Every e-commerce company is dependent on consumer behavior, which is constantly changing. One aspect that is currently having a strong influence is the growing awareness of sustainability. This is not only about effects on the climate, but also about working conditions and economy. A study by the BDEW shows that 74.5% of respondents would already change their personal behavior just for the sake of the climate and preserving our environment.
If a change in consumer thinking takes place, companies must meet this demand. In this article, we show you what you can do to be at the forefront of sustainability and what challenges and opportunities await you.
What does sustainability in e-commerce lead to?
Quite apart from the fact that sustainability makes life on our planet worth living in the long term, there are numerous benefits for your company. The growing interest in a sustainable lifestyle is having a noticeable impact on the population's consumer behavior. According to a study by the Capgemini Research Institute, 48% of Germans, or almost every second person, would buy from a lesser-known brand if it were more sustainable.
Sustainability is not only associated with the thought "I'm doing something good." but is also a sign of high quality and trust for consumers. By making your e-commerce sustainable and being transparent and honest about it, you can increase customer loyalty and, in turn, your sales. However, you can not only increase the number of your customers, but also save money by using less packaging and electricity. If you work together with regional producers and suppliers, your delivery routes and delivery times will be reduced at the same time.
Customer opinion is particularly important when moving to more sustainable e-commerce. A sustainable image and campaigns should always fit the company and product, as marketing this characteristic is walking a fine line. On the one hand, sustainability stands for higher quality, but on the other hand, brands whose sustainable advertising message doesn't suit you will be seen as untrustworthy. Once interest has been aroused and trust secured, the aspect of sustainability offers a unique selling proposition that sets your brand apart from the (larger) competition.
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Tip 1: Set a good example
When you personalize your brand, your customers see you as a role model. Show your way to more sustainability in the company and in everyday life. For example, you can increasingly do without your car and ride your bike instead or use energy-saving LED lamps for your workplace.
If CO2 emissions cannot be avoided, you can donate part of your revenue to various organizations that work for sustainability. In this way, you can offset some or all of the CO2 you cause. Regularly review the current state of your company and where there is potential for improvement.
Build your customers' trust in your brand with clear communication. Stay transparent, honest and avoid green washing. By using industry-standard seals of approval, it is clear at first glance that your "green" promises are authentic and credible.
Tip 2: Check your service providers and partners
If you want to take a step towards sustainability with your company, you must also select your service providers accordingly. Check whether sustainable materials and production processes are used. In addition, your service providers should also pay attention to social working conditions and fair wages.
Working with regional partners brings a number of advantages. Not only does it make it easier for you to communicate with each other, but you can also save time and money. Our customer Shape Republic sets an example and relies on regionality in the production of its popular fitness shakes.
Tip 3: Shopify as a sustainable store system
If you are still planning your store or thinking about relaunching your old store, consider Shopify as your store system. The company has managed to become carbon-neutral in recent years by offsetting all of the CO2 it produces. Shopify educates people about its own actions and has set up a sustainability fund through which at least $5 million is dedicated to reversing climate change each year.
But it's not just the company itself that acts sustainably. The platform's data centers are powered by renewable energy, which automatically makes every Shopify store carbon-neutral on the technical side. To further facilitate the step towards sustainability for store operators, Shopify offers various tools and apps on the topic.
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Each store can have its monthly emissions calculated with the Offset app and pay a corresponding amount as CO2 compensation. The operators can label their store so that customers can see directly that something is being done here for the climate.
The Verdn app focuses in particular on end customers. When using the app in the store, online shoppers are offered various options for offsetting the CO2 caused by their purchase. They not only make an anonymous payment, but also select a specific project and receive regular updates on its development. As a store owner or operator, you can get your customers directly on board in this way and exert a joint influence.
Reading Tip: Are you looking for more good tools for your store? Read our post about the 10 best Shopify apps.
Tip 4: Rethink your shipping
Packaging and shipping play a particularly large and important role in e-commerce. It is precisely at these points that you can change a lot to become climate neutral.
First, banish plastic from your packaging and shipping materials. There are numerous alternatives that are reusable and, in the best case, made from recycled materials. But only use what you really need. In detail, this means use appropriate packaging sizes. For example, don't send a record in a box the size of a toolbox with thousands of cardboard snippets as filling.
Sustainable packaging becomes visible with appropriate branding. Customers will be particularly aware of the added value and will have a good feeling when buying your products.
Not only the packaging is important for sustainable shipping, but of course also the delivery itself. Our customer JoyBräus relies on sustainable shipping with the GoGreen service of Deutsche Post DHL Group. With the service, the CO2 caused by the shipments is compensated for as completely as possible. The service provider also works to not only offset CO2 emissions, but to avoid causing them in the first place.
Tip 5: Adjust your returns strategy
Returns also pollute the environment with more emissions, plus they create costs for your business. So your goal is to give your clientele as few reasons as possible to return goods.
You can start by not offering free returns. However, as a store owner, you should consider whether you need the free returns offer more as a marketing tool and instead avoid returns in other ways as much as possible. Consumers demonstrably order more products if they do not expect any additional costs for return shipping. This means they don't have to think hard about their purchase decision before ordering, but can still do so at home without having to pay for the cost of returns.
To facilitate purchase decisions already online, you should present your products as tangibly as possible. In the fashion sector, you can achieve this with detailed measurement tables and product photos on a wide variety of body shapes. Describe your products in such a way that your customers can get a good picture of them themselves without holding your products in their hands. For example, compare the feel, size, or shape to an item your target audience is very likely to have at home, or at least easily accessible to everyone.
All returns will be impossible to avoid. Therefore, make the most of the ones you receive. Even before the return, you can offer your customers to send back different orders in the same package. Your customers will save time, only have to take one package to the shipping company, and the emissions caused will also be lower. In the best case, you put the returned goods back on sale and reuse the return packaging. For example, you can attach the shipping label to the package using a banderole, which only needs to be replaced when the package is used again.
Reading tip: You don't just want to adjust your returns strategy? How to optimize your online store in 9 steps, you can learn here.
Tip 6: Inform your clientele
Despite the increasing relevance of the topic of sustainability, the need for information and education is still high. Take your target group along with you on your measures towards a sustainable company and educate them about what they can do themselves. Make clear what impact the decision for "green" shipping has on the environment or what it means to ship all products of an order together and to accept a longer delivery time for it.
Educate your customers about the composition of your prices and what added value they get in return - materially and emotionally. Higher prices are still the biggest barrier to buying sustainable products, which is why online shoppers are more likely to forgo them and opt for the cheaper, less environmentally friendly option.
Challenges and opportunities for sustainable companies
Probably the biggest challenge for sustainable e-commerce is to convince the clientele of the added value of your own brand. Compromises must be found that allow you to both represent your values and satisfy your customers. Create a material and emotional appeal for your sustainable brand and show that choosing your product means giving up nothing that less sustainable products offer.
This conviction also offers your company its greatest opportunity: strengthened customer loyalty. Use your values as a unique selling point and achieve firm trust through communication with your prospective buyers and a convincing overall package. Keep your target group in focus and thus create the balance between sustainability and customer expectations.
By being open and honest, you build trust in your brand and understanding of your values. It is not necessary that you do everything perfectly from the beginning. Start with small steps and gradually take off. Your sustainable thinking will soon ensure a good image that you can use to woo customers and retain them in the long term.
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