Could environmental sustainability be a part of e-commerce Customer Experience?

Package

I hate shopping in general and all the transaction cost one incurs in mustering enough enthusiasm to go all the way to a store, explore 20 different shops to find exactly what you want at the price you are willing to pay and even wait endlessly in trial and billing queues (all this on a day when the traffic isn’t a nightmare!). But there’s online shopping right?  So, I figured I might be the perfect customer for an e-commerce business that allows me to do this in a few clicks at the convenience of my desk. They needn’t even bleed cash and provide me with any deep discounts since I am thoroughly convinced that the overall cost I incur in this online transactions is way lower than an offline one.

While I’ve indulged a little bit in online shopping in the last couple of years, I have found it thoroughly unsatisfactory for a number of petty reasons with my latest woe threatening to push me over the edge and switch back to offline shopping altogether. Having worked briefly in e-commerce, I know delivery lead-times are top priority in terms of Customer Experience (contributing over 75%) to be followed by a combination of things like returns policy, customer service, packaging, etc. But honestly, I am ok if once in a while my package arrives a day or two later  but the one thing I would rather not deal with is disposing the humungous amount of packaging material, especially in a city like Bangalore where garbage management is at abysmal levels.

Recently, I ordered a canvas from an e-commerce company and I could bet that the packaging followed by the seller was the same as that for a flatscreen TV. Instead of beaming at the sight of my canvas having arrived so securely, I looked at the massive box filled with tonnes of cushioning material and made a conscious decision not to order big products online because clearly its neither good for my home nor good for the environment. I am planning to build a life-size installation with all the packaging material I ever get. Do any of you have any better ideas?

Meanwhile, here are my two cents on what these online stores could do in terms of providing a more environmentally sustainable experience for their customers. Firstly, revisit your packing standards for all products on a regular basis (as and when you add new SKUs) because just a bubble wrap and corrugated sheet is more than enough for canvas as opposed to a huge cardboard box filled with lots of airbags. Secondly, if you cannot get a packaging expert such as myself, atleast, institute a program where you offer to collect back any packaging material that your customers wish to return so you could actually re-use some of it. Of course the reverse logistics costs has to compensate for saving packaging material (short term benefit) and improving customer churn (long term benefit).

I don’t know if its just me, but we no more live in a world, where we are just delighted by the prospect of a package arriving at our doorstep in a timely fashion, we also care about how it arrives and it forms a huge part of Customer Experience. So, maybe its time to add this metric into your NPSs as well!

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