These are some screenshots of the conversations I had recently.
It seems that more and more people are turning towards online shopping. This comes as no surprise, considering the greater convenience, ease, and plethora of options available online. A few clicks on our mobile phones and parcels get delivered straight to our doorsteps.
Hello friends! Welcome back! 😊 Along with advancements in technology, people have found a new way of shopping – online. And it is a booming industry; between the myriad of online shopping platforms available in Singapore, e-commerce has garnered about SGD$10 billion in 2018.
So, how bad is online shopping on the environment?
Well, online shopping generates significantly more packaging waste than physical shopping. Products are often shipped to consumers covered in layers after layers of plastic or protective wrapping, then finally in a large cardboard box to prevent mechanical damage. The bubble wrap or packing peanuts that could have been spared of the product was picked up in a store adds up, resulting in heaps of largely non-biodegradable packaging waste.
Another way online shopping lead to higher environmental impact is that more people return products bought online. In a physical apparel store, for example, buyers get to try the article of clothing in different sizes and colours before deciding which one to get. Online retailers that are unable to provide this service instead allow consumers to order more clothing for them to try on at home, then send back the ones they do not want, which increases carbon emissions. Additionally, not all the unwanted clothes that are sent back are resold; they are thrown away although they were barely worn.
And tactics by e-commerce platforms are adding fuel to the fire.
Online sellers use many methods to encourage impulse buying among consumers, such as offering discounts and free shipping above a certain amount. Impulse buying may lead to unnecessary consumerism that creates a larger impact on the environment.
One main tactic used that leads to impulse buying is when buyers realise that there is limited stock, prompting them to purchase the product immediately. E-commerce platforms often have an indication of the current demand of their products, either in the form of “XX pieces left” or “XX number of people are looking at this item now”. This often makes the buyer feel that they should quickly purchase the product before it runs out of stock.
But are there only 5 pieces left? Well, maybe, but most probably not.
Upon further inspection of the website, I found that the phrase ‘5 piece available’ is hardcoded into the page, meaning that it was manually typed into the page, and not actual real-time data from the warehouse or inventory that keeps track of how many pieces are left. I found this in other stores too.
While it may be entirely possible that a worker manually changes the value each time the item is ordered or each time someone adds the item into their cart, I highly doubt it.
So, next time you’re on an online shopping platform, you can use this trick too!