There are numerous ways your DTC brand can make itself more sustainable. Besides manufacturing your products with eco-friendly materials, switching to sustainable packaging (such as biodegradable packing peanuts and recycled cardboard) is an example of how you can reduce the amount of waste your business produces.
Regardless of what your products and packaging are made of, another environmentally harmful issue always arises: transportation. You don;t have much of a choice when sending customers their orders, but returns create a significant excess of carbon emissions. It's arguable that a product traveling on its way back to you technically falls under the "last mile" portion of its journey. The World Economic Forum reports that growth in last-mile deliveries will escalate carbon emissions by 30% over the next ten years due to a 36% increase in delivery vehicles in major cities.
To make matters even direr, online returns more than doubled in 2020 compared to 2019, thanks to exponential online shopping during the COVID-19 lockdown. Hopefully, you're not the kind of brand that minds re-selling returned goods, but amongst those that do, 40% of returns are donated or disposed of every year, resulting in an extra five billion pounds of waste around the world. In 2018, the returns process emitted 15 million additional tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
As a DTC brand, what can you do to reduce your return rate, and by extension, your carbon footprint? One of the most effective ways is to make sure your customers don't need to return their orders to begin with. This method requires social proof - namely, content-rich customer testimonials that assure shoppers they're buying the right product.
Let's explore how reviews and UGC can help your brand optimize its sustainability efforts:
Reviews Boost Shopper Confidence
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where if people see lots of other people doing something, they're more likely to follow suit. If everyone's doing it, it must be good, right? You see this phenomenon on social media all the time; if an influencer has many followers already, it's easier to gain even more because users want to be a part of such a large audience.
You don't share your social media follower counts on your storefront, but you should share reviews. Reviews serve as an effective form of social proof because they provide verifiable evidence that other consumers are satisfied with a product or service they've paid for. Your product descriptions are essential because they include information shoppers need to know, but consumers know you have your own interests in mind and will hype up your merchandise as much as you need to. Instead, they want to hear from their peers. What are other customers' experiences like? Are their buying scenarios similar?
Purchasing a product without reviews can feel risky. This is not the time to be mysterious - you want shoppers to be confident that what they are buying is right for them and that it meets all of their expectations when the product arrives. Neglecting this step contributes to returns because if customers are dissatisfied or don't know precisely what they're getting into, they're more likely to send their order back. More confident shoppers equal a greener delivery system.
How to Use Reviews the Right Way
Collecting reviews is one thing, but what's the best way to maximize their potential? Their purpose is to educate site visitors, so display them at various customer touchpoints like:
- Your homepage
- Category pages
- Product pages
- Upsells & cross-sells
- Check out
It's also best if your review widget can capture UGC. Testimonials are great, but photos and videos are even better. Imagine yourself as a shopper weighing the pros and cons of buying a brand's product. Sure, customers' written reviews provide you with helpful information, but rich content helps you imagine what it would actually be like to have that product in your life and use it on a daily basis, flaws and all. Having a clear idea of what to expect from the product decreases your chances of sending it back because you won't feel disappointed or taken advantage of.
Not only are reviews advantageous for improving your brand's sustainability, they're proven to boost your conversion rate, too. Conversion rates for product pages that include reviews are five times higher than those that don't. Take baby clothing brand Freshly Picked, for example. By translating their customers' passion into glowing reviews posted across their storefront, Freshly Picked achieved an $11 increase in average order value and a 5% increase in conversion rate. Brands that do the same can witness similar growth and will have much less waste to donate or throw out.
Next Step: Collecting Reviews
Before you can display reviews throughout your website, you need to collect them. Capturing customer testimonials is possible with Shopify's native reviews app or a third-party provider that offers additional features.
For instance, Okendo is a reviews app that provides you with a customized widget that seamlessly integrates your website. You can capture testimonials with UGC, migrate your existing reviews, host a Q&A section where customers can ask questions, and collect product feedback based on specific product attributes. You can even solicit reviews via email with its Klaviyo integration and incentivize customers by offering loyalty rewards and discounts.
A reviews provider like Okendo is necessary because it enables you to make the most of your customers' opinions. Positive feedback creates social proof, and negative feedback helps you steer product development and streamline your customer service. Both benefits improve customer satisfaction and reduce your carbon footprint from last-mile returns. Consumers appreciate transparency, so try to collect as many reviews as possible to grow a sample size that assures shoppers of your brand's value and legitimacy.
Why You'll Want to Get Ahead
According to Qualtrics, 93% of surveyed consumers noted that online reviews factor into their decision-making, and 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust testimonials as much as recommendations from their peers. Social proof isn't something you can skimp on; shoppers use it and expect it, so you'll want to collect as many authentic reviews as you can ASAP.
Plus, Small Business Trends reports that 71% of shoppers prefer doing business with companies that align with their values. If you value sustainability and want to connect with consumers who do, too, then reviews are a must. When content-rich testimonials are readily accessible on your website, you can:
- Reduce your carbon footprint,
- Minimize waste,
- Increase your conversion rate,
- Optimize your customer service,
- Steer product development, and
- Enhance customer loyalty.
Together, these advantages allow you to create products customers wouldn't dream of sending back. You'll waste much less material and time spent manufacturing your least popular merchandise, and you;'l save both your brand and the environment from dealing with last-mile returns.