The long-term value delivered by sustainable retail

By Graham Jackson, CEO, Fluent Commerce

Sustainability is on the rise. From greener delivery alternatives to better packaging choices, ‘going green’ is no longer a nice to have – it’s a strategic imperative – and many big businesses have already committed to and are integrating a more sustainable approach into their business operations.

That said, sustainability cannot be achieved overnight.  It requires a change of mind-set and for organisations to put in considerable effort to operate across their entire business.  And when done correctly it can boost efficiency, increase customers and ultimately drive profitability.

Here are some top tips to help retailers embark on their sustainability journey:

  1. Get a real-time view of inventory

Poor inventory visibility creates a wealth of potential wastage and logistical inefficiencies that minimise margins. Over purchasing and overstocking, which results in unnecessary markdowns, is just the start. Overselling of items, online or in physical stores, also causes issues including such as order fulfilment delays that can lead to cancelled orders and unhappy customers.  Order management software can help manage inventory to minimise product obsolescence and streamline operations for enhanced sustainability.

  1. Streamline shipments for green efficiencies

A streamlined omnichannel offering helps to eliminate the unnecessary and wasteful shuttling of goods back and forth between outlets and consumers. Order management software enables retailers to ensure that products travel the shortest distance to the customer, boosting the amount of inventory that’s available in real-time.

Furthermore, accurate real-time inventory data enables retailers to offer their customers greener and more convenient ‘Click and Collect’ options and ‘eco’ home-delivery slots, which leverage clustered delivery capabilities to maximise distribution routes for less environmental impact.

  1. Reduce Returns

Proactively minimising the likelihood of returns begins by reviewing how products are merchandised online.  Ensuring that product pages contain accurate photographs, detailed descriptions and videos – with close up images of key details and features – is just the start. Sizing information – including fit assistants – and online chat can help resolve customer queries up front. This way, consumers can  make the most appropriate purchase for their needs, with positive environmental and commercial impact for the business.

Offering options for shoppers to return online purchases to stores can also help to decarbonise the logistics involved – similarly crowd shipping pick-up options, lockers in shopping malls, or cycle couriers, can all help to make the returns process greener.

  1. Reuse, reduce, recycle

From furniture to clothing, millennials are fuelling the consumer goods rental economy.  With consumers willing to pay more money for sustainable offerings, many brands on the UK high street are already initiating high profile recycling programmes. If oversupply persists, retailers should demonstrate their green credentials by ensuring that items are donated rather than condemned to landfill. With ethical trading high on customers’ wish lists, responding to customer sentiment by donating goods, rather than wasting them, has a wealth of value.

Leveraging technology for a greener future

In the modern consumer landscape, retailers must balance demands for speedy fulfilment with greener business practices that address consumer’s growing eco-expectations. Technologies, like order management software, can help retailers ensure the right products are delivered quickly, accurately, and with maximum efficiencies. Underpinning new and more sustainable retail strategies that optimise inventory for every order, these solutions make it easier and faster to leverage real-time data for consummate order orchestration across every distribution point.


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