Online retail trends
and a critical look at sustainability

The growing popularity of online retail has led to a greater emphasis on sustainability. Sustainability is also becoming more important for consumers. How are Swiss online retailers responding to this development? Our latest studies on Swiss online retail provide answers.

Highlights

Sustainability in Swiss e-commerce

Online Retailer Survey 2020

How sustainable is Swiss online retail from a retailer's point of view? A B2B study by Swiss Post and the Institute of Communication and Marketing IKM at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

In relation to sustainability, environmental and social aspects at various phases along the online shop value chain were examined (e.g. selecting product ranges, during shipping or when collaborating with partners).

PDF Download (441 kB)

Product range

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 3

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

As an estimate, how high is the percentage of products included in your range that are manufactured in an eco-friendly manner or under fair working conditions?

52%

Ecological aspect: Products manufactured in an eco-friendly way (52%)

77%

Social aspect: Products manufactured under fair working conditions (77%)

The social aspect is being taken into consideration more strongly than the ecological aspect.


Operation of the online shop

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 1

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

Which of the following statements applies to the operation of your online shop?

60% We conduct our business in a way that generates as few carbon emissions as possible (e.g. video conferences instead of travelling or appropriate transport choices for business trips).

46% We use IT solutions that have minimal power requirements (incl. power for cooling).

43% We use IT solutions that leave the smallest possible carbon footprint (manufacture, operations, disposal).

27% We offset unavoidable carbon emissions (e.g. generated on business trips) in order to be as carbon-neutral as possible.

25% Our online shop is fully powered by renewable energy resources.

When choosing IT solutions, greater emphasis is placed on sustainability than operation of the shop.


Intralogistics and storage

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 1

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

Which statements apply to intralogistics and warehousing in your company?

68% Our warehouse is operated in a resource-friendly manner (e.g. low power consumption).

58% We optimize transport capacities (e.g. to branches or distribution center).

30% Our warehouse is fully powered by renewable energy resources.

Eco-friendly logistics and storage solutions that conserve resources tend to lower costs and thus lead to wider distribution.


Shipping and packaging

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 6

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

Which of the following environmental shipping options do you offer your customers?

49% Collection from your own branch (Click & Collect)

39% Consolidated shipping for end customers (bundling of partial deliveries for more sustainable delivery)

23% Link for managing the delivery (e.g. time, location) in order to guarantee successful delivery on the first attempt

22% Delivery to third-party collection points (e.g. parcel terminals, Swiss Post branches)

16% Slower delivery of consignments to end customers to ensure more sustainable delivery

15% Use of locally adapted logistics solutions for more sustainable shipping (e.g. bicycle delivery services in combination with trains, eCargo bikes)

15% Carbon-neutral shipping (through carbon offsetting) without any extra charge for the end customer

3% Carbon-neutral shipping (through carbon offsetting) with any extra charge for the end customer

Click & Collect and bundled deliveries are the options most frequently available. Almost every 6th online shop provides options that are more complex to implement (slower or locally adapted delivery) or carbon-neutral shipping without extra charge.


Returns

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 3

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

Do you offer a free returns service?

28%72%

No (72%)

Yes (28%)

Three out of ten Swiss online shops surveyed offer a free returns service.


Cooperation with partners

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 2

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

To what extent do sustainability aspects determine collaboration with partners (e.g. suppliers or shipping service providers) in your company?

63% When choosing possible partners, we consider social aspects (e.g. fair working conditions).

50% When choosing possible partners, we consider certification of compliance with environmental or social standards.

50% When deciding on whether or not to work with a partner, social aspects (e.g. fair working conditions) are given just as much weight as economic criteria (e.g. costs).

45% When choosing possible partners, we consider environmental aspects (e.g. resource conservation, avoidance of carbon emissions).

36% When deciding on whether or not to work with a partner, environmental aspects (e.g. resource conservation, avoidance of carbon emissions) are given just as much weight as economic criteria (e.g. costs).

29% We verify our partners’ compliance with environmental and social standards.

18% We actively provide our partners with suggestions as to how they can operate with greater environmental and social awareness.

When it comes to choosing partners, social aspects are more important than environmental ones. Suggestions for a more sustainable retail approach are rarely made.


Consumer requirements

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 2

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

What is your assessment of consumer needs with respect to sustainability over the past two years?

74% Need for information on the origin of products

65% Sustainability as a criteria when selecting products

64% Need for information on how products are manufactured

59% Need for sustainable packaging

38% Need for sustainable returns policy

36% Sustainability as a criteria when selecting the online shop

33% Need for information about sustainable transport

32% Need for sustainable shipping options

Reported value: Increase

Most providers take the view that the number of consumers looking for information about product origin has increased in recent years.


Strategically important topics and competitive edge

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 2

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

In your opinion, which of the following sustainability topics will prove the most important for your company over the next 12 months?

50% Keeping customers better informed of sustainability aspects

48% Increasing the share of sustainable products in your range

40% Offering customers more sustainable packaging

32% Collaboration with sustainable partners/service providers

25% Taking a more sustainable approach to transport and logistics (e.g. through the reduction/prevention of carbon emissions or better use of existing transport capacities)

20% Offering customers more sustainable shipping options

7% Taking a more sustainable approach to the running of your online shop (e.g. by reducing power consumption in-house or for hosting)

7% Taking a more sustainable approach to returns

8% None of the above

The most important topics for the coming year are better information on sustainability aspects for customers and an increase in the proportion of sustainable products included in product ranges.


Communication and marketing

Online Retailer Survey 2020

Question 1 / 1

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

In what way do you communicate the sustainability aspects of the products you offer and your processes (e.g. running of online shop or shipping logistics)?

43% The sustainability aspects of our products are actively communicated in our online shop.

