What to do
Businesses could take a leaf out of The Co-op’s book by adopting a decentralised warehouse /in-store picking business model for eCommerce.
The last-mile tends to be the most resource-intensive part of the post-purchase supply chain, as carriers need to make individual journeys to addresses – rather than pallet loads of product to one destination. By using stores (or partering with non-competitive retailers) you can bring products closer to the customer. Using local micro-fulfilment centres will allow more deliveries to be made by sustainable methods such as cargo bikes or electric vehicles.
The Rise in Recycled Commerce
We predict that there will be a rise in “Recycled Commerce”. In fact, the second-hand online market place has never been bigger. In September 2019, tens of thousands of people took Oxfam’s #SecondHandSeptember pledge not to buy new clothes for a month, saving carbon equivalent to driving round the world 200 times.
More people are shopping second-hand than ever before – with “a third of consumers buying more second-hand items than they were 12 months ago and more women are happy to rummage through vintage or used items than men.” Marketing Week
Fuelled by the desire to bag a bargain and reduce carbon footprints – Thredup claims that the total second-hand apparel market is set to double in 5 years. According to their 2018 Thift Report, resale is growing 24x faster than retail – with the resale sector driving growth from key disruptors such as ThredUp, TheRealReal and Poshmark.
Focus on the ‘Hate to Waste’ Mentality
Whilst choice and convenience are major factors when shopping online – retailers should focus on consumer’s ‘hate to waste’ mentality – making the environmental impact of their products clearly visible to the consumer. This could be information that highlights: Where a product was sourced, durability and estimated lifespan, whether sustainable fabrics and materials were used in the product manufacturing, and indeed whether the packaging is recycled or organic. I can see a time in the not too distant future where many brands have a traffic light system, highlighting the estimated savings in CO2, electricity and water compared to alternatives.
Re-sell Returned Goods
If you’re able to sell on goods that have been returned without losing quality, then jump on the ‘resale’ bandwagon. You will, of course, need to weigh up the cost of refurbishment and resale versus the cost to buy new.
Reverse Logistics – Start at the source of the problem
It’s a well known-fact that returns in the fashion industry can be as high as 40%. Customers returning goods to retailers contribute to the overall carbon footprint and waste. The most effective way to stamp out the problem is to address the issue at the heart of the problem. According to a recent survey by Klarna, 27% of returns are because the fit isn’t right. Whilst another 19% return items because the product looks different in the flesh, compared with online. This highlights the importance of size guides and accurate product information.
ASOS, M&S and Zalando are among a number of retailers using smarter fit technology online. ASOS are well known for embracing new online features. The latest of which is an augmented reality tool which allows you to see how the garment would look on your figure – with 16 different body types and heights to choose from.