May 23, 2024

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Sustainable Shopping from A-Z: Transforming Online Fashion Retail for a Greener Future

9 min read

In the contemporary landscape of the fashion industry, the search for sustainable fashion practices has become a critical imperative than a trend of recent times. Post-COVID era has forced us the urgency to adopt eco-friendly practices, and the online fashion retail sector is leading this transformative journey. This article investigates the complex cases of online fashion retail, exploring areas to revolutionise the industry for a greener and more sustainable future. In the modern era, where digital experiences shape consumer behaviour, this study focuses on the pivotal role of e-commerce platforms in steering environmentally conscious and socially responsible shopping practices. From the initial stages of product selection to the final step of delivery, every facet of the online shopping journey is analysed to understand the impact of sustainable initiatives on consumer behaviour. By focusing on eco-conscious website design, virtual try-on technologies, augmented reality sizing guides, eco-friendly packaging innovations, and carbon-neutral delivery practices, the research seeks to answer the potential of each element in shaping a sustainable online shopping experience. Moreover, the study investigates the power of community-building initiatives, incentives, and eco-conscious payment methods in fostering sustainable fashion awareness and ethical spending among online shoppers. The aim is not only to identify sustainable practices but also to provide actionable insights that can guide the digital retail landscape towards a more sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly future.

Literature Review

The high influence of e-shopping on consumers’ travel behaviour is widely acknowledged in the last few years. However, there is a crucial gap in research regarding the effects of the built environment on online shopping and its potential impact on travel demand, specifically considering land use policies. Studies address the gap by investigating the influence of the built environment on the frequency of online shopping for various product categories (clothes and shoes, food and drinks, cosmetics, and electronics). The findings reveal that higher residential density positively impacts the frequency of online shopping. Moreover, the accessibility to metro stations demonstrates an indirect and negative influence on e-shopping frequency, mediated by pro-e-shopping attitudes. The inclusion of e-shopping attitudes as a mediating factor provides valuable insights into the complex relationship between the built environment and e-shopping behaviour.

The hype in e-commerce has significantly altered consumer buying behaviours, prompting an exploration of the long tail theory, which suggests greater product diversity in online sales compared to offline. This research checks into the realm of fashion goods, where physical examination before purchase holds significant weight. The shift to online channels does not necessarily result in a broader variety of products being purchased. The study reveals that the concentration of overall sales decreases as consumers opt for different products online. This shift is connected to consumers strategically selecting channels based on specific product characteristics. The results challenge the notion that fashion retailers need to offer a broader assortment online, suggesting that a profitable approach involves curating a distinctive product mix tailored to the online environment. By understanding the business dynamics of consumer preferences and product characteristics, retailers can strategically navigate the evolving landscape of e-commerce and optimise their offerings across various sales channels.

Limited adoption of sustainable apparel practices explores the industry’s resource-intensive approaches. Through four experiments involving 4,350 online shoppers, it reveals that conventional factors like fit, comfort, and price-performance ratio outweigh sustainability considerations for consumers. Key sustainable attributes include durability, fair wages, and environmentally friendly production. A notable gender gap in green consumerism emerges, with females valuing sustainable attributes more than males. The findings emphasise the need for a balanced approach to drive mainstream acceptance of sustainable apparel.

Recognising the significant influence of consumers in instigating change, studies uncover a considerable awareness and interest in sustainability, albeit not consistently reflected in purchasing behaviours. Through qualitative interviews, it becomes evident that while many individuals are involved in sustainable actions, obstacles like insufficient education, limited information, and a lack of transparency impede broader acceptance. These insights emphasise the vital role of businesses in educating and appealing to consumers who are yet to embrace sustainability in their fashion decisions, acknowledging their pivotal role in shaping future trends.

Despite industry efforts, consumer uptake of sustainable products remains hesitant, revealing a clash with entrenched desires for ‘fast fashion’. Utilising the developmental theory model, the research categorises fashion consumers into ‘Self’, ‘Social’, and ‘Sacrifice’ groups based on their priorities. These groups exhibit conflicting views on fast fashion, emphasising the need for tailored marketing strategies for sustainably produced fashion products that align with each group’s distinct preferences. The study provides valuable insights into the complex interplay of consumer attitudes and behaviours in the context of sustainable fashion.

