Australian Consumers Demand Sustainable Practices in Retail Returns

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Rising Demand for Sustainable Returns
  3. Sustainability as a Brand Loyalty Driver
  4. Consumer Preferences for Sustainable Solutions
  5. The Role of Technology in Reducing Returns
  6. Conclusion
  7. FAQ

In an era where environmental concerns are at the forefront of consumers' minds, recent research from SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement sheds light on an intriguing aspect of retail that often goes overlooked: the sustainability of product returns. With a significant 46% of Australian consumers calling for a more eco-friendly approach to this process, the study, which surveyed over 2,000 Australian shoppers, underscores the growing demand for sustainable shopping practices. This blog post delves into the findings of this research, exploring how sustainability is becoming a crucial factor for Australian consumers, the impact of sustainable returns on brand loyalty, and the innovative solutions that could help retailers align with consumer expectations.


Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of returning a product you purchased online? It turns out, a significant portion of Australian consumers have, and they're not pleased. A recent study by SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement reveals a compelling narrative about the rising demand for sustainability in retail returns. This revelation is not just a fleeting trend but a pronounced shift in consumer behavior, pushing retailers to rethink how they manage returns. In this blog post, we'll unwrap these insights, look at why sustainability matters more than ever to Australian shoppers, and examine how businesses can innovate to meet these expectations. What makes this post stand out is its comprehensive take on the intricacies of sustainable returns, leveraging up-to-date research and emerging trends in retail technology.

The purpose of our deep dive is to provide a clearer picture of a less discussed yet increasingly important aspect of sustainability in retail. We'll explore how prioritizing the environment in returns can not only appeal to consumer preferences but also foster brand loyalty and drive innovation in how products are sold, returned, and recycled.

The Rising Demand for Sustainable Returns

According to the research, 46% of Australian consumers are clamoring for a greener approach to how returns are managed. This is a telling statistic, indicative of a broader environmental awareness among shoppers. The study further shows that 18% of respondents now prioritize sustainability above all else when making purchasing decisions. This paradigm shift has profound implications for retailers, who must now consider the ecological footprint of not just their products but also the lifecycle of these products, including their return and recycling.

Sustainability as a Brand Loyalty Driver

An interesting finding from the study is the strong correlation between sustainable practices, particularly in handling returns, and consumer loyalty. A whopping 47% of Australian shoppers said they would be more loyal to brands that adopt eco-friendly return processes. This could mean minimizing packaging waste, encouraging the recycling of returned goods, or other innovative return solutions. This insight is a clarion call to brands to champion sustainability not just as a corporate responsibility initiative but as a core element of customer engagement and retention.

Consumer Preferences for Sustainable Solutions

The study also sheds light on specific sustainable solutions consumers want to see. For instance, 46% of respondents suggest that offering returned items at a discounted resale price could be a win-win, promoting sustainability while offering value. Additionally, nearly half of those surveyed believe that facilitating returns through local depots could enhance a retailer's green credentials. These suggestions highlight a clear preference for practical, tangible actions brands can take to make returns more sustainable.

The Role of Technology in Reducing Returns

The research points towards technology, specifically AI-powered personalization, as a key tool in addressing the root causes of customer returns. By leveraging AI to gain deeper insights into consumer preferences and purchase history, retailers can offer more accurate recommendations, ultimately reducing the likelihood of returns. Thomas Harris, Chief Revenue Officer at SAP Emarsys, emphasizes the importance of getting it right the first time, suggesting that personalization can play a significant role in this regard.

Moreover, the study emphasizes that while addressing returns is crucial, it's but one facet of cultivating customer loyalty. A holistic approach, incorporating an omnichannel strategy with personalized customer experiences, is pivotal. The '7 Pillars of Personalisation,' as explored in SAP Emarsys' guide, provides a comprehensive framework for achieving this.


In wrapping up, the SAP Emarsys Customer Engagement study offers invaluable insights into the shifting landscape of consumer expectations in Australia. The call for more sustainable practices in handling returns is loud and clear, reflecting a broader societal shift towards environmental consciousness. For retailers, the path forward involves not only reevaluating their returns processes but also integrating sustainable practices across all facets of their operations. By doing so, they can align more closely with consumer values, fostering brand loyalty and contributing positively to the planet. It is evident that sustainability in retail returns is not merely a trend but a fundamental shift in how business is conducted, urging retailers to innovate, adapt, and thrive in an increasingly eco-conscious world.


Q: Why is sustainability important in retail returns? A: Sustainability in retail returns is crucial because it reduces waste, minimizes environmental impact, and aligns with growing consumer expectations for eco-friendly practices. It's a significant component of a brand's overall sustainability effort.

Q: How can retailers make their returns process more sustainable? A: Retailers can offer more sustainable returns by reducing packaging, encouraging recycling or repurposing of returned items, offering incentives for keeping products, and leveraging technology to minimize unnecessary returns through better product matching.

Q: What role does technology play in reducing the need for returns? A: Technology, especially AI-powered personalization, plays a critical role by providing insights into consumer preferences, which can lead to more accurate product recommendations and sizing, thereby reducing the likelihood of returns.

Q: Can sustainable returns practices impact brand loyalty? A: Yes, as the study reveals, nearly half of Australian consumers would be more loyal to brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainable returns, indicating the positive impact of eco-friendly practices on customer retention.

Q: Are Australian consumers willing to compromise on convenience for sustainability? A: While the study suggests a strong preference for sustainability, it also highlights a significant demand for getting it right the first time, indicating that consumers seek a balance between convenience and sustainable practices.