Lockdown restrictions here in the UK are beginning to lift, with many now speculating (over a pint, of course) that 2020 has been Mother Nature’s way of telling humans to show her more love and respect.

While the chain of events that lead from a bat being eaten to the collapse of the global economy might be a strange way of her making that point, it’s hard to deny that it got the world’s attention.

Dolphins in the canals of Venice sadly turned out to be #FakeNews, but widely-reported environmental changes such as CO2 emission drops in China – a colossal 25% year-on-year – and rare blue skies in the Indian capital Delhi will likely force some into more conscientious buying patterns.

India Gate in Delhi on November 3rd, 2019 vs March 3rd 2020

Brands who move quickly to make a more considered approach possible will reap huge rewards; Luxury e-tailer Farfetch has already moved to develop an online sustainability calculator to help consumers better understand an item’s environmental footprint.

There’s a Catch-22 situation on the horizon though: as consumers begin to demand that brands are more transparent and environmentally-friendly, they’ll also likely continue to expect next-day delivery and free returns as part of the buying process.

So how can brands continue to meet Jekyll and Hyde consumer demands while also fulfilling their duties to Mother Nature?

Technology solutions will of course answer some of our biggest sustainability questions.

Optoro has already been invested in by the likes of UPS and IKEA.

One great example of this is reverse logistics solution Optoro – a tool designed to improve the logistics model by making items set to be returned available for purchase, reducing needless production and waste for brands and retailers.

“It’s a high-tech solution for connecting return items to the next best home.”

– Optoro co-founder and CEO Tobin Moore

Meanwhile, Squad Shopping apps such as Squadded – a trend we touched on a few weeks back in Retail Espresso Volume 2 – could help to reduce misinformed purchases and consequent returns by giving shoppers a platform through which to gain social approval from friends before adding items to their online carts.

And virtual try-before-you-buy is also on the rise, with automotive brands like Mercedes-Benz having launched their virtual showroom earlier this year and apps like Zeekit offering the first dynamic virtual fitting room.

Apps like Zeekit may offer the best solution for consumers to try on before they order.

For brands concerned about their overall shopping experience though, tech innovations can become something of a minefield: baking the wrong tech into your mix risks alienating loyal customers who loved the previous buying experience.

So how do you ensure you stay relevant while evolving your strategy?

In Beyond COVID-19 we explore how brands should think about human behaviour and emotion in order to make informed decisions that stand the test of time.

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