Sustainable Packaging, Free Returns Top-of-Mind for Shoppers

In Dotcom Distribution’s seventh annual e-commerce consumer study, a demand for greener, more sustainable approaches by retailers and brands was a notable trend among the more than 1,100 online shoppers polled. In the report, Dotcom Distribution culled insights from respondents around topics such as purchase behavior, packaging and shipping, and returns.

Dotcom Distribution said returns were “revealed to significantly impact purchase decisions.” And when asked which category was tops in online shopping, respondents said it was apparel.

Some key findings also mirrored the social mood of the country. Dotcom Distribution said most consumers are socially conscious with “53 percent of respondents reported being more inclined to purchase from a business that supports initiatives surrounding diversity, racial and social justice.”

In regard to sustainability, packaging “is key to customer attraction and retention,” authors of the report said, noting that compared to other packaging components such as free samples, gifting packaging and personal messages, “sustainable packaging was most likely to compel online shoppers to be a return customer (at 42 percent).” And among environmental factors such as ethical sourcing, fuel efficiency and product ingredients, sustainable packaging was cited as the “most attractive feature” at 45 percent.

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With returns, Dotcom Distribution found that a returns strategy can have a strong impact on shopper satisfaction and customer loyalty. The researchers found that 55 percent of those polled “won’t even shop with a company that doesn’t offer free returns,” while 86 percent credit-free returns “as the return policy that makes them most likely to shop with a brand.”

Forty percent of respondents said “returnless refunds make them want to shop with a brand again,” which compares to 47 percent of online beauty consumers polled and 42 percent of online apparel consumers surveyed.

Other findings of the report include a propensity to try new brands — especially with apparel. “During the pandemic, of the 65 percent of respondents who purchased items from companies they’d never shopped with before, 25 percent made clothing purchases,” the company said, adding that 73 percent of “those online clothing consumers plan to continue purchasing from those same brands post-pandemic.”

The survey also found many consumers cross-channel shopping, with many respondents saying they will continue to use buy online, pick up in store and curbside pickup moving forward.

Reflecting on the results of the research and his own company’s positioning in the market, Anthony Gajewski, chief financial officer of Bliss, which participated in the report, said sustainability “is a cornerstone to our brand purpose.”

“Bliss is a clean, cruelty-free, planet-friendly skin care brand on a mission to empower everyone to achieve a higher state of happy, one self-care moment at a time,” Gajewski said. “As such, we understand that consumers care not only about what they are putting on their bodies, but also the implications their choices have on the environment. Therefore, we consciously pursue paths to ensure the products we manufacture are not only efficacious, but also minimize our impact on the planet.”

Gajewski said the company partnered with international recycling leader TerraCycle “to make our packaging 100 percent recyclable. Consumers are now able to send in all Bliss products and packaging to TerraCycle — including flexible and rigid plastic, pumps, sprays, packets, pouches, tubes, jars and complex closures — to be recycled for free.”

From the perspective of fragrance brand Commodity, which also participated in the report, sustainability is described by Inbal Shaked, international marketing director, as “an umbrella term that’s frequently misused as a singular buzzword.”

“We want to make real, tangible efforts toward sustainability; one step at a time,” Shaked said. “The first step will be to offset carbon emissions generated by the shipment of our customers’ orders, with the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral throughout the entire Commodity product life cycle. We will soon launch a roadmap to sustainability on our website, so that customers can follow along with the progress and hold us accountable.”

Roller Rabbit was another report participant, and commenting on consumer sentiment around returns, Edward Bertouch, chief operating officer at the apparel brand, said the company has “a very low return rate compared to industry standards, and it actually went down even more in 2020, from about 9 to 7 percent.”

“I think that has to do with categories — we sell a lot of loungewear and pajamas, which is easier to get right from a fit perspective than ready-to-wear,” he said. “Ready-to wear drives most of our returns and only makes up about 50 percent of our business.”

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