While there are some exceptional brands that practice social responsibility, when it comes to the environment, the retail industry in general doesn’t have a great reputation — and for good reason. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the U.S. uses about 68 million trees to produce 17 billion catalogs and 65 billion pieces of direct mail each year.
With the business world becoming increasingly more digital, retailers have the tools to make their companies more environmentally friendly. Read on for some ways to make your brand more sustainable this Earth Day and every day.
Embrace Online Processes
Take a cue from Amazon.com in waste reduction: The online retail giant is setting the stage for best practices in digital business, including reducing paper waste through its online workflow management portal.
Rather than mail hard copies of receipts and product manuals with new purchases, Amazon gives customers access to digital versions of these materials through their online accounts. If your brand has an online presence, consider building out a similar customer-facing portal to reduce paper waste. Migrate workflows for receipts, instructions and manuals to this portal, and make it accessible through many mediums like web browsers, devices and even apps.
Make the Move to Email
If not doing so already, embrace digital communication with your customers. Foregoing direct mail and replacing it with email will greatly reduce paper waste that so often ends up in landfills. Consider how your current marketing content could be delivered electronically. For instance, perhaps a digital newsletter could replace a brochure, or an email promotion could replace a print mailing.
To assist in this transition from direct mail to email, introduce smartphone QR codes into your print mailings. Via mobile phone these codes lead prospects to a landing page where they can enter their email addresses to opt in for digital communications. Use your traditional marketing pieces to promote your email list generation and show customers how they’re supporting your commitment to the environment.
Support Scannable Offers
Furthermore, once you’ve made the switch to email, ensure that the practices you're promoting within it are sustainable as well. If you frequently send digital coupons and promotions to customers but require them to be printed for redemption, your eco-friendly cause is only half-hearted.
Ensure that the coupons and offer codes you distribute via email can be scanned and redeemed directly from a smartphone or other mobile device. Use responsive design to ensure your entire message and its offers are easy to read and scan regardless of device.
Additionally, incentivize your customers to use digital devices for redemption. For example, extend an exclusive offer — e.g., free shipping — to those who don’t print. If your business has an e-commerce site in addition to a physical location, consider whether that promotion can be used online as well as in-store, and give clear instructions for both cases.
As Earth Day is upon us, consider these practices to help reduce your company's negative impact on the environment and use these sustainability efforts to strengthen your brand’s image to environmentally conscious consumers.
EJ McGowan is the general manager of Campaigner, an email marketing services provider.