Does local delivery and in-store pickup contribute to climate change?
The environment and global warming have moved up everyone’s agendas over the past few years with good reason. Where once many of us felt able to ‘ignore’ the notion of climate change, we no longer have that luxury and eCommerce is certainly a factor in whether or not we are reducing our carbon footprint.
As consumers, we have more choices than ever before about how we receive the products we buy online. More often than not, our purchase decisions online and offline are based on price and convenience, but more of us are now thinking about what we buy from a different angle - its impact on the environment.
The World Economic Forum released a study that estimates that last-mile delivery emissions are set to increase by over 30 percent by 2030 in the top 100 cities worldwide.
With the proliferation of delivery and pickup options, we predict we’ll soon see more store checkouts offering customers ‘more environmentally-friendly’ fulfillment options. Let’s explore exactly what that means for both consumers and merchants.
Today, there are often several delivery options when buying from a local merchant. Typically, these include same-day, expedited shipping, or standard shipping.
Same-day delivery can be efficient in terms of a carbon footprint if it’s done in batched bundles. A lot of our merchant customers use delivery window bundles which lets them run deliveries in specific windows rather than throughout the day as one-offs. That makes business sense, with the economies of scale that come with many deliveries going out at once, but it also reduces overall CO2 emissions. Where deliveries need to go out as one-offs or continuously throughout the day, then transportation methods like bikes, scooters and on foot are the most environmentally friendly.
Products shipped from a local merchant often fall under the ‘last mile’ category, which is generally the most labour-intensive stage of delivery. Products usually end up on carrier trucks run by providers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Avoiding impulse buys with a high return rate helps reduce our footprint, as does having products shipping with others, and while the free return option is a fantastic convenience, it usually isn’t very good on emissions.
It’s still uncertain how the impact of using autonomous vehicles in the last-mile delivery space will impact the efficiency of the environment, carriers like UPS have recently announced their testing of this method is specific markets already this year.
Some merchants are now testing ‘crowd shipping’, which describes when your product ‘hitches a ride’ with a delivery vehicle that’s already heading in the right direction. As the latest trend, the technique still has some way to go, partly because there are so many variables. It’s no good if a product hitches a ride but then goes miles out of its way before ever reaching you.
Over the past decade, in-store pickup has become one of online shopping’s biggest trends. It can be a highly convenient time-saver and help the merchant deal with or avoid customer service hassles later. But is it good for the environment? Well, that depends.
In-store pickup works best - in climate change terms - in highly populated areas like metropolitan cities, where walking and public transport options are available. In suburban areas, where the average drive to a store is 12 miles, pickup can end up being less good for the environment.
That said, in-store pickup can be a great way of reducing both customer and store footprints. People that can walk, take a bus or train, or ride a bike, are the best target audience for reduction of CO2 through pickups. Electric cars and bikes charged with renewable energy are also perfect for this, especially if the customer lives near to the store.
Another benefit when a customer picks up their order in-store, is that it naturally reduces the number of returns through the carrier system. This is because they have the opportunity to decide on-site whether or not they want to take the products home. This cuts down on increased emissions and is overall safer on the environment. It also cuts down on packing and shipping supplies by quite a large margin in comparison. To give you scale, returns are at around 33% online compared to roughly 7% in-store.
Where does Zapiet and Store Pickup + Delivery fit in?
At Zapiet, we aim to give merchants that use our apps ways to serve their customers and local economies in a much richer way. Because we offer tools to control delivery windows, we can also help merchants make smarter decisions about the way products reach consumers, taking emissions into account.
Some examples of how Store Pickup + Delivery helps merchants and customers to cut down on the last mile and traveling in vehicles are:
- Reduces repeat delivery attempts by notifying customers automatically when their order is out for delivery. Ensuring they make themselves available to receive their products.
- It allows customers to select a date and time that best suits them. Customers much prefer shorter delivery windows than waiting for the entire day. By allowing shorter delivery windows, merchants can partner with services like Deliv, Sherpa, and Orkestro and send out their orders in batches, ultimately reducing the CO2 in those local areas. All of these integrations are provided out of the box with your Store Pickup + Delivery subscription.
- An aerial view dashboard setting which allows merchants to easily view all their delivery orders for any given date/time slot to optimize routes manually. Or automate the entire process by using our Onfleet integration.
On the flip side, as consumers, we all have a responsibility to consider how our own choices impact the environment and to reduce our footprint wherever we can - including by figuring out which checkout option is the best way to do that! Buying local not only supports your local economy but it’s also better for the environment. Whether you pick up your purchases in store provided the distance to pickup is close, or opt for local delivery, you are still contributing to lowering your carbon footprint.
Zapiet’s Store Pickup + Delivery app is available on Shopify, Shopify Plus, and BigCommerce. Install the app today for a complimentary 2-week trial to see the impact on how your business can contribute to the reduction of emissions on our planet’s growing climate change disaster.