By Ian Davis, director of ATG
Retailers know a good sales hook when they meet one – and green is clearly the new black when it comes to products and services. From low-energy light bulbs to organic vegetables, chemical-free clothing ranges and hybrid taxi firms nothing it seems can be sold nowadays without an eco-friendly label.
Nothing, that is, apart from e-commerce itself.
With the internet accounting for10 per cent of retail sales, you’d think e-commerce outfits would be busting a gut to prove their green credentials and take advantage of consumers’ new-found taste for sustainability. But strangely for an industry known for its rapid innovation, there are very few e-commerce businesses making the most of this business opportunity.
So how does e-commerce help save the planet? It’s actually inherently a very green way to operate:
- Electronic brochures and direct mail mean less paper and energy
- Home delivery means fewer customer car journeys, cutting down C02 emissions
- Lack of bricks and mortar stores means reduced energy consumption
- More effective supply chain and fulfilment processes mean less product wastage and reduced storage requirements
- E-commerce allows the digitilisation of e.g. software and music, lowering consumption of energy and raw materials
In addition to these almost incidental benefits to the environment, some pioneering e-commerce firms are also helping customers towards a greener lifestyle by providing specialist shopping sites, search tools and ranges for eco-friendly products.
Others are reducing packaging or using recycled packing materials, as well as giving customers the option to off-set the carbon emissions caused by delivery of their goods through tree-planting schemes.
But what’s in it for the retailer and why does green need to move up the e-commerce agenda? At the bottom line a lot of green measures lower manufacture, distribution and storage costs by cutting out or streamlining different processes and steps within the sales cycle.
They can also act as a significant differentiator for eco-conscious customers, increasing competitive edge and potentially sales. The brand benefits can be important too.
If customers feel that their preferences are being catered for, and that the company they are buying from has an ethical approach to business they are more likely to make repeat purchases and recommend the business to their network. In addition, the use of environmental credentials for PR and marketing outreach can be invaluable in making an impact.
But remember if you green it, you’d better mean it – consumers are cottoning on fast to retailers attempting to ‘greenwash’ their customers, and any cynical, unsubstantiated marketing ploy to cash in on the green pound will do your brand more harm than good in the long run.
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