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In a recent article on the National Retail Federation's website, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Scot Case, set out what he believes to be the three big trends driving sustainability in the retail sector right now. Here's a quick summary:
Sales of more sustainable products are growing in every area of retail. It began with the Millennials but is even more pronounced among Gen Z. Having grown up in age of smaller government, these generations instinctively look to the private sector to solve the world's problems. And having seen the speed and decisiveness with which businesses responded to COVID-19 and, more recently, the war in Ukraine, they expect the same when it comes to sustainability issues.
Thanks to smartphones and social media, consumers now have a world of information in the palm of their hand and plenty of ways to voice their concerns. Whether forced or voluntary, this has led to sellers being ever-more transparent about who makes their products, how and where they are made, what materials and resources are used, and what exactly happens to those products when they are no longer needed.
As well as using AI to help spot consumer trends, enhance products, manage supply chains and develop future strategies, more progressive retailers are already using it to predict and quantify sustainability impacts. Soon, consumers will have access to the same technology too, enabling them to be less passive in their buying behaviour and seek out products that meet not only their price and performance needs, but also their sustainability expectations.
A recent report commissioned by the Connected Commerce Council (3C) reveals that small and medium-sized businesses selling physical goods (SMB Sellers) are among those making best use of the wide-ranging online sales channels and integrated online tools available to them.
The most popular sales channels among SMB Sellers are business-owned web stores, hosted by the likes of Shopify and Squarespace (59% make use of these), closely followed by online marketplaces, such as Amazon, eBay and Etsy (58%).
The report found that "SMB Sellers using multiple sales channels value online tools and marketplaces highly," highlighting how they "frequently sell using more than one marketplace." This affirmed 3Cs previous research that revealed how SMBs "tend to sell in as many places as they can connect with buyers, with the typical seller using five sales channels, both online and offline."
The report also found that the "additional 'integrated tools' offered by online marketplaces (to help with everything from payments and shipping to storing inventory and managing returns] are incredibly popular and deliver real value to SMB Sellers in the form of simplification and cost savings."
In a bid to challenge the dominance of Amazon and Walmart, India's government is encouraging the country's banks to join forces in their support of a new Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC).
In a country of 1.35 billion people, e-commerce currently accounts for around 8% of consumer purchases. According to government estimates, however, this number will grow to around 25% by the end of the decade, creating a market worth upwards of $350 billion a year.
As things stand, the two American retail giants control some 60% of this market.
But with a plan to roll out the ONDC to at least 100 cities over the next five years, the government aims to break their market dominance and give equal access to all online sellers and buyers, regardless of their size.
As part of its latest operating system, iOS16, Apple is planning to introduce a new 'buy now, pay later' (BNPL) service to rival similar offerings from the likes of Klarna, Clearpay, Laybuy and Paypal
Set to be launched in the US initially, Apple Pay Later will enable customers to spread the cost of any purchases they make with Apple Pay on their device – either across four interest-free payments made every two weeks, or over a longer period with interest added.
Although the tech giant is yet to confirm any plans to launch Apple Pay Later beyond the US, there is a growing a market in the UK. A report by the BBC's Panorama programme in December 2021 estimated that around 15 million UK adults already use similar BNPL services.
Amazon, the global technology company which until recently focused on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming and artificial intelligence, has now set its sights on a whole new European market – high-end fashion.
Having trialled the idea in the US by way of an invitation-only platform for Prime members, built around a single brand, Oscar de la Renta, the online giant is now rolling out its Luxury Stores offering to customers in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Launched with a high-profile advertising campaign, shot by top photographer Angelo Penetta and featuring rising catwalk star Precious Lee and 90s supermodel Kristen McMenamy, Luxury Stores will take on the likes of Net-a-Porter, MatchesFashion and Mytheresa.
In Europe, Luxury Stores will also feature a far wider range of products than were previously available in the US, with ready-to-wear collections from labels brands Christopher Kane, Dundas, Elie Saab, Mira Mikati, Rianna+Nina, Boglioli, Jonathan Cohen and Altuzarra.