41% The sustainability aspects of our products are an integral part of our marketing and communication strategy.

23% The sustainability aspects of our processes are actively communicated in our online shop.

23% The sustainability aspects of our processes are an integral part of our marketing and communication strategy.

The majority of online shops actively communicate, at least partially, the sustainable aspects of their products. There is not as much information provided about the sustainability of the processes.

Swiss e-commerce trend indicator 2020

Customer survey 2020

What are the trends and habits in Swiss online retail? A B2C study by Swiss Post and the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich (HWZ)

PDF Download (403 kB)

Marketing

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 6

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

How often do you shop online?

3%22%52%17%3%3%

Every six months (17%)

Annually (3%)

Never (3%)

Monthly (52%)

Weekly (22%)

Daily (3%)

77% shop monthly or more frequently online.


Orders

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 3

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

If you have a choice when shopping online: who is your preferred retailer?

68%32%

Retailer or virtual marketplace (32%)

Product manufacturer (68%)

Around two thirds of those surveyed would prefer to purchase directly from the manufacturer, rather than through a retailer or marketplace.


Virtual marketplaces

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 2

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

On which of the following virtual marketplaces do you shop?

79% ricardo.ch

78% Digitec Galaxus

74% Amazon

71% Microspot

63% Zalando

53% tutti.ch

48% eBay

38% anibis.ch

37% Wish

32% AliExpress

14% Pinterest

6% Rakuten

Ricardo, Digitec Galaxus, Amazon and Microspot are among the most popular online marketplaces for Swiss online shoppers.


Payment

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 1

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

Which payment options do you prefer?

76% Credit card

76% Invoice

35% Mobile payments

32% PostFinance debit card

31% PayPal

23% Option to pay when collecting from store/pickup center

22% Advance payment

19% Online shop payment and in-store collection

2% Revolut

0% Bitcoins

The majority prefer to pay by credit card or by invoice.


Logistics and sustainability

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 4

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

How important are the following delivery options to you?

Online consignment tracking

88%

71%

Advance notice of consignment receipt

79%

80%

Managing receipt of goods online

70%

47%

Delivery on a preferred date

56%

43%

Evening delivery

23%

7%

Same-day delivery

18%

7%

Morning delivery

16%

21%

Delivery within two hours

11%

3%

Up to 34 years

65 years or over

Young people rely more on “same-day delivery” and also like to be able to track consignments.


Customer care

Customer survey 2020

Question 1 / 1

Alle Fragen zu diesem Thema

What types of customer service are important to you?

71% E-mail

70% Contact form

66% Telephone

54% Personal advice

45% FAQ

28% Chat

16% Messenger

15% Social media

10% Chatbot

In terms of customer service, respondents rate e-mails (71%) and contact form (70%) the most important.

Supply and demand in online shopping with a focus on sustainability

Comparison

What are Swiss consumers looking for when it comes to sustainability in e-commerce and how are Swiss online retailers approaching this issue? Comparing supply and demand.

PDF Download (170 kB)

Shipping

Comparison

Online retailer survey: Which of the following eco-shipping options do you offer your customers?

Customer survey: How highly do you rate the following environmentally-friendly shipping options?

Click & Collect

49%

23%

Consolidated shipping (bundling of partial deliveries for more sustainable delivery)

39%

56%

Link for managing the delivery (e.g. time, location) in order to guarantee successful delivery on the first attempt

23%

58%

Delivery to third-party collection points (e.g. terminals, Swiss Post branches)

22%

25%

Slower delivery of consignments to ensure more sustainable delivery

16%

33%

Carbon-neutral shipping (through carbon offsetting) without any extra charge

15%

43%

Use of locally adapted logistics solutions for more sustainable shipping (e.g. bicycle delivery services in combination with trains, eCargo bikes)

15%

35%

Carbon-neutral shipping (through carbon offsetting) with an extra charge

3%

27%

Online retailer

Customer

The majority of the eco-shipping options offered by online retailers do not meet customer needs.


Packaging

Comparison

Online retailer survey: Which of the following aspects are already implemented by your company when it comes to your packaging system?

Customer survey: How important to you are the following aspects regarding the packaging of the ordered goods?

Size of boxes optimized to suit individual consignments

72%

75%

Reuse of packaging or filler material from returns for other shipping processes

56%

69%

Shipping of consignments in their original packaging

49%

61%

Recycling of packaging or filler material from returns

49%

73%

Option to send returns in original packaging

38%

68%

No use of filler material

31%

46%

Use of reusable packaging (delivery and return in reusable packaging)

25%

73%

Online retailer

Customer

The use of reusable packaging is considered an important aspect by customers and yet there is room for improvement here on the part of the retailers.


Consumer needs

Comparison

Online retailer survey: What is your assessment of consumer needs with respect to sustainability over the past two years?

Customer survey: How important do you rate the following sustainability aspects when shopping online?

Information on product origin

74%

79%

Sustainability of the products

65%

74%

Information on the manufacturing conditions of products

64%

65%

Sustainable packaging

59%

69%

Sustainable approach to returns

38%

70%

Sustainable operation of the online shop

36%

60%

Information on transport

33%

57%

Sustainable shipping options

32%

59%

Online retailer

Customer

Online retailers underestimate the needs of customers for sustainable return options.

Study design

Customer survey 2020 Swiss e-commerce trend indicator

Sample size

13,596 participants (cleaned)

Survey period

9 June to 16 June 2020

Method

Quantitative online survey

Questions

26 closed questions

Online Retailer Survey 2020 Sustainability in Swiss e-commerce

Sample size

227 online retailers

Survey period

13 March to 31 July 2020

Method

Quantitative online survey

Questions

22 closed, 1 semi-open and 3 open questions