The climate costs of the customer catch — free shipping

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Free shipping is a powerful incentive for online sales. It is the de facto standard for online apparel shopping, one which brands large and small ignore at the risk of sales.

Free shipping has helped brands ride the shifting sands from brick and mortar shopping to online retail. Several studies have discovered that the first reason for abandoning an online shopping cart may vary, but the second reason consistently comes down to unacceptable shipping options.

However, a new and correlated waste stream is growing in tandem — losing brands money and adding to the already high environmental footprint of the apparel industry.

Previously in apparel retail, customers tried on clothes in-store and purchased only the garments they thought they wanted. With the exception of incidental damage such as a lipstick stain, unwanted garments were left in the changing room and returned to the sales floor, immediately ready for the next potential buyer.

Nowadays, online shopping encourages customers to use their bedrooms as changing rooms. Customers order more than they expect to keep; they load up online shopping carts in order to try different sizes, touch the material or confirm the color.

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