That was the topic of discussion in a recent episode of the ‘In Reviews We Trust’ podcast, where we welcomed two leading voices in sustainable eCommerce into the studio:
Matt Williams: COO and Co-Founder of Greenspark, an Impact-as-a-Service platform through which businesses can reward customer actions - like purchases and reviews - with positive impacts - like tree planting, ocean bound plastic rescue and carbon offsetting.
The conversation led to some really innovative ideas on how brands can take meaningful steps towards sustainability whilst boosting the health of their bottom line. So much so we thought we’d explore those ideas in a little more detail, and offer actionable tips on how you can implement them.
Returns are an inevitable part of the eCommerce game, especially with more and more brands offering it as a free service. It’s a logical move - free returns provide customers with a sense of convenience, flexibility and reduced risk when making online purchases.
However, as well as adding avoidable costs to your business, returns contribute to increased resource consumption, transportation emissions and waste generation. That’s bad news for your profits and bad news for your sustainability efforts.
Thankfully, there are several ways to address the issue and minimize return rates - reducing negative impact whilst upping your margins.
Add a Q&A section to product pages: this is a simple way to address common concerns, product features, sizing or compatibility issues before a purchase, giving the customer more of the information they need to make the right choice first time round. This significantly improves the chances of purchase satisfaction, resulting in fewer returns. It’s also an effective way to maximize product page conversions.
There are some considerations here though. Allowing customers to submit answers does mean you risk gibberish or misinformation from time to time. Instead, we recommend using a solution where only the brand or merchant can answer, so potential customers get reliable information from product experts.
Collect review attributes: this fulfills the same purpose as the Q&A section (more informed purchase decisions), but this time the information does come from your existing customer base. All you need to do is add additional questions to your review requests that relate to certain product and customer features.
Constantly seeing returns labeled ‘too big’ or ‘too small’? Ask customers to rate fit according to size and to submit their height and/or body type. This helps a prospective buyer understand how well a product meets their specific needs, reducing the likelihood of a return. With fully customizable attributes, you can apply this same principle to any kind of product.
Reward conscious behavior: so what about the customers who buy more than they intend to keep because the return process is no burden to them? Here it’s not about helping them make the right choices, but about discouraging this ‘return culture’.
One answer here is to encourage the reverse by rewarding conscious behavior through your loyalty program. For example, you may offer an exclusive discount to customers with zero returns in a three month window. Or if you really want to up the sustainability stakes, you could integrate a solution like Greenspark and make that reward a positive impact.
It might not be something you’ve considered but your eCommerce store itself contributes to your brand’s environmental impact. Poorly written code that uses excessive memory, processing power or storage can strain servers and result in higher energy consumption - so keep this in mind when it comes to store development.
It’s also a major consideration for any third-party apps you install. Be mindful of your choices and look to build a network of tech suppliers that share the same values and commitment to sustainability.
It’s part of our make-up here at REVIEWS.io. We offer APIs for both our review and loyalty solutions, so there’s no need to use code-heavy apps. And for businesses that don’t have development resources, we aim to make our widgets as lightweight as possible.
But how does this impact your profitability? Well, when you adopt efficient coding practices you improve the speed and responsiveness of your eCommerce platform. A faster, more streamlined website leads to a better user experience and reduced bounce rates, whilst increasing the likelihood of conversions and repeat purchases.
We know sustainability is a big deal for today’s consumer, and we also know that’s led to a rise in greenwashing - brands making over inflated or false claims about their sustainability credentials. To avoid this, be open and honest about the steps you’re taking, even if they seem relatively minor.
Sustainability initiatives can be expensive to implement. It’s far better to make small, meaningful changes as you work towards the bigger picture than to make bold claims you cannot substantiate.
It’s also a good idea to involve your customers in the process, in sort of a brand/consumer consultation if you will. This will give you the insight you need to make the changes most critical to your customer base. There’s a couple of tools we offer that can help here:
Review Attributes: another great use case for this feature, Review Attributes can help you gauge how well you’re doing with any ongoing initiatives. For example, you could ask customers to rate packaging from excessive to minimal, or to rate your supply chain transparency on a scale of 1 to 10. This is all valuable information you can feed into your strategy.
As a bonus, when you publish these attributes on your store, you give potential customers evidence of the steps you’re taking and show you value their opinion.
Post-purchase surveys: there’s so much information you can gather through post-purchase surveys, and they’re a great way to get both feedback and suggestions on your approach to sustainability. For some inspiration, you could ask questions like:
If you’re exploring conscious coding and development, you could ask customers to highlight the top three most important elements on a product page using the screen capture and pen tool. You can then look at ways to streamline store design by minimizing elements that hold little sway over a purchase decision.
As with attributes, our post-purchase surveys are fully customizable, so can be aligned with your specific strategy.
By being transparent and involving the customer in your efforts, you’ll boost engagement and loyalty, and build a reputation as a brand with strong sustainability values. This in turn contributes to all the things you need for continued growth - customer retention, increased LTV, and cost effective acquisition through positive word of mouth.
Conscious consumerism is something all eCommerce businesses need to be aware of if they intend to remain competitive in today’s landscape. With customers making evermore considered purchases, brands and merchants that don’t take steps to lessen their environmental impact will quickly fall behind.
We’re not saying it's easy - sustainability initiatives can be both costly and complex - but as long as you’re working towards bigger goals, the small steps you take along the way are just as significant.
The ideas we’ve talked about here are both cost effective and easy to implement, and REVIEWS.io is here to help.
And to hear more from our expert guests Matt and Tom, listen to the podcast episode in full: ‘How to reduce environmental impact, and increase profit margins with Greenspark and Noughts & Ones’.