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Consumers demand more sustainability from retailers

A new sustainability report from Svensk Handel shows consumers are placing increasingly higher demands on sustainability. 7 out of 10 consumers consider it important for the companies they shop from to actively engage in sustainability efforts, an increase of 12% from last year's survey. In this blog article we take a closer look at some of the key insights from the report and why it is so important for e-commerce companies to contribute to a more sustainable society, including through an environmentally friendly post-purchase process.

Sustainability work important despite tough economy

Despite the economically tough situation we are currently facing, sustainability is more important than ever for consumers according to a new report from Svensk Handel (report in Swedish). 3 out of 4 of those surveyed in the 30–49 age group even say they have chosen to avoid shopping from companies that doesn't meet their sustainability expectations. This is just one of many examples from the report that shows e-commerce companies must think more sustainably to increase brand awareness, contribute to the climate, and continue to be competitive in an already tough market.

Sustainability important in all age groups

Previously, the gap between how important sustainability is for consumers in different age groups has been significantly larger than this year. More and more age groups now respond they value sustainability to a greater extent despite the economically tough situation, where price naturally ranks high on the list of what is important when they consume.

This places great demands on retailers who have not yet come so far in their sustainability efforts to roll up their sleeves and think more green and circular. Many figures in the report clearly show that consumers simply will not allow companies' sustainability efforts to stagnate.

Circular commerce becoming more popular

Shopping second hand has become increasingly common in recent years as the economy has been tougher for most people. As many as 75% of participants in Svensk Handels survey state they have shopped second hand sometime in the past year. The products that topped the list in 2023 when it comes to second hand are clothing, shoes, and books. Furniture and vehicles also appear on the list but are not as common as so-called body-near products.

The interesting thing here is that price is not primarily the reason why consumers shop second hand - but sustainability thinking. It's alternatives that are better for the environment and that also encourage circular commerce.

The trend of circular models is already highly appreciated by consumers, and it doesn't look like that will change in the near future, quite the opposite!

At Reclaimit, we have recently produced a report based on a survey conducted by Novus, "State of Returns and Circular Shopping 2024". It also points to a clear upward trend when it comes to circular trade. 52% of participants in our survey state that they have shopped circularly in the past year and 1 out of 10 plan to shop more circularly this year.

This places great demands on today's retailers to offer online shoppers the opportunity to shop circularly, for example by offering second-hand alternatives online and smooth, sustainable post-purchase processes.

4 out of 10 avoid companies they have heard something negative about

There are many factors that help consumers determine which company they choose to shop from. Sustainability work is obvious one clear example. Negative reviews are another, as media is an important source of information when it's time to make a purchase. The report from Svensk Handel report shows that 4 out of 10 choose to avoid shopping from companies they have read something negative about.

Important notice here though is, today it's easier than ever to write a review online, and many dissatisfied consumers gladly share less flattering stories. It can be anything from poor product descriptions, lack of information about sizes, to poor returns and long times for refunds or exchanges. This of course places higher demands on companies to work for happier customers throughout the whole chain – from a purchase to a completed post-purchase process.

Ensure a sustainable post-purchase process and get happier customers

"State of Returns and Circular Shopping 2024" clearly shows that a single bad return experience can cost today's e-commerce companies dearly. 7 out of 10 have at some point returned an item they purchased online, and 33% have at some point been dissatisfied with the return process. 74% of them say they avoid shopping from the same company again (!). That says a lot about how important it is to offer a smooth and simple return process and how easy it can be to lose both customers and trust.

Companies that have control over the entire post-purchase process and are well aware that the time after a purchase is also an important part of the chain and plays a big huge in how consumers sees the company will undoubtedly have an advantage over their competitors in the future.

With the help of the right tools and platforms, your company can also take the step towards future trade – a circular economy where sustainability meets customer satisfaction.

Want to read our full Report "State of Returns and circular shopping 2024"? Download it here:

Anna Fogelström
Published 2024-04-16