We live in an age of convenience. Have a question? Find the answer in seconds by Googling it on your smartphone. Want the latest fashions? Jump online and have it delivered within hours.
Shoppers have made it clear that convenience is now king. The Australia Post Ecommerce Industry Report shows the top 3 considerations for online shoppers are:
- Cost savings
- Product availability
Modern convenience, however, comes at a cost. Not necessarily to our wallets, but to the world in which we live. As an online retailer, you play an increasingly prominent role in affecting that world.
Statista shows ecommerce has grown globally from $1.5 trillion in 2015 to $4.9 trillion in 2021 and has a projected 7.3 trillion value by 2025. With such rapid industry expansion, the ecommerce industry has a unique opportunity to drive positive change through sustainable practices.
Why Sustainable Ecommerce Is Essential
46% of Australians say their values and how they look at life have changed since the pandemic hit, according to the EY Future Consumer Index. Consumers now hold businesses to higher standards, with sustainability heavily influencing purchase decisions. The same report reveals that 71% of Aussies think brands should make a positive change in the world. 24% said they’d pay a premium for more sustainable goods and services.
As an online retailer, helping the environment can directly help your business. By aligning with and demonstrating the values of your shoppers, you stand to boost new and repeat business.
In the same EY report, 44% of consumers say they intend to buy more from organisations that benefit society, even if their products or services cost more. Accenture shows that 66% of consumers plan to make more sustainable or ethical purchases over the next six months.
According to Australia Post, Australian businesses are responding quickly to these trends, with 88% already having some form of sustainable practices and products. Of those businesses, 34% have seen improvements in customer loyalty and company culture.
Sustainability Is a Common Thread Among Fashion Retailers
The fashion industry is attracting a greater spotlight over its environmental impact. It’s obvious why when you take a look at just five quick facts about fashion:
- The fashion industry produces 100 billion garments annually – for 7 billion people on Earth.
- Consumers send approximately 40 million tons of textiles to landfills every year.
- It takes nearly 3,000 litres of water to make one cotton t-shirt and 3,781 litres of water to make a pair of jeans.
- Washing synthetic clothing contributes to 35% of all ocean microplastic pollution.
- Every year 150 million trees are cut down to make fabrics.
Sustainable fashion makes the clothing supply chain ecologically and socially responsible by moving away from a fast fashion model toward environmentally-friendly practices. Those practices include the sourcing, production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of fashion products.
Sustainable Fashion Brand Boody Goes the Extra Mile
Boody is an ethical online clothing retailer with all products made from sustainable fabrics. They’ve cut down 43+ million days of light bulb energy through more environmental practices, saved 520+ million litres of drinking water, and ensured 244 hectares are farmed without pesticides.
Additionally, Boody has partnered with Upparel to launch The Goodness Loop, an apparel recycling program. Instead of unused clothing going into landfills, customers can send these items to Boody. Clothes are donated to charities, turned into new products such as couches, or completely recycled into yarn or insulation material.
The Sustainable Materials of Alicia Adams Alpaca
Alicia Adams Alpaca specialises in the design and production of textiles and clothing which use alpaca wool – a natural, sustainable, and luxurious material. Michael McBride, CEO & Founder of Atelier Commerce, comments, “It’s sustainable, it’s fair trade, it’s not over distributed, and it’s of exceptional quality.”
The company also engages in environmental initiatives, such as their ‘Honouring Mother Earth’ program, partnering with Trees for the Future. Under the current program (from April 20 to April 30, 2022), four trees are planted for every Alicia Adams Alpaca item purchased.
The Eco-Friendly Efficiency of Sustainable Supply
Sustainable Supply is a B2B retailer specialising in green products. Their website features their ‘green leaf’ badge, indicating eco-friendly products and certifications.
The company also has a carbon-neutral shipping program to offset transportation emissions of their deliveries without any added cost to customers. Additionally, they actively reduce supply chain waste through high-efficiency supply and distribution centre processes. With shipping from manufacturers directly to customers, they further cut down the environmental impact of transport and handling.
How Your Business Can Impact Sustainability
Breaking the Bracketing Habit
Bracketing refers to the “buy now, choose later” approach to online purchases. Shoppers buy multiple versions of an item, try them at home, and return those that aren’t the right fit for their needs.
Bracketing saw a significant increase during the pandemic. According to the Narvar Consumer Survey, 58% of shoppers were bracketing purchases throughout 2021. Out of those bracketing, 48% said they did it because sizing or other options weren’t clear.
Look at your product information and how products are categorised and filtered within results pages. Head of APAC for Searchspring, Kate Massey explains, “While traditional filters like ‘price’, ‘category’, ‘brand’, ‘size’, and ‘colour’ are commonly used, enhanced filtering like ‘style’, ‘trend’, ‘fit’, and ‘sustainability’ are now being used with increasing frequency.”
The use of advanced filters helps shoppers find ‘Goldilocks zone’ products that are just right for their needs and preferences. This functionality improves the customer experience and can minimise unnecessary bracketing.
Item returns create extra carbon emissions from transportation. In the U.S., return shipping produces over 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – more than that of 3 million cars.
Consumers often assume that returned goods are restocked and resold, the same way items are reshelved for sale in physical stores. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Item packaging can be damaged in transit, unpacked for inspection before resale, and so on. As a result, many returned ecommerce items need to be re-boxed in entirely new packaging.
When your customer receives a product different from expected, there’s a higher chance of it being returned. To reduce the likelihood of returns, provide clear, accurate information about products, including:
- Product weight and dimensions
- Materials used to make the product (also an excellent opportunity to highlight sustainable products)
- Sizing guides, including the size models are wearing where appropriate.
- A variety of high-quality images for each product
- Reviews from past-purchase customers
The use of search, suggestions, and advanced filter functionality can further reduce returns risk. Read more tips on how to reduce ecommerce returns with reviews, suggestions of products your customers will love, product fit tools, and more.
Use Sustainable Packaging
Sustainable packaging creates positive change while helping connect with your customers. According to a recent Shipstation report, 62% of younger consumers prefer to shop for sustainable and green products, with 82% saying they would also like their parcel packaging material to be recyclable.
By using more appropriate packaging sizes for products and choosing sustainable and recycled options, you can make a real difference. Ways to enact more sustainable packaging processes include:
- Use recyclable materials and biodegradable alternatives.
- Avoid oversized packaging or shipping boxes.
- Don’t double-box orders unless necessary.
- Use minimal packing filler to keep your product safe.
- Consolidate orders from the same customer into one package.
Sustainable processes can make the unboxing experience just as good as the shopping experience for eco-minded customers. It also provides an opportunity to remind your customers of the considerate packaging your business uses. A notice on pickslips, invoices, and packaging will help your message be heard and remind customers you’re aligned with their values.
Positively Impact the Planet – and the Shopper Experience
As an online retailer, you want to deliver convenience that creates outstanding shopper experiences. Luckily, you can do that while positively impacting the planet.
Searchspring delivers a range of ways to make ‘green’ more easily seen while significantly improving the shopper experience.
- Boost rules to place eco-friendly products higher in search results.
- Product badges that make ‘green’ products more prominent in search results.
- Filter options that let your customers find sustainable products.
- Fully-customisable inline banners to promote information about sustainable practices.
- Personalised product recommendations to show sustainable products your customer will love.
Searchspring has already helped Boody increase revenue from search by 62% YoY. After implementing Searchspring, Alicia Adams Alpaca saw customers spending 4x more per visit, and Sustainable Supply gained a 15% average increase in search conversion.
Book your Searchspring demo and discover how to make positive changes that deliver a vastly improved shopper experience.