In the eyes of consumers, the definition of a “sustainable business” has evolved significantly over the years.

Today’s expectations for businesses to reflect a social conscience in their mission statements, embrace sustainable practices in every corner of their organization, and use technology to do away with operations that have negative consequences to the environment are more than just good PR opportunities — they’re moral responsibilities, argues our CEO Roy Erez in a recent Forbes article.

A 2018 survey from data platform Euclid found that “52% of millennials and 48% of Gen Xers feel it’s important that their values align with the brands they like,” while 35% of baby boomers surveyed felt the same way. For retailers and brands, focusing on sustainable practices is not only crucial to protect the environment, but also a key way to attract younger generations of consumers and drive long-term brand loyalty.

Concurrently, some consumers’ shopping behavior has also unknowingly brought about unsustainable practices with the ease of online ordering and the expectation of fast, free shipping.

For example, free return policies can encourage some shoppers to order multiple products to try on at home with the intention of returning all but one. Since there is no additional cost for the shopper to do this, there is no downside from a price perspective — but the practice results in unnecessary and wasteful shuttling of goods back and forth between consumers and retailers (whether that be through the mail or from a home to a physical store).

The good news is that there are innovative, scalable, and even eco-friendly ways to go about solving the sustainability problem with technology.

“Delivering” items to consumers through a digital experience like GiftNow before the item is actually shipped can result in a significant sustainability lift. By offering customers the option of digital delivery of a product and the ability to customize the order before shipment, retailers and brands can provide an experience that results in a lesser likelihood of return, especially when the product is being bought as a gift for someone else (a situation in which returns and exchanges are common). The recipient gets the experience of receiving and “unwrapping” a digital gift immediately, so waiting a few extra days for delivery of the physical item allows the retailer to ship the item on an ecologically efficient route and schedule, ensuring lower emissions and less waste.

Including and beyond the use of GiftNow, more retailers and brands are investing in technology that helps them become more sustainable as a business, including solutions that decrease the impact on production materials and use of resources. 

For example, Patagonia has long set the standard on sustainability, but young, digitally native footwear brands like Allbirds and established apparel brands like Eileen Fisher are also standouts. Allbirds touts its use of natural fibers over synthetic versions, as well as its minimal use of packaging, 90% of which is post-consumer recycled cardboard. And Eileen Fisher laid out its Vision 2020 plan in 2015, in which they committed to using all organic cotton and linens by 2020 and to work to boost industry demand for more environmentally responsible dyes.

Sustainable manufacturing and shipping practices should be at the forefront of every retailer’s and brand’s priorities in the coming years — as should be the ways in which technology can enable and complement your existing strategy. Using sustainably harvested materials, recycled packaging, and efficient shipping and delivery methods are not only responsible and forward-thinking, but also present an excellent way to attract younger shoppers and build brand loyalty and lifetime value.

 

Learn how GiftNow can help your brand decrease returns and exchanges, resulting in fewer shipping costs, resources needed, emissions, and waste.

This blog post summarizes an article that originally appeared on Forbes.com on October 1, 2019. All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.

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