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Consumers Dissatisfied with Retailers’ Sustainability Efforts for Delivery

Consumers Dissatisfied with Retailers’ Sustainability Efforts for Delivery

Sept. 12, 2022
Just 38% of consumers, in a new survey, felt retailers were doing a good job of using sustainable delivery practices.

Consumers are taking a very close look at the sustainable practices of retailers and don't seem to like what they are seeing. A new survey, Retailers: Sustainability is Not a Challenge, It’s an Opportunity, from Descartes Systems, examined consumer sentiment toward retailers’ sustainability practices and found that only 38% of consumers felt retailers were doing a good job of using sustainable delivery practices.

Over 50%, however, indicated they were quite/very interested in environmentally friendly delivery methods, and 54% would be willing to accept longer lead times for an environmentally friendly delivery. The study was comprised of over 8,000 consumers across nine European countries, Canada and the United States. 

Consumers are interested in environmentally-friendly deliveries

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%).  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. 

However, consumers also indicated that they would buy more groceries (40%) and clothing and footwear (39%) from companies that demonstrated their supply chains were more sustainable than the competition. 

These numbers point to a significant opportunity to take market share based upon demonstrated supply chain sustainability efforts, the study notes. Half (50%) of consumer respondents were quite/very interested in an environmentally-friendly delivery method. In fact, three of the top four answers involved combining orders or having the seller recommend the most sustainable delivery option. 

“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, in a statement. “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.”

Provide convenience and show greater sustainability

Companies that do a good job getting themselves branded as environmentally friendly stand a better chance of achieving more profitable home delivery operations, the study notes. 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% of respondents indicated they would pay more for a delivery from an environmentally friendly company. 

In addition, age plays an important part as Gen Z and Millennials (27%) are 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% of consumers have environmental importance expectations for their home deliveries.

Consumers are looking for not only more eco-friendly home delivery strategies, but they also plan to raise their expectations for the vehicles that deliver them. While expectations are much lower today (20% quite/very important) about retailers or their delivery agents employing electric vehicles, the number rises dramatically in 5 years (53% quite/very important). Surprisingly, there is very little difference in consumer sentiment between Europe and North America today (tied at 20%) and (54% and 52%, respectively) in the future.

The study concludes that "consumers don’t believe that most retailers are doing a good job with their home delivery sustainability efforts. It advises retailers to improve their home delivery and sustainability efforts, as consumers have said they will purchase more from companies that are perceived to be more sustainable. This extends to consumers willing to pay more for products or delivery services.

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