Selling online: how to start and grow

Conscious consumerism: why it’s more than a buzz word

StartupSmart /

With sustainability on everyone’s lips, online retailers need to think about what they offer and how they share the message

Sustainability, responsibility and social awareness are key traits of ‘conscious consumerism’, and savvy customers with concern for the environment are seeking these factors from the businesses they engage with online.

Melissa Schaff and Michael Stroud, co-founders of Reusables Etc, a one-stop shop for environmentally safe, reusable products, are leading the charge when it comes to small digital businesses and conscious consumerism.

“One of our passions is sustainability and being more responsible in the way we live,” says Stroud. “We see there’s an opportunity to not only sell products, but also to change people’s behaviour.”

Stroud says the pair did extensive research before launching the online store, to ensure there was a market for a sustainable business.

“…people were looking for these solutions, but couldn’t find them in one place”, he says.

Share the story

As consumers become more aware of sustainability and seek more information, businesses operating in this space can help by presenting the message to customers in an easy-to-understand way.

The Reusables Etc create their own content, such as videos or blog posts, or share articles that are relevant and interesting. Stroud and Schaff invest a lot of time finding the best content for their consumers.

“One of the challenges is to sift through the information [about sustainable options], find the information which is credible and then simplify how it’s presented,” he says.

Social media is a great way for the business to connect with like-minded, potential customers and the pair discovered many interest groups locally and internationally.

“….we’ve had the good fortune of people shopping with us and sharing the experience with others [on social media].”

From clicks to sales

Getting known for being a sustainable business and having customers visit your online shop is one thing. But trust in the brand is what helps convert research into purchases, says Schaff.

“It helps that we have a noble branding message of sustainability all the way through our business,” she says. “That helps to convert interest to sales because customers can see that we have their best interest and the environment at heart.”

They have learned that keeping a consistent and regular line of communication with their customers reinforces their brand message and encourages repeat business.

“People who come through to our website are already engaged with the issues of sustainability,” she says. “I think it’s important to keep that communication going. We really focus on our emails to our customers, we introduce new products, and really try to engage in ways of being more sustainable.”

In addition to communicating its sustainable approach, Reusables Etc ensures its customers are well looked after from start to finish.

“We communicate our delivery fee prominently on the home page, product pages, and in the shopping cart. And a link to our shipping policy is displayed on all pages.”

The Reusables Etc site is hosted on the Shopify platform, which integrates with Australia Post. It means the business can show the calculation of shipping rates on site. Australia Post is also its key delivery partner.

“We use [Australia Post’s] Click and Send service… as their online platform provides a fast, efficient way to process, send and track orders.”

Can other businesses do the same?

In addition to Reusables Etc, other innovative Australian small businesses are finding their niche in sustainability. This is evident on The Good Spender online marketplace, developed in partnership between Australia Post and Social Traders. The online retail site connects consumers with sustainable social enterprises, and they can tap into a vast array of products and services. For SMEs keen to follow suit, Stroud says some simple first steps can be taken.

“We try and minimise waste in everything we do. We get a lot of day-to-day products or supplies that come in, so we reuse the packages and send them back out. We recycle in the office and reuse paper and supplies when we can.

“There’s a real behavioural change around how we live. People want to move towards being more responsible and we’re very excited that there’s a growing consumer market around it too.”

If you are a sustainable business that sells goods and services in order to generate community benefit, get involved and sell on Good Spender.

Written by: Jacob Robinson

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