Technology and the web has improved the shopping experience no-end. However, retailers could employ new methods of technology to enhance their green credentials. We look at three ways the web and technology can be used to make retailers more environmentally friendly this Christmas time.

Christmas shopping has certainly been improved no end by the web.

Instead of struglling down a packed high street in the cold, and more often than not rain, fingers breaking under the strain of bags full of gifts, you can cozy up to your PC with a cup of coffee in hand, ready to search for the best deals.

Technological innovations have also made the shopping experience greener, saving retailers (and customers) on paper, ink, petrol ,plastic bags and such.

However, there's still plenty of room for improvement. I've put together the three ways I'd like retailers to implement to make the shopping experience even greener.

These types of changes should translate to cost savings, a reduced carbon footprint, and better customer service for companies. Green has a pleasant tendency to be the gift that keeps on giving.

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NEXT PAGE: Stop the flood of catalogues

  1. Three wishes for a more environmentally friendly shopping experience
  2. Stop the flood of catalogues
  3. Spare my receipt
  4. Offer green posting options

See also: PC Advisor Christmas 2009 technology buyers' guide

Treat yourself with our Advent Calendar: CHRISTMAS SPECIAL OFFERS

Technology and the web has improved the shopping experience no-end. However, retailers could employ new methods of technology to enhance their green credentials. We look at three ways the web and technology can be used to make retailers more environmentally friendly this Christmas time.

Stop the flood of catalogues

A friend of mine (whom I'll call Rebecca because she's requested anonymity) lamented on Facebook the other day that she's repeatedly contacted a well-known deparment store over a year ago, via telephone and email, with a simple request: Stop posting her catalogues. Yet those glossy, full-colour mailings keep coming.

"I stopped trying about a year ago. I contacted them fourteen times. Literally, fourteen times. And I could never get them to stop. I hate them," Rebecca posted.

I thought to myself, well, surely this company's website has an easy-to-find area where you can quickly opt out of receiving marketing materials.

After all, what kind of company would want to waste money on printing and mailing out excess glossy, full-colour materials that serve no purpose than to stoke flames of loathing in the hearts of would-be customers?

I did manage find a section of the this particular store's website trumpeting the company's commitment to all things green (which includes "reducing the amount of paper we use by at least 20 percent by 2010").

However, insofar as finding guidance on how to coerce the company to cease and desist sending unwanted snail mail, I was only able to find a blurb buried deep in the customer service section of the site.

The blurb provides a mailing address for sending opt-out requests and asks that, when writing, you include your name, address, and (again, this is in the Privacy section of the website) your credit card account number.

There's also a free-phone number to call for those customers who would prefer not wasting their own time and money on paper, printing, and postage in an effort, ultimately, to save the company from wasting its time and money on paper, printing, and postage.

For whatever reason, opting out via email or some other electronic means just wasn't an option.

Rebecca called the number and was told by the customer service rep that she could only be removed if she had an account with Macy's.

"He suggested that I call a local store directly to get removed from the list, even though we all know that the local stores are not the ones who send out the catalogues," Rebecca complained after her 15th failed effort. "I hate them!"

Retailers, please, please make it easier to opt out of receiving your printed marketing materials, ideally through your website or via email.

In the meantime, spruce up your online catalogues (and/or make your print catalogues available as a PDF), promote them, and incentivise customers to use them, the way phone companies push customers to receive their bills online rather than through the post.

Doing so will spare some trees and reduce your carbon footprint with fewer mailings, while saving you some cash and reducing the amount of publicly aired ill will from potentially former customers.

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NEXT PAGE: Spare my receipt

  1. Three wishes for a more environmentally friendly shopping experience
  2. Stop the flood of catalogues
  3. Spare my receipt
  4. Offer green posting options

See also: PC Advisor Christmas 2009 technology buyers' guide

Treat yourself with our Advent Calendar: CHRISTMAS SPECIAL OFFERS


Technology and the web has improved the shopping experience no-end. However, retailers could employ new methods of technology to enhance their green credentials. We look at three ways the web and technology can be used to make retailers more environmentally friendly this Christmas time.

Spare me my receipt

Of the dozens of receipts I receive each week, I end up needing 5 percent in the long run - and that might be a generous estimate. Yet I'm almost always given a receipt for anything I purchase, be it a television, a week's worth of groceries, or a small coffee.

