Retail Seeks More Loyalty From Sustainability-Minded Shoppers

retail sustainability

Sustainable notions of commerce are moving ever more to the forefront of retail, and judging by shifting consumer trends — especially the preferences of younger consumers coming into their own — you can bet the trend will only get more intense in the coming years. And recent retail innovations would seem to bolster that point.

Take the sale of eyeglasses for instance — already radically changed by eCommerce and mobile technology, and now showing signs of getting more sustainable (the general view of which means less waste and more recycling, at least for starters). As example, take  Sydney Australia-headquartered Dresden Vision, which was founded in 2015 and has gradually built up a large enough following that they’ve started to be called “the Warby Parker of Australia,” unironically.

To solve the problem of extremely expensive eyeglasses, brand founder Bruce Dresden took a rather different approach than many other makers in the business. Instead of designing their own full line of designer-esque glasses, they decided to radically simplify the process by offering only one modular design that comes in one of four sizes. To enable more personalization, the buyer can choose from an entire rainbow of shades — and because the parts are interchangeable, customers can make it look like they are wearing a slightly different pair of glasses every day.

And they are inexpensive: The base price for a standard set is A$50 (or about $35 USD), though the price can go up as lenses get more specialized.

That’s not all. Among Dresden Vision’s more unique selling points is that frames, arms and pins are produced in a closed-loop production process that uses as many recycled materials as possible, both from their own discarded materials and whatever they can find in the outside world that is suitable for making glasses.

Sustainable Delivery

Indeed, delivery is a big area for innovation centered around sustainability, and promises to get bigger and more important as the sustainability trend evolves.

To help consumers to order produce and household staples in an environmentally friendly way, startups are offering grocery deliveries through reusable containers and bicycles. The Wally Shop, in one case, is “a grocery delivery service that uses entirely reusable packaging that’s picked back up again for reuse,” Founder Tamara Lim told PYMNTS in an interview. The eco-friendly service is “a whole new way to essentially shop without having to compromise on convenience or selection or price,” Lim said, adding that the company doesn’t work on a subscription business model.

Shoppers can begin using the website by typing in their ZIP codes to see if they are in the company’s service area. If they are within the company’s geographical range, they are prompted to sign up and shop as they would at any other website. Shoppers, in turn, then build their baskets. Lim noted that the prices on the site reflect what her startup pays when it shops at the store. (The company also has a pop-up to tell customers about this pricing model.) Lim’s company charges a 5 percent convenience fee along with a delivery charge that depends on whether an order is over or under the $35 threshold.

As part of its environmental sustainability efforts, however, The Wally Shop charges a deposit on each unit of packaging that it uses. Customers receive that deposit back in the form of store credit on a future order. Moreover, if customers are consistently making purchases and earning credits, Lim said they theoretically never have to pay for packaging. For payments, the company accepts credit and debit cards through Stripe and plans to start taking PayPal and Amazon Pay soon. The company also offers gift cards, a feature based on a customer request that came in the week before Christmas.

At this point in time, sustainability seems a permanent part of the landscape, and promises to become more deeply embedded in daily consumer life. The coming years should bring much more clarity on what actually works best, and what consumers are ready to embrace.