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How to attract more buyers by being a sustainable seller

Why is sustainability important?

A large share of consumers take eco-friendliness into account when making a purchase decision. As the recent Deloitte survey shows, consumers are willing to buy “greener” products even at higher prices. 40% of US respondents who said they’d recently bought a sustainable product, also claimed they were ready to pay more for it. Two thirds of respondents recalled purchasing a “green” product and paying 20% or more compared to a regular alternative [1]. In addition to this, the 2023 McKinsey survey reveals that about half of US consumers are ready to pay more for sustainable packaging [2]. 

As the new generation of buyers joins the ecommerce market, the sustainability of your eBay business will get more important and, in the end, it can make all the difference. In this article, you’ll find our best tips on how to be a sustainable eBay seller.

Both Millennials (39%) and Gen Z (36%) rated sustainability as more important than Boomers (26%) [3].

Eco-friendly practices for eBay sellers

Please remember that it’s virtually impossible to reduce the carbon footprint of your business overnight. But if you make sustainability one of your priorities, you can gradually incorporate eco-friendly practices while keeping your eBay store profitable. Some of these practices will even improve your bottom line — such as keeping returns to a minimum!

Include pre-loved items in your inventory

Include pre-loved items in your inventory

Recommerce reduces environmental footprint, saves resources, and keeps good items out of landfills. According to eBay’s Recommerce report 2021, 34% of global eBay buyers said sustainability was their main reason for choosing to purchase pre-owned items [4]. In 2022, 90% of buyers in the US and Europe engaged in recommerce [3], which means that there is a significant demand for pre-loved items — repaired, refurbished, repurposed, and vintage ones.

If you want to include pre-loved items in your inventory, we recommend you to read 10 practical tips: how to sell vintage like a pro.

Choose eco-friendly packaging

Choose eco-friendly packaging

If you engage in ecommerce, you inevitably use a lot of packaging supplies (boxes, filling materials, sealing tape, etc,) because you want items to arrive intact and functioning. Still, sellers should bear in mind that plastic packaging often gets thrown away and pollutes the environment. Here’re the best practices of sustainable packaging:

  • Use biodegradable filling materials such as paper or shredded cardboard
  • Reuse shipping boxes that are in good condition
  • Avoid shipping boxes that are too big for your items
  • Don’t ship a box within a box

For more extensive information, please read the article: Eco-friendly packaging: 11 tips for a sustainable seller.

Minimize paper use

Minimize paper use

Instead of printing instructions, coupons, or marketing materials on paper, you can generate a QR code that redirects buyers to web pages with the same information available online. You can also add QR codes leading to informative videos (installation, usage, manufacturing process), customer surveys, your social media pages, etc. If you replace printed materials with small stickers with QR codes, you will not only minimize paper waste, but also reduce costs, increase customer engagement, and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability.

If you aren’t ready to stop using printed materials as of yet, opt for recycled paper. Despite a yellowish hue, it’s perfectly good for labels, instructions, and promotional materials. Eco-conscious buyers will surely appreciate your efforts.

Offer combined shipping

Offer combined shipping

If you send several orders in one box, it helps reduce both packaging waste and transportation-associated carbon emissions. For buyers, combined shipping is an opportunity to get a shipping discount, so they will be eager to use this option. 

For more information on how to use this feature, please read the article Offering combined shipping.

Sell long-lasting and reusable products

One of today’s trends is the demand for reusable everyday items. Striving to minimize plastic waste, consumers quit using disposable products and opt for durable ones. Among them are reusable food covers, metal straws, water bottles, insulated coffee mugs, food containers, face sponges, etc. To see what’s in demand right now, use Terapeak Product Research — eBay’s exclusive tool that is free for all sellers.

According to Deloitte’s UK survey, most consumers consider durability (58%) and repairability (39%) of products when making a purchase [5].

Calculate your carbon footprint

Calculate your carbon footprint

It’s much easier to manage what can be measured. So, the first step in reducing your carbon footprint is knowing it. Use the online Carbon Footprint Calculator for SME to see how much carbon emissions your business generates. Perhaps the resulting amount will motivate you to revise your fuel consumption or think how to reduce it.