There's been a gradual move away from mechanically providing customers with physically documented proof that they've engaged in a transaction.

Some cashiers will ask you whether you want a receipt, though if you say no, they just end up balling up the strip of paper their printer spews out and tossing it in the rubbish for you.

Okay, that saves me about a calorie's worth of physical exertion, but it still represents wasted resources for the company, which can really add up over time.

Some businesses have taken it a step further, letting you opt out of having a receipt printed. My bank's ATMs, for example, ask me if I want a printed receipt after a transaction, which I generally don't since I can access that information online.

My preferred petrol station also asks if I need a receipt, which I don't, because (A) I've never had to return petrol, and (B) the purchase will show up on my credit card statement, again which I can access online.

Though environmentally friendlier (which translates to less expensive), it's not necessarily a perfect approach in cases you don't think you'll need a receipt but later discover you do (such as when getting a reimbursement from work).

The best approach I've seen, though, is what amounts to digital receipts. Apple Stores, for example, give you the option of having a receipt sent to your email, rather than handing you one on ink-stained processed tree pulp.

Thus, the customer has easy-to-find proof of purchase archived in his or her email while - yes, I'm beating the sustainability drum - the company saves cash and resources.

A variant here - another example of technology rendering printed receipts obsolete - is how some retailers track gift purchases. My wife and I had to return some items we'd received for our recent wedding, but we didn't have receipts.

Yet two of the retailers were able to confirm that our items had come from their respective stores (and that one item had not) by checking their digital records. No slips of paper were necessary, and all parties ended up satisfied.

Retailers: why not retire paper receipts wherever possible, replacing them with more convenient, eco-friendly, inexpensive digital receipts.

Paper receipts shouldn't be retired entirely, but at least give us the choice as to whether we need to clutter our pockets, glove compartments, and recycling bins with reminders of last week's pizza or dry cleaning.

Broadband speed test

NEXT PAGE: Offer green posting options

  1. Three wishes for a more environmentally friendly shopping experience
  2. Stop the flood of catalogues
  3. Spare my receipt
  4. Offer green posting options

See also: PC Advisor Christmas 2009 technology buyers' guide

Treat yourself with our Advent Calendar: CHRISTMAS SPECIAL OFFERS


Technology and the web has improved the shopping experience no-end. However, retailers could employ new methods of technology to enhance their green credentials. We look at three ways the web and technology can be used to make retailers more environmentally friendly this Christmas time.

Offer greener posting

My wife and I have a couple of cats, and for the sake of convenience, we order certain supplies in bulk online from Amazon.

My thinking has been, 'If I buy several cases of canned food at once, it will be more convenient, less expensive, and we'll save on postage'. I'd think the latter point would benefit the retailer as well.

After making my most recent order online, I was surprised to receive just half of the batch, with an invoice explaining that only a portion had been available, so it had been shipped early as a courtesy, at no charge. The rest came a day or two later.

I applaud Amazon for its attempt at good customer service, for which one of the mantras is probably 'Faster is always better'.

Thing is, I didn't ask for express delivery. I accepted the free, standard shipping with the understanding - actually, the expectation - that everything would ship at once, even if it meant waiting a little more time.

Had there been an option on the website where I could insist that all the items ship at once - so long as they'd arrive within, say, two weeks - I'd have checked it.

On the back end, Amazon's supply-chain and order processing systems could have taken that into account and handled my shipment accordingly.

In turn, that would have saved Amazon on extra packaging andpostage, which translates to more money for the company, not to mention a smaller carbon footprint.

Why not give customers more eco-friendly postage options, ideally based on real-time supply-chain data that indicates when an order will arrive in its entirety, and pass along the cost savings you enjoy from using one box instead of two or three or whatever.

This service needn't come at the cost of shoddy customer service, of course. If an order ends up being delayed because one or more items aren't available, you can notify the customer via email to see how to progress.

Broadband speed test

See also: 5 online shopping sites you don't know

  1. Three wishes for a more environmentally friendly shopping experience
  2. Stop the flood of catalogues
  3. Spare my receipt
  4. Offer green posting options
  5. See also: PC Advisor Christmas 2009 technology buyers' guide

    Treat yourself with our Advent Calendar: CHRISTMAS SPECIAL OFFERS