Consumers’ buying habits have changed drastically over the years with the raising popularity of eCommerce. With the benefits of around the clock opening hours, flexible delivery times and friendly exchange policies, online shopping is so convenient for shoppers with internet access to order almost any conceivable products. Research has shown that in 2018, eCommerce sales accounted for 14 percent of retail sales worldwide.
And with smartphones now accompanying us everywhere, it also influences how we shop. Statistics says in 2018, 79 percent customers ordered via mobile, and 40 percent of Black Friday sales were ordered via mobile.
But quite often we see Twitter feeds with packaging waste related hashtags, showing small items like batteries, cosmetics, hair accessories being delivered to door in large boxes, gaps fully filled with plastic air pillow or form. In fact, research shows that 40 percent of online deliveries are coming with packaging too big for the item ordered, and 72 percent of consumers believe that retailers use too much packaging for their orders. Consumers are more aware and concerned on the environmental impact that comes with their purchase; there are expectations from shoppers around what an online package needs to look like.
There are many improvements both sellers and shoppers can make:
1. Reduce packaging through the supply chain
Retailers can provide support to their manufacturers to help them improve their packaging functionality, with the target to reduce packaging waste, but ensure products are well protected all the way to their delivery to customers.
Retailers can also put effort to reduce excessive packaging for door to door delivery. eCommerce leader Amazon, for example, has launched a frustration-free packaging programme. Key elements of the programme focus on reducing unnecessary packaging by delivering products in appropriate-sized boxes and allowing certain products to be shipped in their original packaging. As of December 2017, the company has eliminated 215,000 tons of packaging material and avoided 360 million shipping boxes.
2. Use green and recyclable packaging alternatives
Retailers can explore options around eco-friendly packaging materials, like partnering with companies in the market offering innovative packaging alternatives. Taking Dell as an example, the company has been replacing its plastic packaging materials with bamboo solutions, a material that can be composted or recycled as paper. By using bamboo cushioning, Dell’s packaging size has been reduced by about 10 percent, and it is strong and durable to protect the device along the way to customers’ footstep.
There are also other more sustainable options like wheat straw, which is produced from agricultural waste and mushrooms, that have been adopted to replace traditional plastic air pillow or form.
3. Commitment to be a responsible consumer
Consumers can also change their online shopping habits to help our environment. To lessen the environmental impact through fewer deliveries and optimally loaded lorries, consumers can plan ahead and consolidate orders, avoid expedited shipping and select the option of longer delivery times.
And, to reduce packaging waste, if the option is provided, consumers can swap to a more sustainable packaging option, or pick delivery services that use returnable crates or recyclable cardboard.
While eCommerce grows at an unprecedented rate, retailers and consumers should become more aware of what both business strategies and lifestyle choices are doing to the planet. Brands and customers must work together to take responsibility of protecting our environment. Small steps can make a big difference.