Caring consumers

We all know that global e-commerce is growing rapidly; recent figures have revealed that retail ecommerce sales are expected to grow to €3.65 trillion (£3.187tn) by 2021, up from $1.05tn (£917bn) or 246.15 % in 2014. Despite the major positives of the industry’s fast growth, ecommerce is having an increasingly negative impact on the environment.

Surprisingly, consumer knowledge about the damage this is causing is often lacking. A recent survey we conducted across the UK, France and the Netherlands shows that 58% of online shoppers are not aware that express delivery has a more negative impact on the environment than standard delivery.

Environment or delivery speed?

Our survey shows that 60% of consumers nowadays prefer online shopping to conventional shopping. And to stand out in the increasingly competitive ecommerce world, online retailers are offering a huge variety of delivery options, such as express delivery, same-day delivery, as well as easy return options.

However, research from the University of Delaware shows that fast delivery options put additional pressure on the environment. With standard delivery, multiple orders can be bundled and delivered in one trip. But, with express and same-day delivery, fewer parcels are bundled, meaning more trips are necessary.

The same is true for returns; when a consumer selects an option, which means it gets collected from their home, these one-off pick-ups are leading to an increase in kilometres travelled for small-scale deliveries.

In an ‘Amazon Prime’ world, it seems as though fast delivery options are king. But for our European respondents, the environment seems to be more important than delivery speed. 75% of them stated they would wait longer for parcels if they knew that a shorter delivery period resulted in more air pollution and congestion.

Where there’s a will…

With 58% of online shoppers having no awareness that express delivery has a more negative impact on the environment than standard delivery, clearly, knowledge about the impact of deliveries is lacking.

However, according to our research, consumers do want to make sustainable shopping choices; when it was explained that a shorter delivery period resulted in worse traffic and air pollution, only 10% of online shoppers said they would choose express delivery (1-2 days). 85 % would choose green delivery (6-8 days) or standard delivery (3-5 days). 60% of online shoppers said they were even prepared to pay extra for sustainable delivery methods and 59% would be prepared to pay a deposit for packaging and later collect this by returning the packaging to a local supermarket.

These findings suggest that there is a will to make green choices, but that information provision is lacking; if consumers don’t know about the impact their decisions are having on the environment, how can they be expected to do anything about it?

Informing our customers

As an industry, we must inform consumers about the environmental impact of delivery decisions and the consequences of their online shopping behaviour. However, this is only the beginning.

Our research highlights that, in addition to informing consumers, we need to focus on innovation around sustainable deliveries, to give them more sustainable choices when it comes to parcel delivery. In addition to offering environmentally friendly delivery options, the use of green delivery vehicles and sustainable packaging should be considered to make ecommerce a more sustainable industry.

Rijk van Meekeren, is the CCO at B2C Europe a logistic company that provide more cost effective and client friendly logistic solutions

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