Papadopoulou, M has investigated the level of sustainability awareness among consumers in the fast-fashion clothing industry. It adopts a dual business and consumer perspective, presenting results that shed light on the business dynamics of sustainability consciousness in this industry. The emergence of digital fashion as a revenue stream for brands, with the potential to curtail overconsumption of physical clothing, has drawn attention. This study critically addresses the evolving landscape of ‘digital fashion’, which has transitioned from being a design tool for physical clothing to a virtual-only end-product sold directly to consumers. However, existing literature often defines digital fashion merely as a tool, creating a gap in understanding it as an end-product. This study seeks to fill this void by synthesising current marketing and management literature, presenting a comprehensive definition of digital fashion as an end-product.

Research conducted on 702 users of Asia’s largest metaverse platform, proposes a model that examines the influence of metaverse experiential value on consumer-brand engagement, brand image, and virtual purchase intention. The findings highlight the indirect effects of hedonic, symbolic, and utilitarian values on consumer-brand engagement through brand image and virtual purchase intention. As one of the pioneering empirical studies on metaverse brand experience, this research underscores the importance of aligning virtual and real-world brand elements for a cohesive consumer experience.

145 articles from sustainability literature were reviewed, which shows a significant gap in the circular economy literature regarding the role of consumer collectives. This study introduces a novel conceptual framework, revealing that consumer collectives play a multi-level and recursive role in shaping circular consumption patterns. Members influence group characteristics, share capabilities, and fulfil social needs, fostering behaviour changes towards circularity. These collectives impact society by creating institutional plurality and diffusing circular initiatives, emphasising their role in shaping societal structures. This research contributes to the understanding of consumer involvement in the circular economy, offering insights for consumers, collectives, and policymakers, and proposes a research agenda for further exploration of this evolving field.

Past decade highlighted the relevance and applicability of the Brands as Intentional Agents Framework (BIAF). Derived from the Stereotype Content Model (SCM), BIAF focuses on two key dimensions—warmth (worthy intentions) and competence (ability)—in shaping consumers’ perceptions of brands. The framework has expanded to encompass various domains, including brands, product design, and countries, illustrating its adaptability and generalisability. BIAF explains the role of brand anthropomorphism in shaping perceptions of morality, personality, and humanity. Additionally, it sheds light on crucial aspects of consumer-brand relations, such as perceived brand-self congruence, brand trust, and brand love. Case studies underscore the practical implications of these dimensions, linking customer loyalty, especially to warm brands, with profits, charitable donations, and healthcare usage. As BIAF continues to evolve, the review emphasises its compatibility with alternative theories and its significant contributions to understanding how people perceive corporations as analogous to social groups in consumer psychology.

Research Design and Methodology

The study involved fashion students aged between 18 and 27, drawn from various fashion colleges. A non-parametric test approach was adopted, and the sample size comprised 170 participants. 13 closed ended multiple choice questions were used to retrieve data. That included independent and dependent variables.  Participants were surveyed to understand the frequency and patterns of their online fashion shopping behaviour. Participants were asked to rate the importance of sustainability in their fashion purchasing decisions on a scale. Sustainable features like eco-friendly icons, virtual try-on, and augmented reality were integrated into participants’ simulated shopping experiences. Feedback and preferences were collected. They were asked questions about engagement and responses to community-building initiatives, incentives, and eco-conscious payment providers in the online shopping context.

Non-parametric tests were employed for statistical analysis due to the nature of the data and the absence of assumptions about the underlying population distribution. Non-parametric tests are statistical methods that do not rely on specific assumptions about the distribution of the underlying population. They are particularly suitable when dealing with ordinal or nominal data, or when assumptions for parametric tests cannot be met.

Given the nature of the research objectives, such as assessing the frequency of online fashion shopping behaviour, evaluating the importance of sustainability, and investigating the influence of various factors on participants’ choices and preferences, non-parametric tests provide a flexible and robust approach.

