Mobile Technology M-commerce

Can m-commerce correct the sustainability sins of today’s e-commerce businesses?

By Damien Lemaitre, global commerce director

June 25, 2021 | 5 min read

Mobile commerce may soon become the dominant form of e-commerce. Can the brands adopting this channel use it to create a more sustainable way of doing business? As part of our deep dive into all things Mobile, Damien Lemaitre, global commerce director, media at Dentsu International, explains more.

pile of discarded packaging

As e-commerce popularity has continued to increase, so too has the impact on society and the planet from the infrastructure, packaging, deliveries and returns of online purchased goods.

Retailers are cognizant of their role in this and are taking the right steps to be better corporate citizens, while also fulfilling the demand and expectation of their customers. Shoppers are also noticing and are starting to expect more accountability across the value chain and as part of their purchasing experience. In fact, 73% of global consumers say they would either consider or definitely change their consumption habits to reduce environmental impact.

For the first time ever, m-commerce sales are now larger than desktop. Arguably it is mobile tech advancements which could again usher a new wave of retail behaviors and possibilities for brands and consumers alike.

A move from virtually feeling to virtually experiencing a purchase

Augmented reality (AR) overlays, virtual reality (VR) solutions, geo-location-specific content and sensors are already making our shopping journeys more sustainable through the intersection of sophisticated data, content and media solutions.

Considering that 3.5bn phones are now equipped with advanced AR capabilities, through native camera features, social apps and dedicated e-commerce apps, billions of shoppers can interact with physical products without physically having them there. The rapid pace of 5G roll-out also removes lag and speed issues, making the experience flawless and almost tangible.

The question is; how can brands leverage this advancement in mobile tech capability and accessibility as part of their commerce and SDG strategies? To be sustainable for the planet, it has to be sustainable for the business first.

Benefits for the bottom line are real, according to AR solutions providers such as Zeekit, shoppers who use artificial intelligence to virtually try on clothing are five times more likely to purchase the item. They are also more likely to keep hold of the items they purchase and, according to Zeekit return rates, drop from 38% to about 2% – so it’s no surprise this specialist tech start-up has just been acquired by a global retail giant.

Returns are costly – both for the retailer, which must cover the staffing costs and infrastructure to process the return, but also for the planet as items clock up at least twice as much travel time, require additional energy to process and tend to involve inefficient and wasteful re-packaging. The latter often ends up as landfill, along with the product itself, as the item won’t be able to be re-sold as new.

Effective use of interactive experiences through AR and VR lens, built into the shopping journey can help to solve for the impact of returns. It is however important to create the right experience, one which not only provides a functional and practical utility but also an enjoyable and authentic ‘moment’ for the shopper to connect with the product and brand.

Ikea, for example, was able to tap into the nostalgia of its in-store experience, where shoppers walk through sets showcasing furniture and furnishing in-situ. Traditionally, they’d imagine those items transforming their own homes. Using a custom-built mobile AR app called Place, customers can easily swap out and try thousands of items and see them in true- to-scale 3D representations of their homes. The app even makes it possible for customers to walk around the items and interact with them, meaning people no-longer need to wildly imagine something fitting they can practically check.

Incorporating more AR options as a seamless and authentic stage in the m-commerce shopping journey feels like the next evolution of retail and will soon move from exceptional to expected for all consumers. Knowing that something suits an individual, fits well or matches a style, before it’s ever been processed or sent out, immediately cuts back on needless and wasteful carbon emissions, saves money and makes the shopping experience more personal and engaging for the customer.

For more in-depth coverage on the present and future of mobile marketing, dial in to The Drum’s Mobile hub.

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