5 ways for retailers to make Christmas more sustainable

December 14, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren
December 14, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren

Consumers expect their online purchase to be delivered quickly and on time – especially when it is almost Christmas. However, many consumers believe this should not be at the expense of the environment. Consumers invest more of their time and money into making this Christmas a sustainable one. They adopt or rent Christmas trees, upcycle products for fun and original Christmas gifts, and decorate their homes with sustainable Christmas decorations. This shift in consumer behaviour and attitude means that sustainability is no longer a theme that they can put on the back burner, but a must in order to remain competitive. As a retailer, how do you ensure that you can meet these consumer needs? Read on and find out how you can make this Christmas as sustainable as possible.

Online shopping versus in-store shopping

Today, consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping rather than shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. This certainly also applies to making purchases for the holidays, especially in the current COVID-19 pandemic. It’s incredibly easy and safe to buy something from the couch and have it delivered at home. Moreover, online shopping is in many cases more environmentally friendly than visiting a store in person, according to research by Ernst & Young and Thuiswinke.org. This is mainly due to the fact that home delivery by a parcel deliverer is in most cases more efficient than when consumers themselves regularly use the car to make their purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. A delivery vehicle uses far less fuel per package than an equivalent number of people driving in person to pick them up. However, a precondition for this is that the entire purchasing process must be digital. This means no in-store pick-up.

Online shopping is in many cases more environmentally friendly than visiting a store in person

What can retailers do?

Retailers can apply the following ways to make their business more sustainable during the holidays.

1. Use sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging plays an important role in making the ecommerce sector more sustainable, especially around Christmas time. Sturdy packaging is of course necessary to protect presents properly, but those packaging must subsequently and ideally leave the smallest possible impact on the environment. Sustainable packaging includes, for example, more compact packaging that requires less filling material and where as little air as possible is transported. However, this does not solve the problem of large quantities of cardboard boxes and plastic bags for the recipient of the gifts. To tackle this problem, retailers can invest in the realisation of re-usable or recyclable boxes and bags.

The effort of using these recyclable or re-suable boxes devalues when consumers feel the need to wrap it all up upon receipt. By adding simple touches to the boxes and bags, retailers can prevent consumers from feeling this need. Examples of these touches are an artistically designed re-usable box, eye-catching accessories or a cardboard gift tag with a personal message.

2. Offer sustainable products and make this known

This Christmas, consumers are looking to shop with responsible retailers. Retailers would therefore do well to choose to include more sustainable products in their range. It is necessary here that consumers can read more information about the sustainability of the products on the website of the online store and that the possibility is offered to filter on sustainable products.

3. Reduce the number of returns

Returns not only add extra work and are very expensive for retailers, the environment also pays a high price. A delivery vehicle has to make an extra trip to collect returned products and bring them back to the warehouse, which increases CO2 emissions and puts an extra burden on the environment. The amount of waste from unsaleable products is also increasing.

To be able to reduce the number of returns, it is important that retailers add clear product photos and adequate information to their online store’s website. This reduces the chance of consumer disappointment, which in turn reduces the number of returns. Another way to reduce returns during Christmas is to work with eye-catching large labels for, for example, occasion dresses, to prevent consumers from wearing the dress once and then returning it.

4. Let consumers choose the delivery time

Many online orders are not successfully delivered on the first delivery attempt. Not only is this annoying for the delivery person who is already extra busy around the holidays, but just as with return shipments, it also causes extra transport movements and CO2 emissions. This is because the delivery person has to make the same trip again the next day. By informing consumers about the estimated delivery time, the delivery chance is increased.

5. Implement a ship-from-store fulfilment strategy

Another way to make your online delivery more sustainable during the holidays and beyond is to ship products from stores, close to the majority of consumers, and with sustainable vehicles such as (electric) bicycles. Ship-from-store is a fulfilment process where retailers use stock from their brick-and-mortar store estate to fulfil (online) orders. Instead of using centralized distribution centres, the brick-and-mortar store is used as a small distribution centre, to support the digital platform. Fulfilling orders this way turns the store into a virtual hub and ensures that orders are sent smoothly and quickly to the consumer. A ship-from-store fulfilment strategy makes online delivery more sustainable, because products can travel in bulk to the store before they are packed for delivery to the final consumer, it uses more environmentally friendly modes of transport and it shortens the last-mile.

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Blog by: Nienke van Meekeren
Sources used: Thuiswinkel.org
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