Spearman’s Rank Correlation is used to examine the strength and direction of monotonic relationships between variables, which could be relevant when exploring correlations between variables like sustainability importance and shopping frequency. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) is done to test model that was hypothecated.

Objectives

The following objectives were set to draw output. They were to assess the frequency of online fashion shopping behaviour, to evaluate the importance of sustainability in participants’ fashion purchasing decisions, to measure the influence of sustainable features, including eco-friendly icons, virtual try-on, and augmented reality, by assessing their impact on participants’ choices, preferences, and perceptions of effectiveness and to investigate the role of community-building initiatives, incentives, and eco-conscious payment providers in shaping online shoppers.

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Correlation

Spearman’s Correlation has established between age and sustainability preferences, and age was also found to correlate with online shopping frequency.

Principal Component Analysis (PCA)

The results of Principal Component Analysis provide information about the validity and reliability of the measurement instrument, likely in the context of a factor analysis.

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) Test

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Test

 

MSA

Overall MSA

0.816

Online shopping frequency

0.792

Sustainability rating in purchases

0.79

Icons influence

0.824

Virtual try

0.755

Packaging

0.784

Information in packaging

0.836

Community-building initiatives

0.875

Incentives influence for eco-conscious

0.822

Recommendation based on community-driven effort

0.84

Component Loadings

 

 

RC1

Uniqueness

 

Packaging

0.708

0.499

 

Recommendation based on community-driven effort

0.696

0.516

 

Incentives influence for eco-conscious

0.69

0.524

 

Information in packaging

0.688

0.527

 

Sustainability rating in purchases

0.632

0.601

 

Community-building initiatives

0.58

0.663

 

Icons influence

0.576

0.669

 

Virtual try

0.489

0.761

 

Online shopping frequency

 

0.954

 

 

 

Note: Applied rotation method is promax.

 

Overall Measure of Sampling Adequacy- MSA, 0.816 indicates that the variables collectively have a high degree of sampling adequacy. This suggests that the dataset is suitable for factor analysis. Individual variables (e.g., Online shopping frequency, Sustainability rating in purchases etc) also have high MSA values, indicating their adequacy for inclusion in the factor analysis. The Chi-squared test value of 58.194 with 27 degrees of freedom and p-value < .001 indicates that the model significantly fits the data. This suggests that the factor structure is meaningful.

Component loadings represent the correlation between the variables and the identified components (factors). Higher loadings indicated stronger relationships.

The loadings reveal which variables are most strongly associated with the identified factor. For example, ‘Packaging’, ‘Recommendation based on community-driven effort’, and ‘Incentives influence for eco-conscious’ have high loadings on Component 1 (RC1).

Thus, the analysis suggests a meaningful factor structure related to sustainability and community-driven aspects in online shopping. The variables, particularly those with higher loadings on Component 1, provide insights into the key factors influencing the respondents’ perceptions or behaviour in the given context.

Conclusion

In today’s fashion world, being eco-friendly is not just a trend anymore, it is a necessity. Especially after COVID-19, people are realising that we need to be kinder to the planet. This study, looked closely at how people shop for clothes online and wanted to see how sustainable practices can make a difference. This study looked at everything from picking out clothes to getting them delivered, to see how being eco-friendly affects what people buy. Other studies were read to understand what people like and what challenges they face when they try to shop sustainably.

The objectives of the study were straightforward and ascertain the frequency of online clothing shopping among individuals, gauge their level of concern regarding sustainability, and determine the extent to which factors like eco-friendly symbols or community engagement initiatives impact their decision-making.

It was found that younger generation care more about sustainability when they shop, and they tend to shop online more often. The analysis also showed that eco-friendly packaging, community involvement, and incentives play a big role in shaping how people think about online shopping.

Hence, the study aids in comprehending the pathways towards enhancing sustainability in fashion. Prioritising initiatives such as eco-friendly methodologies and community engagement holds the potential for effecting positive transformations within the fashion sector. Achieving this goal necessitates collective efforts from businesses, policymakers, and consumers to translate these findings into tangible initiatives, fostering a more environmentally conscious future for the fashion industry.

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