Pragmatic steps retailers can take to empower consumers to lessen their footprints

Pragmatic steps retailers can take to empower consumers to lessen their footprints

Pragmatic steps retailers can take to empower consumers to lessen their footprints

11 Jun 2020
Rory O'Connor
In this article, Rory O'Connor takes a pragmatic look at how retailers can empower consumers in a post-Covid-19 world to lessen their environmental footprints

With the collective realisation that climate change is not a myth - supported by the many improvements brought about by self-isolation, consumers in a post Covid world will be looking for concrete, practical steps to lessen their footprints.

Though sustainable consumerism is something which has gripped headlines for at least the past decade, the increasing frequency and media coverage of ecological disasters and the climate change movement are now tangible catalysts for the implementation of real, practical changes.

Sustainable consumerism has now firmly mainstreamed with a recent study suggesting that as many as 63% of UK consumers would stop using a brand altogether if it was having a detrimental impact on the environment.

Online shopping continues to be the preferred way for Britons to shop. The market value of UK retail is £381 billion of which online transactions made up almost one-fifth.

The arrival of Amazon same-day delivery saw 35% of its packages arrive within one-day last year. Unfortunately the company also racked up 44 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide - the equivalent of the entire country of Denmark.

As with all things, Amazon sets the tone for the entire sector and the normalisation of same day delivery will make this a level of convenience too difficult for consumers to kick.

Consumers want brands to make the right choices and to empower them to make their own contribution, however, convenience remains a key differentiator.

In the UK 72% of consumers say they would shop more if there is an option for same-day delivery, while 79% said they would actually switch retailers based on delivery methods.

Recently Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged to make Amazon carbon neutral by 2040. Major retailers such as Zara and Zalando are also committing to net zero emissions targets albeit within the next decade. 

If it takes an ecommerce giant like Amazon two decades to become carbon neutral, perhaps smaller, more agile brands have a potential upper hand in reaching this goal sooner?

But how can retailers balance customer demand for faster and cheaper delivery with reducing carbon emissions?

The greatest, most environmentally positive effect a brand can have is reducing the impact of its shipping.

Greenbuttoning, carbon offsetting, the use of eco-friendly delivery vehicles, as well as consolidation and packaging are all areas that can massively benefit in this regard, but can also benefit brands and customers too. So how are companies approaching this?

Greenbuttoning & consolidation

Prior to the introduction of same day delivery, online shopping did provide some clear environmental advantages.

The ecological benefit over in-store pick up came largely from consolidation and being able to efficiently fill large vehicles.

However, with same day delivery, a lot of those benefits are now eroded, with more delivery vehicles on the road, leaving fulfillment centres before being filled.

This has led to increased journeys, vehicles on the road, congestion and fuel burned.

In London, in an effort to increase consolidation some high street landlords are partnering with single carriers to deliver stock to every retailer in their premises, thereby encouraging carriers to more completely fill their delivery trucks before leaving the depot.

Each retailer has its stock delivered to a single consolidation centre outside of London’s Congestion Zone, with the carrier providing last-mile delivery, in some instances with sustainable vehicles.

In a bid to reduce its last mile pollution, Royal Mail has introduced e-trikes as part of its fleet in London.

Consolidation and sustainable last mile delivery are important considerations for retailers to already prepare for as cities such as New York and London make moves to impose restrictions on daytime deliveries, creating low-emissions zones that ban certain vehicles.

Of course, for many UK consumers, speed is not everything. According to research giant, Mintel, over half (56%) of UK consumers say that the last parcel they received arrived more than a day after the product was ordered.

Whether a package arrives same day or via standard delivery what is most important is reliability, though potentially, more so with longer delivery times.

Here, being able to provide real time tracking and customer communications become all the more imperative with consumers expecting the delivery to be structured around their schedule.

In fact 83% of customers expect to be given a guaranteed due date and 80% to know exactly when the delivery will arrive.

If you would like to read more of this article, you can find the original piece on the IMRG website through this link

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