needs. Even in densely populated cities, making ethical everyday choices is tough and often requires extensive personal research and effort. Connecting ethical shoppers and ethical retailers is a huge undeveloped market. Take those into account who are willing to make more ethical shopping choices but lack the motivation and resources to educate themselves and this market expands even further.

The definition of a “good” product changed over time. Where once quality was the primary driver, cheap prices and “bang for the buck” became more and more relevant. Today there is a broad spectrum of ethical aspects that add to the definition of quality. People look at environmental aspects like supply chains, carbon-footprint and reusability, social aspects like human rights, diversity and animal welfare and corporate governance concerns like employee relations and compensation. This means, it became a real challenge to keep an overview about “good brands” and “good products”.

Clarry bridges the Gap

While you are surfing on the web, Clarry supports you with valuable information about the brands and products you stumble upon. With Clarry there is no need for manually collecting and comparing brands and products in regards of their ethical values anymore. You can even configure your personal definition of the ethics-score so that you can set a personal emphasis on animal rights, environment or labour. This empowers customers to live up to their own standards and not someone else’s belief system.

Our first draft of Clarry is a plugin for the Chrome browser. After installation it provides a popup window while the user is browsing through an online shop. Clarry is currently in development and works on very limited data. For demonstrating this use-case we chose comparison platform ladenzeile.de. For the time being, the plugin exclusively scans the brands and products listed here.

Imagine, you are interested in buying a pair of sneakers. While you open the product in the browser, Clarry informs you about the Clarry-score of this brand you are seeing based on your personal preference and alternative brands with better scores, including some product recommendations. In this proof of concept, the plugin finds the brand and category either of the listing or detail page. Based on the user’s personal preferences and available data about different brands, the service calculates a score and compares it to other brands. Our user-tests confirmed that the users’ primary focus was on the details of the rating. In real-time they learn that the brand they chose to buy sneakers from is performing poorly on his personal ethical values. As a surplus the browser searches for alternative products from brands with a better score so that the user can get a direct recommendation. This feature did not work well in our user-test because the plugin worked on a very limited scale.

Ethical shopping — an undeveloped Market

Supporting ethical shopping does not only help people doing good, but it also has huge potential for monetization. The media presence and drive, especially in the youngest generation, supports this general approach. A survey by Futerra in the US and UK showed that 96% of the consumers believe that their own ethical behaviour can make a difference in the world. Of course, this includes personal behaviour as advertised in goodlifegoals.org but 88% of consumers expect their brands to support ethical values. 43% of the customers on the other hand feel that brands are making it even harder to follow an ethical lifestyle. Consumers must invest a lot of effort to find environmentally friendly packaging or products that were not produced in poor working conditions and often those products use ethical labels as surplus value for upselling. What the market is missing is true transparency about brands, retailers and products so that compliance to ethical standards does not remain a niche category but replaces the non-ethical mainstream. Mary Portas says “Every £1 spent is a vote for how we want to live” in her vision of the “kindness economy” where those businesses thrive that respect people and the environment.

In 2020 Forbes researched commitment to sustainable products through the generations. While only 23% of Baby Boomers and 34% of Generation X are willing to spend 10% more on sustainable products, there is 50% willingness with Millenials and 54% in Generation Z. The numbers show a strong trend for supporting this quest towards the younger generations who are already representing the majority of today’s workforce.

So obviously there is huge demand for ethical retailers and brands but only poor supply because lack of transparency allows brands to hide in the mainstream of cheap production. Clarry offers transparency and gives those 88% of consumers who expect their brands to act more ethical the choice of spending their money where an ethical mindset is implemented.

Clarry’s browser plugin contains affiliate links to products which have been rated with the Clarry score. This generates direct revenue for the traffic it generates but Clarry is more. The knowledge database and scoring algorithm that Clarry offers is available as whitelabel API which can be included in any marketplace and search engine. Filtering and sorting brands and products by ethical attributes will valorise any listing service. With approval of 96% of the consumers, Clarry’s ethical score might set a bar which consumers don’t want to miss anymore. Why should one trust product listings that do not allow filtering for local sourcing or validated working conditions?

Not the First but the most versatile Ethical Assistant

There are already similar approaches to Clarry like Ethical Shopper, DoneGood, Neutral, TreeClicks, The Beagle Button, or Progressive Shopper. All these approaches share the same intention and are in their current state more powerful than Clarry because they utilize more data. In the long run, Clarry will be more versatile and flexible because it will combine data from several sources and learn about personal preferences from the user and from the community’s feedback.

Imagine how Clarry could detect objects in pictures you are watching and understand that you are interested in home improvement tools. A future feature-set of Clarry also includes crawling through classified focused on second hand, so users can include buying pre-owned products instead. Collaborative filtering allows Clarry to present similar tools, that other users with similar interests are using. There are so many amazing ways for guiding users towards an ethical shopping experience.

Clarry is the result of a pitch from Axel Springer’s Ideation Council. Innovation is driven by creative and motivated minds and so the Ideation Council provides a forum in which amazing ideas like Clarry are pitched and voted on. Our development team then implements a “Proof of Value” within 4 weeks to show-case the potential and applicability of given idea. If you are part of the Axel Springer family, join us and test-drive your amazing ideas. Clarry was lots of fun, and we can’t wait to see how it will evolve from here.

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