New Inmar Intelligence Survey Reveals Divide Between Consumers and Sustainability in E-commerce and Product Returns

Data highlights significant knowledge gap, particularly with returns, and a strong desire from consumers for sustainable options

Inmar Intelligence, a leading applied data platform company, published findings from its 2022 Returns & Sustainability Survey which found the majority of consumers (68 percent) care about practicing sustainability in their everyday life, but more than half (55 percent) have little to no knowledge about what happens to the items they return to a retailer.

When making purchases, 54 percent of respondents reported that they try to shop sustainably most (33 percent) or all (21 percent) of the time. The majority (76 percent) of respondents also indicated they would be more inclined to shop with a retailer that has more sustainable return practices. The desire to shop sustainably has the potential to be highly impactful for brands and retailers given more than half (54 percent) of respondents said they make online purchases at least once per week, with 30 percent reporting several online purchases per week.

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More than a third of respondents (41 percent) believe their returns go back to stock to be resold. However, experts estimate retailers throw away about a quarter of their returns, and many more are resold through alternative channels rather than going back on store shelves. At Inmar, the largest retail returns processor in the U.S., 99 percent of returns processed go back into commerce, donation programs and energy-from-waste programs instead of landfills, a fact that escapes many consumers.

Some additional key findings:

  • Three quarters (76 percent) of survey respondents reported they would be more inclined to shop with a retailer that has more sustainable return practices if they were provided with information about how their returns contributed to their carbon footprint.
  • The majority of respondents (81 percent) reported they would be more willing to select “deliver items as a group” if they knew it helped the environment.
  • More than half (69 percent) of survey respondents reported they would be willing to accept longer delivery times to make delivery more eco-friendly.

As consumers explore ways to shop and live more sustainability, the need for awareness of sustainable shopping practices is vital. The survey highlights the opportunity for retailers to communicate sustainability practices and offer sustainable options to increase their appeal to this large and growing audience.

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