Sustainable eCommerce Strategies for the Holidays
December 05, 2022
by Rebecca Fox

The holiday season is a peak time for eCommerce stores, with many customers ordering gifts online. This results in large amounts of waste and carbon emissions. Implement these sustainable eCommerce practices to reduce the environmental impact of your store and make the holiday season more sustainable.

The Importance of Sustainability During the Holidays

There is an increasing emphasis on sustainable shopping among customers. 78% of customers say a business’s environmental practices influence their buying decisions. For holiday shopping, that number is even higher – 83% of customers look to shop sustainably during the holiday season.

Sustainable eCommerce practices can help you reduce your environmental impact and build customer loyalty during the holiday season.

How to Make Holiday eCommerce More Sustainable

From more eco-friendly packaging to greener delivery options, here are a few practical ways to make a difference to the environment this holiday season.

Use Sustainable Gift Packaging Materials

With all the gift-giving during the holiday season, packaging waste accumulates quickly. In fact, Americans average 43% more waste during the holiday season.

Switch to recyclable, compostable, and reusable packaging materials this holiday season to be more eco-friendly. 67% of customers consider sustainable packaging to be important when buying products.

  • Offer compostable gift packaging options, like flexible poly mailers, kraft paper mailers, and corrugated boxes, made from compostable materials such as recycled paper or biodegradable polymers that decompose quickly when composted. This saves a lot of waste from going to landfills.
  • Fill empty space inside your packages with compostable tissue paper, while adding an extra touch of branding to the gift unboxing experience.
  • Use shipping boxes of the right size to reduce costs and waste. When using boxes that fit the products, a greater volume of packages can be shipped at once, saving both time and money, since shipping costs are often determined by the weight and volume of packages. 

Make sure the boxes you use are the right size for your products to avoid wasting materials and increasing shipping costs.

Choose your packaging wisely to help your holiday gift packaging be as sustainable as possible.

Provide Green Shipping and Return Options

Throughout the year, customers expect fast fulfillment, and even more so during the holiday season. How can you balance quick fulfillment with sustainability? 

Providing eco-friendly shipping options is an excellent way to reduce your carbon emissions.

A third-party logistics provider (3PL) can help you shorten delivery routes and reduce emissions by sending deliveries from a nearby fulfillment center.

3PLs such as Deliverr can also manage your reverse logistics, saving you time, money, and energy with an interconnected network of warehouses that enable you to easily receive returned items across the country. Fast and efficient return processing gives you a huge competitive advantage and reduces environmental impact.

The concept of sustainable delivery is no longer limited to small or specialty businesses – everyone is getting involved, from Amazon switching to electric vehicles to Shopify offsetting their delivery carbon emissions.

Offer the Option of Carbon Offsetting 

During the busiest season for eCommerce, adding the option of carbon offsetting to your online checkout shows your customers that your store is committed to sustainability.

Carbon offsetting refers to reducing carbon gas emissions or storing more carbon by restoring land or planting trees, as a way to compensate for unavoidable carbon emissions.

If every eCommerce store would offset its emissions, it would make a huge environmental impact. Transportation is the biggest source of carbon gas emissions, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency – more than electricity or industry. 

While many eCommerce stores offer the option for customers to add a small amount at checkout to offset their carbon footprint, you can take this one step further by covering carbon offset costs during the holiday season. Communicate this message with an announcement on your website, product pages, and checkout page, such as:

Holiday special – carbon-neutral shipping on all orders!

However you want to get the word out, let your customers know that your store offers carbon-neutral shipping over the holidays. 

Communicate Your Sustainability Efforts

Many online stores publicly report taking sustainability initiatives. However, only 23% promote sustainable practices for the holidays in their shipping options, on the homepage, or on product pages.

Customers are actively looking for eco-friendly eCommerce stores to buy holiday gifts from, so make sure you clearly communicate your commitment to sustainability through photos, guides, animations, tools, and videos.

For example, you can create a series of short videos that outline your store’s eco-friendly practices. If you use compostable packaging, you can create a short explanation teaching customers how to dispose of it correctly. Another great idea is to highlight products that are sustainable and made with eco-friendly materials.

Most importantly, be transparent about what you do to reduce your store’s environmental impact during the holidays.

Reduce Return Shipping

The process of sending back returned gifts results in many unnecessary transportation trips every year.

Directing returned products through a streamlined pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) network can reduce your environmental impact. Multiple packages dropped off at one location for the shipping carrier to pick up saves time, fuel, and carbon emissions. 

Another option for sustainable returns is to allow customers to keep the items, and send them a refund or exchanged item.

Reducing the number of return shipments will help to reduce the environmental impact returns have during the holiday season.

Resell Returned Products to Reduce Waste

Reselling returned products online is known as reCommerce, and is a great way to prevent returned items from going to waste. Many customers are looking to buy used or second-hand products as gifts, to reduce the environmental impact of the holiday season.

By reselling returned products, you create a circular economy that reduces the environmental impact of eCommerce returns significantly.

It has become increasingly popular for eCommerce retailers to resell returned products online. In fact, 50% of second-hand sales are expected to come from online resale by 2024. 

There are many ways you can resell your returned products; in bulk, on third-party reCommerce sites, to liquidation companies, and more.

One easy way to resell returned products is to add a reCommerce section to your online store, where you sell returned products at a discounted price. For example, Best Buy has a section of its online store dedicated to used, clearance, and refurbished products.

ReCommerce can be a winning holiday strategy, as customers are likely to embrace the opportunity to save on their holiday shopping by buying used products, with the added benefit of staying sustainable. 

Reduce Waste With Sustainable eCommerce Practices

This holiday season, help reduce your store’s environmental impact by implementing these sustainable eCommerce practices. 

From optimizing your packaging and shipping to reselling returned products, there are many ways to make your holiday season more sustainable.

Take action this holiday season to reduce waste and promote sustainability.

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