The role of sustainability in e-commerce will undoubtedly become much more significant in the next few years whether in terms of establishing eco-friendly business models or the way in which products are packaged.
As a sales platform, e-commerce has for many years tended to focus awareness on the environmental and sustainability aspects of buying and selling not least because those who shop online are now also much more conscious of the need to consider these issues. It is a fact that the purchasing power of online consumers is constantly growing and during the COVID-19 pandemic alone, e-commerce has experienced 10 years of growth in a matter of months.
For one large group of online consumers in particular, the millennials, whether an e-commerce business has adopted an eco-friendly stance or not will greatly influence their purchasing choices. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 70% millennials state this was definitely true.
This is reinforced by the findings of another study undertaken by statista that confirms that, as an entire generation, millennials are the most self-consciously aware of both their own social impact and that of their spending. Even the fact that eco-friendly products tend to be a little more expensive does not affect the purchasing choice of millennials since they deem such spending to be a long term investment in both their own future and that of generations to come.
In order to successfully meet the growing desire for all things sustainable from their customer base, online retailers have for quite a while been considering several issues such as the eco-friendliness and corporate social responsibility not only of their own enterprises but of all those involved in their supply chains.
Thus those involved in e-commerce must look to the concept of green marketing whether that be by creating eco-friendly products and then marketing them with the message that they have green benefits, by shipping the products in eco-friendly packaging or by seeking to adopt a sustainable business approach.
One thing is certain, in whatever way you apply green marketing to your business and your products, you must ensure that both prospective and current customers are aware of how environmentally friendly you and your company are and the best way to do this is to make sure your Shopify site gets the message across loud and clear.
We’ve already established that e-commerce has grown substantially over the last few months and years and that for millennials in particular, i.e., those likely to purchase online more frequently, knowing that a business is eco-friendly seriously affects their shopping choices and the impact this may have on the environment. As such, your Shopify site must exemplify the idea of a green lifestyle and align with its audience’s view of what being eco-friendly entails. After all, this generation has massive buying power and therefore the potential to influence social behaviour and trends.
There is actually a specific name for the category of customers who prefer to buy eco-friendly products despite the fact that they may be a little more expensive than their not so environmentally friendly counterparts and that is LOHAS. This stands for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability and is defined by Wikipedia as ‘an integrated, rapidly growing market for goods and services that appeal to consumers whose sense of environmental and social responsibility influences their purchase decisions.’
In other words, they are consumers who actively support the health of the environment and are the most likely to purchase products that can be seen to be green and socially responsible. Furthermore, they possess the power to influence other purchasers.
As well as making environmentally friendly products available, there are certain other steps you can take as a business to enhance your green marketing strategy by making sure your customers are aware of your commitment to sustainability such as:
It is important that we all play a part in trying to reverse the effects of climate change and Shopify can offer lots of ways to help you to do just that without affecting your bottom line. Shopify offers a range of solutions and apps to help you to adopt a more sustainable approach, become more eco-friendly and help to be carbon-neutral and make the message loud and clear that you encourage a greener lifestyle for all.
However, as e-commerce is predicted to grow in our post-pandemic world, should we be concerned about the massive effect this will have on the environment worldwide not only in terms of the level of logistics and shipping involved but also the energy consumed by the data centres that host Shopify stores?
You can be assured that Shopify is doing all it can to play a part in enabling a low-carbon future by having taken several important steps to ensure it is accountable for its ecological impact. This includes:
Every single year, over 2 million tonnes of waste arrives at landfill sites around the world. After all, all those cardboard boxes, plastic packing bubbles and Styrofoam stubs need to go somewhere and sadly quite often ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The global supply chain network produces such a sheer volume of waste that its dramatic impact on the environment has made it necessary for those involved in e-commerce to reconsider their approach and find solutions within the industry that are sustainable and that, for the most part, means using eco-friendly packaging. The new standard that every retailer needs to aspire to is to always use renewable or recycled material and reduce packaging waste as far as possible, only in this way will they appeal to the new generation of consumers.
Furthermore, it isn’t really that difficult to find like-minded companies trying to help retailers to find eco-friendly packaging and shipping solutions. For example, Packhelp has launched an initiative to enable retailers to source and use sustainable and ecological packaging materials and DHL GoGreen, DPD Total Zero and GLS ThinkGreen, all offer climate neutral shipping solutions.
So, it’s easy to see that e-commerce and environmental sustainability can work hand in hand and by making this happen in your online operations, there is massive potential for your business to grow by leading the way in the age doing business in a sustainable way.
Both consumers and retailers need to adapt to the changing world by becoming more aware of and responsible for the environment. As they increasingly follow the green trend, customers need to be assured that e-commerce is playing its part is saving the environment by not only adopting eco-friendly shipping and sustainable fulfillment but also by offering products that are sustainably designed, fairly priced and durable.
However demanding this new consumer trend may appear to be for e-commerce retailers, it really does not have to cost a great deal to become greener, particularly not in the long run. What is more, showing yourself to be a responsible retailer will earn you a positive brand image and you can use this within your marketing campaigns
Hopefully this article will have encouraged you to implement a sustainable strategy for your online shop. You could do this by adapting your current product range to meet the needs of your existing or potential customers or by introducing new environmentally sustainable products which is especially beneficial for those operating within the home, fashion or beauty sectors where there is a higher level of willingness to buy eco-friendly and sustainable products.
For some inspiration, here’s some of our favourite Eco Shopify Apps
3 - EcoCart: Carbon Neutral Orders
4- Sales CountUp
5 - Fashion Impact
6 Carbon‑Neutral Shipping
7 Arka: Packaging and Supplies
8 Climate Friendly Cart