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How to encourage your customers to be more sustainable


Published on: Sep 13, 2022

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We review the importance of sustainability to consumers in 2022, offer some tips for promoting sustainable behavior, and remind e-commerce retailers of how they can take action on sustainability too.

One of the biggest barriers to sustainable consumption is that people just don’t know where to start. Shoppers want to protect the environment and support social justice, but they don’t know what that means for their e-commerce purchases.

Here’s how you can encourage your customers to be more sustainable… plus a few ideas for making sustainable moves yourself.

Does sustainability still matter?

Here’s one question that everyone is asking in 2022:

Does sustainability still matter to consumers?

We all understand the importance of the environmental crisis. But with inflation rising and supply problems hitting hard, is sustainable e-commerce still a priority?

The answer is yes – for most industries. Over half of consumers still say that sustainability is an important part of how they make purchase decisions. Some essential retailers, such as groceries, are seeing customers focus more on price; but sustainability is still on the agenda for most shoppers, especially in younger demographics.

The desire for sustainability is still there. But in challenging times, it’s more important than ever for e-commerce brands and retailers to support their customers in making better choices.

How to encourage sustainable behavior from your customers

The easiest way to encourage sustainability is by making it the simple, default choice. It should be easy to identify sustainable products, choose sustainable delivery options, and find out how to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, that’s where most businesses fail. Too much information about sustainability is vague. Adjectives such as “green” are thrown around without any clear definition – and consumers can tell when they’re being taken for a ride.

So your first task as a sustainable e-commerce business is to be transparent, direct, and helpful.

Here are some other ways to nudge people towards more sustainable behavior…

  • Reward sustainable decisions with discounts or loyalty points.
    Make non-sustainable choices more difficult. For example, when major supermarkets in the UK started charging for single-use plastic bags, usage dropped by 90%.
  • Offer more repair or sharing services to reduce over-consumption. The future of sustainable retail is a circular economy!
  • Offer more sustainable delivery options. 43% of shoppers in the UK say they’re more likely to choose a retailer with a range of sustainable delivery services.
  • Layer information about sustainability. For example, if someone clicks to read more about one sustainable product, you can follow up with more targeted offers or information about sustainable options.

Keeping your end of the deal

What about behind the scenes at your business?

Consumers don’t see sustainability as just a “nice-to-have”. Over a third of UK shoppers would pay more for products that support sustainability and social justice. And 1 in 3 UK shoppers say that they’ve actively blacklisted a brand or product because of concerns about those values.

So it’s important that you keep your end of the deal – by acting sustainably, as well as encouraging sustainable choices.

The biggest target for sustainability in e-commerce is packaging and delivery. The numbers are mind-boggling: around 165 billion packages are shipped each year in the US alone. It takes a billion trees to produce that much cardboard.

E-commerce retailers can support their customers in sustainability by…

  • Switching single-use packaging for recyclable and reusable options – like RePack.
  • Choosing more efficient packaging designs that use less material.
  • Choosing sustainable delivery providers, such as electric vehicles.
  • Leveraging tech to create more efficient supply chains and delivery systems.

That final point is essential. More efficient systems mean saving money as well as carbon. But according to the latest Sustainability Index from Business of Fashion, many retailers are failing to leverage the latest tech for managing supplies, stocks, and customer service.

If you want to improve customer satisfaction and sustainability at the same time, then upgrading your operations tech can make a huge difference. It might not have the immediate appeal of fresh packaging or a fleet of e-bikes, but it can identify and improve sustainability at every level of your business.

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