How to Build a More Sustainable eCommerce Strategy

different strategies for sustainable eCommerce practices and products

In an increasingly values-driven consumer world, it’s not shocking that eco-friendly brands that practice sustainable eCommerce are on the rise. Across industries, companies that can show their efforts to minimize adverse environmental impacts can win more customers, drive more loyalty, and better grow their businesses.

Building a sustainable eCommerce strategy is not just ethically driven, either. When implemented the right way, eco-friendly marketing and product measures can be both cost-effective and practical. They can also drive some of the most desirable consumer demographics towards your business.

Of course, the approach to eco-friendly eCommerce has to be strategic. It isn’t enough to just tout your sustainability; instead, brands succeed online when they build their business strategy around meeting consumer needs and demands. Let’s dive into what that means and how your online store business can adjust to follow the sustainable eCommerce trend.

The Stats and Trends Behind Sustainable eCommerce

A decade ago, building a more eco-friendly business model might have been based on a founder’s or CEO’s personal values and beliefs. Today, it simply makes good business sense:

  • According to McKinsey, 66% of consumers base at least part of their purchase decision on whether a product is environmentally friendly. Among millennials, that number rises to 75%.
  • Another survey found that 72% of consumers were buying more eco-friendly products than they did five years ago, with 81% of respondents expecting to buy even more over the next five years.
  • Research conducted at NYU found that 50% of the growth across all consumer packaged goods came from products marketed as sustainable.
  • All other variables being equal, consumers are willing to spend an average of up to 5% more on products simply because they are more environmentally friendly.
  • Millennials and Gen Z consumers, whose spending power is expected to dominate the eCommerce market over the next decade, are by far the most likely demographics to prioritize sustainability when shopping online.

And we’re just getting started. Experts estimate that over the next decade, sustainable eCommerce will become one of the top considerations for any consumer looking to purchase products online.

How Businesses Can Implement Eco-Friendly Commerce Measures

business discussing optimal sustainable eCommerce practices

With a clear trend toward sustainability as a brand benefit and even as a competitive advantage, efforts to implement and communicate that sustainability in your own business and messaging become crucial. These strategies can help you move in the right direction.

1. Create More Eco-Friendly Products

The most natural, and most comprehensive, start to a more sustainable eCommerce strategy is with your products. From design to production, every step of the pipeline can be optimized with sustainability in mind.

In other words, anything from more environmentally friendly materials to shorter supply chains that require less transportation can make an impact. Also, designing products that last longer can go a long way towards reducing waste long-term.

2. Reduce or Avoid Packaging Waste

It’s cheap to build one-size-fits-all packaging options for your eCommerce store. But unfortunately, your customers will notice continuous shipping in too-large boxes with plenty of packing plastic to buffer the product.

Instead, look for ways to make your packaging more environmentally friendly. At its simplest, that means using better-sized boxes to match your products. It might also mean:

  • Using recyclable materials
  • Choosing paper instead of plastic to buffer fragile products
  • Finding packaging that your customers can more easily re-use after their products arrive

3. Implement Eco-Friendly Shipping Options

Like packaging, shipping is another natural opportunity to reduce your environmental footprint for more sustainable eCommerce. Packaging is part of that equation, but so are additional steps like using thermal printers for labels to reduce ink. It also helps to partner with carriers like FedEx and USPS through their sustainable shipping programs. You can even offer a service fee to offset the carbon emissions of the shipping process.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that not all of your customers are willing to pay more for more sustainable shipping. Offering options like the above alongside your traditional shipping options is a great way to analyze the popularity of these more sustainable alternatives. Once you have the data, then you can implement them across your entire online store.

4. Build a Secondary Market for Your Products

Not all of your products are or should be single-use. We’re increasingly moving into the age of the circular economy. In the circular economy, products move to new uses rather than traditional disposal.

You can take advantage of that trend by creating or promoting marketplaces in which customers can sell their used products to others, as Patagonia has implemented with its Worn Wear shop. In addition to reducing product waste, this step also tends to reduce returns and even builds customer community.

5. Tell the Story of Your Sustainability Efforts

Finally, marketing plays an important part in the sustainability equation. In addition to the tangible business impact, letting your customers know about your efforts allows you to tap into the above-mentioned trends related to the increasing favorability of eco-friendly commerce.

Telling the story of sustainability on your website means not just integrating it into all relevant product pages but also creating a dedicated page that summarizes all of your efforts. You can also integrate sustainability messaging into your email campaigns, from the first touch to ongoing efforts in building customer loyalty.

Specifics are best; the more directly you can outline the exact environmental impact your efforts have made, the more credible your messaging will become.

Three Case Studies That Show Sustainable Commerce in Action

Many of the strategies outlined above are comprehensive approaches to sustainable eCommerce. When implemented the right way, they can make all the difference in growing your eCommerce business. They allow you to clearly showcase your values. Then you can align yourself with an audience that is increasingly interested in exactly that topic.

Three of our clients exemplify this effort to make sustainability part of their marketing and communications efforts:

  1. Shameless Pets creates its pet treats from upcycled ingredients. It clearly explains both how the process works to reassure pet owners and exactly how much food the process has saved.
  2. Maud’s Coffee and Tea has optimized its products for sustainability. It offers recyclable coffee pods. It also has a shorter supply chain that takes out multiple steps and creates the products in a solar-powered facility.
  3. Windmill Air Conditioners offsets its carbon footprint through a small fee at the checkout while also lowering emissions in its product design and operations.

These brands have realized the importance of sustainability in modern commerce. They openly communicate their efforts to potential and current customers. We’d love to help you do the same. Get started today by contacting us to learn more about the importance of an eco-friendly eCommerce strategy and execution.