The importance of online trading is still increasing both nationally and internationally and will reach a market volume of 354 billion euros in 2020 (clothing). This rapid increase in parcel volumes, but also the high number of returned goods, which account for up to 50% of deliveries, pose new challenges in the light of climate change, air pollution and traffic management (EHI Retail Institute 2015; Kristensen K. et al. 2013). Previous initiatives aim at the electrification of delivery cars or at the provision of central collection points, but do not use the biggest lever: human decision making. What is needed are innovative approaches that broaden the scope of action for customers highlighting a more sustainable shopping experience.
In course of Think!First, a modular framework in terms of “level-up” for web shops was designed, developed and evaluated. With the help of gamification strategies, persuasive design principles and machine learning algorithms, users of our test shop were encouraged to behave in a more targeted and conscious manner while purchasing online goods. The ecological footprint of customers was improved through eco-friendly transport options, the promotion of group orders, the preselection of longer delivery times, collaborative quests, gamified comments, as well as automated size charts. This preventive approach aimed at making an important scientific contribution against the background of the ongoing ecommerce boom and the resulting increase in freight traffic volumes and all its negative consequences on the environment.
In order to measure the impact of our framework, we conducted a nationwide field test which showed that there are significant quantitative changes in knowledge concerning sustainable shopping choices as well as a reduction of returned packages in the test shop. Qualitative expert interviews showed that online retailers can imagine implementing customer-centric Think!First strategies in their own shops taking into account the increasing competition and ever demanding efforts to satisfy customers. In retrospect our framework can be seen as crucial first step in improving the ecommerce sector on an ecological, technological as well as on a behavioral level.