Shopping online has been popular from the moment it has first appeared as a concept, offering consumers the best product of all - convenience. However, with the growth of online marketplaces grew the concerns whether this was a sustainable approach. Since the pandemic has forced all the fashion retailers to go digital, in this article we will be exploring the connection between a good online shopping experience and sustainable designer brands.
* * *
eCommerce was booming long before the world got taken over by the infamous coronavirus - and with physical stores being forced to closed, it has grown exponentially literally overnight. This unexpected shift has really opened our eyes to which brands are truly sustainable, and who is greenwashing.
Does our statement confuse you? Well, then keep on reading and we’ll explain the link between responsible fashion and good eCommerce practices.
eCommerce and Sustainability
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that eCommerce, from the start, was largely attributed to fast fashion. Both concepts offered quick solutions to never-ending demand, as well as convenience and reasonable prices. And as we know, fast fashion is largely controversial when the question of its impact on the environment is raised.
In other words, combining fast fashion with eCommerce has made it even more accessible for the public, therefore accelerating the growth of consumerism.
What Makes eCommerce Harmful?
Naturally, producing more clothing to appease the growth in demand is bad for the environment. In this case, eCommerce looks more like a supporting factor rather than a direct threat. But don’t be fooled - it poses a stand-alone issue of its own too.
To drive online revenue, the retailers had to create a new model of return policy that has always existed in physical shops. In most online stores, the buyer pays extra to have the item delivered, but is, however, offered a free return if the item doesn’t fit them. There are several issues with this approach:
- Extra packaging needed when sending product as a parcel;
- Carbon footprint caused by delivery; twice, if the item gets returned;
- Free returns encourage the consumers to be dishonest. It’s a common issue where the buyer returns an item after having worn it for one occasion, eg a photoshoot;
- Item returns cause stock overflow and the returned items are less likely to sell, therefore becoming a waste.
The price of convenience isn’t monetary - it’s exposing our plat to further risks.
Distinction Between Good and Bad eCommerce Practices
Does this mean all eCommerce is bad? Absolutely not! When handled responsibly, it delivers what it’s mean to - convenience - at minimal costs. For example, a discount retailer Everything5Pounds only offers a return when the customer can prove the item was faulty.
A giant Chinese marketplace AliExpress, upon buyer winning a dispute, most of the time rules out that they get a refund and keep the item. In other words, while these two shops are offering incredibly cheap produce, their policies are also built to think before purchasing as in case of a bad fit or change of heart, the items cannot be returned.
What’s the Connection Between Online Shopping Experience and Sustainability?
To put it simply - ensuring a better online shopping experience reduces the chances of returns. When the company delivers consistent and high quality in not just their products but also the approach, it’s easier for them to make accurate forecasts on upcoming sales. Which in turn allows them to have better predictions on how much stock will be needed. These retailers are also notable for running out of stock as opposed to having frequent clearance sales.
Personalisation Nurtures Better Choices
When we think of the online shopping experience, we automatically consider technical aspects such as a streamlined payment process. However, there are more components falling under this term and they directly affect our decision-making process.
For example, on-site tracking can identify what type of styles and size preferences you normally browse and the next newsletter you receive is likely to feature a curation of pieces similar to the ones you’ve interacted with. Some websites will even show you different sets of images for the same item, depending on your size.
As digital transformation progresses, personalisation becomes more focused on actually finding the right fit for the customer than generating sales. That is the sign of a responsible designer shop. The recognisable traits include all kinds of built-in tools that allow the user to really narrow down their search: from simple size-suggestion tools to full-blown virtual dressing rooms.
Measures Designer Brands Take
Responsible designer fashion brands don’t just throw in a collection of varied personalisation tools; they also take the time to educate their audience on what they do, why they do it and what’s the impact.
Websites that truly believe in the cause they’re supporting often come with a lot of content documenting their efforts and the impact they’re making. They have notably less aggressive marketing strategies and take the role of a guide rather than of a seller. In other words, instead of nudging you to buy as much and as often, they’re educating you on how to make less but more meaningful purchases that will last you longer.
How-to Shop Online Responsibly
Here are few tips on how not to fall down the online shopping rabbit hole when tempted with convenience and low prices:
- Ask yourself: do I REALLY need this? If it’s the 4th pair of mom jeans but in a slightly lighter shade - you don’t. If the colder season is approaching and your coat isn’t doing the job it once did - yes, it needs to be replaced.
- Know your exact measurements. While we have systems to categorise sizes of shoes and clothing, every brand has a set of its own metrics. Therefore the best way of buying a piece that suits you is by comparing your measurements to those of a piece you’re interested in.
- Check credibility. Does the brand have a track of history and plenty of evidence of itself being sustainable? Do their values of responsible apparel reflect on their other channels?
- Trust your gut. We can normally feel when we’re being actively sold to as opposed to being guided through the process of making a decision. A responsible brand will try to understand your query better and position itself as a potential offer, not try and push their product by positioning it as relevant when it isn’t.
A positive online shopping experience is mostly built around your journey as a buyer; from the moment you begin your search till the moment of purchase. Sellers with questionable sustainability policies will try to push their stock to you. While their offer of free returns and invasive appeals to FOMO (eg -75% discounts for a short period of time) sound like a bargain, you’re likely to end up with items you don’t need. Every return, from packaging the parcel to sending it off contributes towards the problem.
Trustworthy brands will create unique shopping experiences that are built around you and your needs. You can expect higher attention to detail, guidance and a plethora of options that address you directly. These brands will be happy you don’t purchase from them if their product would be a bad fit; because, ultimately, that would mean they’ve offered you value.
Would you be more inclined to buy again from a brand that you’ve been disappointed with many times or from a brand you haven’t bought from, but they’ve kept being useful and relevant at all the times?
Join our forum and let’s discuss this topic there.