Think about product lifecycle

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This term refers to the stages an item goes through, from manufacturing to becoming unusable. If possible, you can try to extend the lifecycle of your products in several ways:

  • Sell spare parts or tools for repairing
  • Advise buyers on cleaning, care, and recycling of your products
  • Encourage buyers to trade in used devices instead of throwing them away
  • Educate buyers about waste sorting and recycling options for your products

Reduce returns

If a package is shipped back and forth, it wastes resources and generates unnecessary carbon emissions. If you want your eBay business to be sustainable, do your best to minimize returns:

  • Write an honest item description that mentions all the defects if there are any
  • Add high quality photos from all angles (and maybe a video if necessary)
  • Answer buyers’ questions if they have doubts regarding your item
  • Add fitment information if you sell auto parts and accessories
  • Package items securely to avoid damage

If your buyers have a good idea of what to expect from your items, you’ll be able to avoid unnecessary returns — which are harmful for both the environment and your bottom line.

Consider eco-friendly alternatives

Consider eco-friendly alternatives

You can make your eBay business more sustainable by investing in “greener” alternatives:

  • Use solar panels as an energy source
  • Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products in your office
  • Install water-efficient fixtures
  • Use energy-efficient lighting

Think of how your eBay store works and try to invent new ways to make it more environmentally friendly.

Choose environmentally responsible or carbon neutral shipping providers

The development of global delivery services has resulted in increased carbon emissions. If you want to become a sustainable seller, explore the available shipping options in your area and choose carbon neutral carriers if there are any. Another option is to find a shipping provider who offsets their carbon emissions by planting trees.

In 2022, eBay partnered with Etsy to encourage the US Postal Service to adopt “greener” shipping practices for small businesses who ship orders via USPS. As a result, USPS committed to exclusively purchase electric delivery vehicles by 2026. An all-electric delivery fleet will lower shipping costs while being less harmful to the environment.

Maintain clear communication

Maintain clear communication

Transparency builds trust and is an important part of eco-friendly business. Here’re several ideas for you:

  • Tell buyers where you source your products from, who your partners and suppliers are
  • Provide information about what you do to reduce waste and carbon emissions
  • If you send orders in eco-friendly packaging, include this information in your item descriptions and promo banners
  • Use social media to showcase your sustainability efforts and build a community of eco-conscious buyers
  • When sending newsletters, educate buyers about sustainability practices they can engage in — such as waste sorting, avoiding single-use products, water conservation, etc.
  • Add keywords such as “recyclable”, “biodegradable”, or “eco-friendly” to your listings’ titles, descriptions and photos, so that eco-conscious buyers could see your products in search results

If you clearly state your values and demonstrate integrity, it can help you stand out against competition and motivate buyers to make a decision in your favor.

Putting sustainability into practice

By adopting environmentally friendly practices, your eBay business can attract the steadily growing market of eco-conscious buyers. It’s not only a responsible attitude, but also a smart business strategy. Explore the practices that you can implement and develop a plan on how to make your eBay business more sustainable in the near future.

To get started, choose just a few practices to focus on, so that you won’t get overwhelmed!

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Sources:

  1. Pleters, Leon et al. “Economic uncertainty puts pressure on sustainable behavior change”. 25 Jul 2023. Deloitte LLP. URL: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/environmental-social-governance/sustainable-consumer-behaviors.html. Accessed 22 Jan 2024.
  2. Feber, David et al. “Sustainability in packaging: US survey insights”. 26 Apr, 2023. McKinsey & Company. URL: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/packaging-and-paper/our-insights/sustainability-in-packaging-us-survey-insights. Accessed 22 Jan 2024.
  3. “2022 Recommerce Report”. eBay, Inc. URL: https://static.ebayinc.com/assets/Uploads/Documents/eBay-Recommerce-Report-Highlights-2022.pdf. Accessed 22 Jan 2024.
  4. “2021 Recommerce Report”. eBay, Inc. URL: https://static.ebayinc.com/assets/Uploads/Documents/eBay-Recommerce-Report-2021.pdf. Accessed 22 Jan 2024.
  5. “What consumers care about when it comes to sustainability. Sustainable Consumer 2023”. Deloitte LLP. URL: https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer-what-consumers-care-about.html. Accessed 22 Jan 2024.