Greener e-commerce?

Consumers want more sustainable delivery options

The pandemic-induced surge in online purchases forced parcel and postal carriers to rapidly increase their delivery services. Companies such as DPD and Hermes announced record growth in the UK during 2020, as well as new operational hubs, depots and staff to support demand.

Consumers want to decide for themselves where, when and how a package is delivered. Not only does this need to be delivered fast and cost-effectively, but consumers are also wanting providers to think sustainably in the way they ship goods.

Our research shows that 57% of UK consumers are worried about the impact of e-commerce on the environment, while 38% said they’d be happy to pay extra for more sustainable delivery options.

The mountains of parcels delivered during the pandemic has led to an innovation drive within the logistics sector, with four trends in particular contributing to making deliveries more sustainable while putting the customer first.

Eco-friendly delivery options

The best way to tackle a problem is at the source. In other words, making consumers aware of the impact of their delivery option of choice. Fast delivery is nice, but not always necessary. Many consumers will choose to save money and get their order a bit later. According to an Accenture report, 36% of online shoppers are actually happy to wait longer for free delivery.

Customers could be encouraged to opt for a more sustainable delivery by charging for next-day delivery and offering slow delivery for free while making them aware of the environmental impact of fast shipping.

Uberfication of the last mile

Another way to ship items to customers quickly and sustainably is to make smart use of existing cargo space, as currently more than half of the delivery trucks in Europe drive around partly or completely empty. Utilising empty cargo space of trucks makes logistics more sustainable while reducing transport costs. For example, transportation networks such as Quicargo are able to identify unused cargo space and offer it out to retailers for shipment.

Although ‘Uberfication’ of logistics is a fairly new trend, it is an interesting way to optimise the use of assets. When organised efficiently, it can significantly contribute to CO2-reduction.

Route planning

CO2 reduction is simple in theory: the less time delivery drivers spend on the road, the lower the environmental footprint. Today’s technology allows for automated route optimisation, therefore increasing vehicle efficiency. Greenplan, a DHL-financed start-up, has developed an algorithm that supports green route-planning and accounts for factors such as carbon emissions of vehicle type and range limits of electric vehicles. By combining these, Greenplan creates automated route optimisation for more efficient and sustainable journeys.

Localised delivery

If you have many parcels in the region, you can have them delivered by a local courier, maybe even by bike or on foot. Lockers are also becoming more popular, allowing multiple deliveries to be dropped off and picked up at a time convenient to the consumer. Not only does this save CO2, but the shorter distance often allows you to deliver faster than through a national network.

Innovation in technologies such as automation and electric vehicles as well as smarter delivery strategies are needed to meet consumer demands and deliver sustainably at the same time.

Rob Van Den Heuvel is CEO of shipping platform Sendcloud

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