Consumers want better sustainability in home deliveries

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by Emily Atkins

Less than half of consumers recently surveyed were satisfied with retailers’ sustainability practices around home delivery.

A new survey by Descartes, called Retailers: Sustainability is Not a Challenge, It’s an Opportunity, found that only 38 percent of consumers felt retailers were doing a good job of using sustainable delivery practices. Over 50 percent, however, indicated they were quite/very interested in environmentally friendly delivery methods, and 54 percent would be willing to accept longer lead times for an environmentally friendly delivery.

The study surveyed over 8,000 consumers across nine European countries, Canada and the United States.

The two product categories causing consumers to think twice about the environmental impact of online buying and home delivery were grocery (35%) and clothing and footwear (35%). Germany had the highest concern for groceries at 46 percent, while The Netherlands was the lowest at 21 percent.

Consumers cited grocery (52%) and clothing and footwear (45%) as the top product categories for store pickup as opposed to home delivery if they thought it would help the environment. The implicit challenge for e-commerce pure plays in those markets is that they need to show that their home delivery approach is as environmentally friendly, if not more, than “bricks and mortar” competitors to maintain or grow their business.

However, consumers also indicated that they would buy more grocery (40%) and clothing and footwear (39%) from companies that demonstrated their supply chains were more sustainable than the competition. Canada was the highest at 47 percent and The Netherlands was the lowest at 29 percent. These numbers point to a significant opportunity to take market share based upon demonstrated supply chain sustainability efforts.

“The mistake that many retailers are making is viewing home delivery sustainability as yet another challenge from the consumer instead of an opportunity to capture market share, reduce delivery costs and help the environment,” said Chris Jones, EVP, industry and services at Descartes.

“The study shows that many consumers prefer to buy more from those retailers with superior sustainable delivery practices and to take eco-friendly delivery options that reduce environmental impact and delivery costs at the same time.”

A significant number of consumers (54%) indicated they would be willing to accept longer lead times from an environmentally friendly company. Longer lead times provide more options to improve the efficiency of the delivery which almost always results in a lower carbon footprint.

In addition, 20 percent of respondents indicated they would pay more for a delivery from an environmentally friendly company. This may not sound like a lot, but the experience of companies that offer premium delivery pricing says that it represents millions in incremental revenue. In addition, age plays an important part as Gen Z and Millennials (27%) more willing to pay a premium than 55+ (14%).

Consumers rated convenience (40%) much more important than environmental impact (23%). However, there was a large group (37%) that said that convenience and environmental impact were equal. Looking at it in aggregate, 60 percent of consumers have environmental importance expectations for their home deliveries. The “Holy Grail” will be online retailers that can provide convenience and show greater sustainability.