As the concept of the circular economy permeates the multichannel retail sector, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability issues and demanding retailers keep pace with their changing expectations. While retailers risk consumer cynicism if they fail to deliver, they also face complex barriers to implementing sustainability initiatives. In this increasingly competitive retail landscape, the cost is too high to ignore.

  • 93% of global consumers expect more of the brands they use to support social and environmental issues, according to
  • 79.8% agree that retailers are not doing enough to address issues around sustainability and climate change.

While it’s easy for consumers to reach consensus that retailers must act to preserve the planet, they fail to acknowledge that trends like “bracketing” means that they are returning more products than at any time in retail history, and therefore they contribute to this problem. While retailers risk damage to brand reputation by failing to meet consumer demand on an environmental level, they risk even more financial loss if they fail to deliver a positive returns experience. In some cases, they may lose a customer altogether.

Takeaway: Consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. They want smooth returns experiences and still expect retailers to do more to protect the environment. But this is only a challenge for retailers who fail to adapt to the new returns model. Retailers who embrace innovative AI and machine learning technology will have a clear advantage in exceeding customer expectations and being a better friend to the environment.