Key strategies for a more sustainable brand

Get tips from EcoCart, Gorgias, ShipBob, Okendo, and Loop on building a more eco-friendly returns practice.

In honor of Earth Day, thought leaders from five growing startups in the ecommerce space joined forces to share strategies for how brands can integrate sustainability into their returns strategy and deliver a more conscientious customer experience that delivers on shoppers’ passion for environmentally-friendly business practices.

These days, sustainability isn’t just a “nice-to-have”—it’s a must for the majority of online shoppers, who base their buying decisions around the environmental impact of their purchases—and that extends to the returns process. Given that returns that can’t be resold generate around 5 billion pounds of landfill waste annually, it’s important to prioritize sustainable strategies for managing and repurposing product returns. 

Learn more about how sustainability impacts the Future of Merchant Growth

In fact, our research found that 56 percent of shoppers care about the environmental impact of their returns “somewhat” or “a lot. Seventy-three percent of shoppers review a retailer’s return policy to understand their commitment to sustainability. And 88 percent of shoppers say that eco-friendly return options will make them more likely to become repeat customers.

By building a flexible and sustainable return policy for your brand, you’ll be poised to deliver a competitive advantage that drives engagement among current shoppers and helps you target new shoppers who are aligned with your eco-friendly initiatives.

This webinar on sustainability strategies featured a roundtable with expert speakers:

  • Dane Baker, Co-founder and CEO, EcoCart
  • Francesca DeCastris, Partner Manager, ShipBob
  • Erin Watt, Partner Development Associate, Gorgias
  • Lindsay Kolinsky, Senior Marketing Lead, Okendo
  • Samir Kamnani, Product Marketing Manager, Loop

Want to learn more about how sustainability can grow your ecommerce brand? Watch the full webinar.

In this recap of our webinar with EcoCart, we’ll discuss how to:

  • Reduce the carbon offset of each shopper’s order with EcoCart
  • Build sustainability into your store’s supply chain with ShipBob
  • Make your returns more sustainable with Loop
  • Use shopper data to learn where you can improve with Okendo
  • Dig deeper into shopper feedback with Gorgias

Here are a few steps your brand can take toward better sustainability.

Reduce the carbon offset of each shopper’s order with EcoCart

EcoCart has developed a sustainable communications flywheel that showcases four main pillars to mobilize sustainability-minded shoppers: 

  • Reveal
    Showcase where and how products are made, and what they’re made from, building consumer trust through radical transparency.

  • Educate
    Explain your impact statement and sustainability story, showcasing why you operate the way you do.

  • Inspire
    Share the real-time impact of your carbon offset program, highlighting your nonprofit partners and their impact.

  • Engage
    Empower your shoppers to take action by making their purchase carbon-neutral, through a small additional donation.

EcoCart’s data shows that customers are more willing to make a purchase when they have the option to make their purchase carbon-neutral with a small up-charge. By making it easy for shoppers to improve the sustainability of their purchases, you’ll be able to drive more sales while reducing their environmental impact. 

user-generated content

Build sustainability into your store’s supply chain with ShipBob

By using a 3PL fulfillment service like ShipBob, your brand can go a long way towards making your supply chain more efficient and sustainable. These solutions work by enabling you to ship your product en masse to regional distribution centers—which will in turn, reduce the carbon footprint of each package, since they’ll have a shorter journey to their ultimate destination. 

You can take a data-driven approach to stocking your inventory in each fulfillment center, stocking the most popular products that sell in each region in those hubs. Doing so will help you improve your inventory availability, ship products faster, and decrease shipping costs and distances, resulting in lower transport-related fuel emissions for both product shipments and product returns. 

Using a 3PL is great for business efficiency, while being great for the environment–a win-win for you and your shoppers. 

Make your returns more sustainable with Loop

The traditional reverse logistics model is ripe for an overhaul, particularly given that many of the products sent back to retailers can’t be resold and end up in landfills.

Shoppers want more sustainable options for returns, and Loop makes it easy to deliver on that promise. By using a returns management solution like Loop, merchants can consolidate return shipments with “drop off locations” where shoppers can bring their returns in bulk for a lower cost and a significantly lower carbon emission. 

Loop also automatically calculates whether a return is worth the return shipping fees, and offers “keep item” options where customers can receive a refund or exchange credit without needing to physically return the item.

And when items are returned but may not be eligible for full-price resale, Loop enables merchants to set up “resale channels,” where items can be sold as open-box or gently used for a reduced price, ensuring that the items don’t end up in landfills. Loop also partners with EcoCart to enable customers to calculate the carbon emissions associated with a return, and pay to offset it.

Use shopper data to learn where you can improve with Okendo

Okendo is a solution that facilitates on-site customer reviews, surveys, and rankings—delivering powerful shopper data that you can use to reduce your brand’s environmental impact.

Using survey and review data to understand why customers are returning products can help you improve your pre-purchase process so that you’ll be able to lower your return rates. 

When a customer returns a product, you can collect data to understand why the customer is returning the product—was it too big, too small, or different from pictured? This data will enable you to improve your product descriptions and include sizing details, such as “runs small,” which can reduce the number of returns.

Likewise, high-impact customer reviews that incorporate user-generated content such as photos and videos will give your prospective shoppers a more accurate picture of what they’re looking at buying, helping them to make the right decisions when purchasing a product. 

By informing and educating your shoppers with a more accurate picture of the products they’re considering, you’ll be able to guide them in the right direction, and reduce the number of returns that occur due to poor product fit.

Dig deeper into shopper feedback with Gorgias

Finally, using a helpdesk solution for ecommerce like Gorgias can give you the tools to both understand your customers’ needs, and to provide automated messaging that educates them on your sustainability initiatives. 

By analyzing shopper feedback from your support tickets, you’ll be able to understand where  your brand can do better—including how you can improve the pre-sales process to reduce the number of product returns.

You can analyze this data to understand which products are being returned most frequently and why, and leverage these insights to help you improve your customer education efforts as well as your product inventory selection. 

You can also use Gorgias’s chatbot features to educate your shoppers on your sustainability initiatives, offering your shoppers videos and text snippets that spotlight how your brand is doing its part to reduce environmental impact during their customer support interactions. 

By putting the right ecommerce tech stack in place for your Shopify store, you’ll be able to prioritize sustainability at every step of your brand’s touch points—from first interaction all the way through to the post-purchase process.

Ensuring that shoppers have the tools and data to help them reduce their purchases’ environmental footprint will lead to empowered consumers who are more likely to choose your brand over competitors—paving the way for a successful, and sustainable, business.

Want to learn how to improve sustainability in your returns process? Check out a demo of Loop.