In the two years since the last Online Retailer event, a lot has changed. One of the most significant transformations has been the rise of the conscious consumer and views toward sustainable retailing. We spoke to five leaders in sustainability about encouraging circularity and what retailers should avoid.
What is an interesting takeaway you’ve learned from Online Retailer?
Beth Glancey, GM ANZ & Head of Partnerships, AirRobe: “What is been amazing to see even the evolution from 2019 and 2018. We obviously had a pause with COVID. Now we’re back in real events, [the evolution] and the swing towards sustainability, the focus on circularity? I think, you know, we would have had the 5.30 PM session, maybe a couple of years ago, when everybody had already left. And it’s amazing to see that this topic has been on the main stage. That’s what’s been really pleasantly surprising.”
Anna Forster, Co-founder and Chief Sustainability Nerd, The Purpose Agents: “I can agree, I was actually running the sustainability panels on the main stage in 2019, but it was not getting as much attention. So I will definitely see for retailers, it’s a topic of interest. There was definitely more energy. I’m also being approached by people. So it’s definitely people, retailers [interested in sustainability].
Nik Robinson, Director, Good Citizens: “The thing I learned is I’m not the only crazy person is cool; there are lots of crazy people on stage with me. I’ve gone on a journey and yet to be on stage to share our insights and our failures are good, I think to have all those people in the audience turn up. It’s pretty, pretty full, so that surprised me.”
Yasmin Grigaliunas, CEO & Co-Founder, World’s Biggest Garage Sale: “I would say ‘ditto’! But [I would] definitely [say] ‘connection’. So for me, it hasn’t been so much surprising but quite energising to be connected, to have our businesses recognised, and also to have a validation around the type of businesses that we’re building. Now. We’re not the crazies anymore! I feel like we’re more mainstream and that we now look and feel like leaders, and I sat in [Anna’s] morning session there with the panel. And I felt like a part of this tribeof people who are the future of defining enterprise of how to connect and actually integrate the ‘human’ into our businesses. And that’s what’s really felt so energising for me.”
Emma Lewisham, Co-Founder, Lewisham Skincare: “Maybe that Kiwis and Australians can be friends?!”
What is your advice to retailers to make sure that they are encouraging circularity and reducing waste?
Nik Robinson: “Keep it simple, super simple. If it’s complicated, even three steps is hard. It will just give up at the second step. So keep things super simple. The other thing I’d say is if you do achieve something as a brand, as a business, lock your door to the marketing department because they’re racing and want to tell everybody about it. Don’t do that. Don’t go out and shout from the rooftops that you’ve made the box one centimetre smaller, so you save a little bit of cardboard. Do make some meaningful change; make some make lots of meaningful change, then maybe talk about it, because otherwise we kind of wouldn’t say it’s greenwashing. But it’s just the beginning itself. And so that’s what I think.”
Anna Forster: “I think I coined a new term in this session. And I think if you want to include circularity, it’s about really putting your product design process upside down, like really reversing and constant centricity is important. But circularity centricity – a new term – is also very important, like really thinking about what happens after I sell this product. What is going to, you know, how is it maybe going to come back into the circular economy happening and maybe be rented or resold or ultimately recycled? Can you take it apart? Can you repair it? So, those are the questions you need to ask yourself from here on out so you can shift to more circular bottles and then drive revenue through that.”
Beth Glancey: “If you were in fashion, I would say stop actively playing, and so if you are in the retail space, and then I think you know, I think it’s a no-brainer that customers are absolutely demanding it. If you’re burying your head in the sand. It’s, you know, it’s reality, but it’s happening, and so you may as well actively play a part and commercialise it. The second thing I would say, which we talked about on the panel, is you have to make it easy and sooner, whatever it is, if you expect that the consumer needs to try harder pay more than they are with the stuff, say they are willing actually to pay a little bit more for sustainable products. But that’s actually not the point. The point is that if you are a business and you’re offering a service or product to a customer, you have an onus and a responsibility to define it, and my customer to do that, and still make it really easy.”
Yasmin Grigaliunas: “I would say, alone, you can go so far, but together, you can go much further and maybe think about, and I joke about the swipe, like who might use swipe right on out there in the ecosystem, that today might just be a one-off date. But tomorrow might be a marriage of longevity. And similar to what we’ve done with Officeworks. Like I talked about how their stability and our agility have equalled capability. So don’t think you have to go and eat the elephant on your own. Think about who might pick up the phone to start having conversations with, and a lifelong love affair might occur. And you can then begin designing solutions together that might seem impossible today.”
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