What will Amazon gain from its charitable shipping efforts?

Discussion
Source: Amazon/Give Back Box
Jan 03, 2017
Matthew Stern

Amazon has been instrumental in getting e-commerce customers to expect free shipping. Now the company is setting up customers to ship packages on its dime — for the sake of charity.

Through the Give Back Box program, Amazon customers can use their empty shipping boxes to donate to Goodwill, according to BGR. To do so, customers simply pack anything they want to donate into their old Amazon shipping boxes. They then visit the Amazon Give Back Box website, print out the appropriate shipping label and ship the box via UPS or the U.S. Postal Service to Goodwill at no cost. Donations go to the Goodwill outlet nearest to the customer.

While there is a seasonal feel to the initiative, Amazon’s Give Back Box webpage does not indicate that the promotion ends with the holiday season or at any date thereafter.

Amazon is not the first big-name retailer to facilitate Goodwill donations through Give Back Box, according to the program’s website. Give Back Box, which was founded in 2012 and began its partnership with Goodwill Industries International in 2015, has relationships with companies and brands such as Newegg.com, Overstock.com and Levi’s.

By reducing waste and facilitating donations to charity, Give Back Box addresses two issues that are prominent on today’s consumer radar — environmental consciousness and social responsibility.

As e-commerce has grown ubiquitous, companies have been taking creative steps to address the problem of increased shipping waste. Zappos, for instance, made shipping boxes marked with templates to show customers how to turn them into functional items, like smartphone holders. However such one-off solutions seem limited in their capacity to reduce waste or encourage re-use.

According to Goodwill Industries International, local participating Goodwill organizations cover the shipping costs of the donations. That’s good news for Amazon, who are notorious for losing money on shipping. The retailer had a net loss of $1.4 billion on shipping in the first quarter of 2016 according to Supply Chain Digest — a loss representing 6.8 percent of merchandise revenue.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does the Give Back Box relationship benefit Amazon enough to justify the shipping costs it may incur? Can you think of ways to improve such a charitable effort to make it more widely feasible for other e-commerce retailers?

Braintrust
"They may not be able to prove an ROI on this, but it’s one of those soft efforts that great leadership knows will create fantastic brand sentiment."
"The costs are not good business. This is a play on the social Millennial shopper."
"This program will go over very well with those consumers who have carbon-footprint guilt with each Amazon box that arrives."

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "What will Amazon gain from its charitable shipping efforts?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jasmine Glasheen
Guest
Jasmine Glasheen
7 months 16 days ago

The Give Back Box will mean more to customers in rural areas without access to Goodwill. For us city-dwellers, a quick trip to Goodwill is a lot easier than printing up a label and hauling boxes to the post office. Since I don’t imagine the Give Back Box will be widely used, it seems more like good PR than a philanthropic initiative.

Tom Redd
Guest

Rural areas all have Goodwill stores nearby. Since I have a home in a very rural area I know this is a fact. They also have official Goodwill boxes in hard-country areas. This is an Amazon “see me” marketing campaign.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
7 months 16 days ago

This was/is BRILLIANT. It lit up my social streams like wildfire and created massive value for Goodwill. They may not be able to prove an ROI on this, but it’s one of those soft efforts that great leadership knows in their belly will create fantastic brand sentiment and allegiance. After all, Amazon doesn’t have to do anything — they did this because they felt it was the right thing to do during a giving season. Love it.

Tom Redd
Guest

Exactly – pure marketing before Goodwill to others. That is how the machine works.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
7 months 16 days ago

I agree with you Laura that this is smart, but it goes beyond marketing and I think that this provides yet another differentiator for Amazon. While we might not see (for a while, if at all) what the data will show, my bet is that this drives lift from customers who engage and participate.

Shawn Harris
BrainTrust

This program will go over very well with those consumers who have carbon-footprint guilt with each Amazon box that arrives. I can see the use of this service spiking during a household’s spring clean-up and in early December as a charitable act. I would imagine that any shipping cost Amazon incurs related to the Give Back Box will be a charitable tax deduction for Amazon.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

Chalk this up as more PR for Amazon, but at what cost and for what value? Goodwill is usually right around the corner. Let’s find another way to dispose of those boxes. How about we just collapse them and put them in the recycle bin or find a way to collapse and send them back for reuse?

Surely there is a better answer. I love Goodwill, don’t get me wrong, but do they even want all those boxes and want to deal with unpacking them? They love to just take stuff out of my car and put it in the truck.

For my 2 cents.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

Give Back Box is a great way to humanize the retail giant, even if it comes at a cost to the company. I doubt Amazon wants to sustain the cost of shipping goods to Goodwill long-term, but the holiday promotion makes its point with consumers. There are many ways for e-commerce retailers to give back to local communities: donating a percent of purchases to charity, supporting local community efforts by highlighting them, buy one-give one promotions and the like. These efforts appeal to consumers, especially Millennials, and if done well, can engender brand loyalty.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

When I first read the headline, my initial response was, ugh, Amazon is joining all those other companies that mis-use charitable connections to make people feel good about their brand.

But then I read the commentary. Bravo to Amazon. This is really walking the walk. It is an outstanding program and the reality is that it will be a tiny, infinitesimal share of Amazon’s overall freight cost. (Or, where Amazon has a fixed-rate bulk contract, no additional cost at all.)

Tom Redd
Guest

The costs are not good business. This is a play on the social Millennial shopper. Providing more value to people in need is donating cash to the right organizations. But this act of kindness does not match the pure fluff marketing of free shipping noise.
Remember, Amazon is more of a marketing machine that happens to sell stuff than they are a pure retailer. Pure retail does not lose money like they do.

Lesley Everett
BrainTrust

I’m not sure there is a need to create direct ROI on this initiative — the social responsibility factor and the level of “feel-good” with this will be enough to positively impact the brand, particularly with Millennials, and create more loyalty and attract more customers.

For other retailers who are more focused on ROI, perhaps even levying a $1 charge to do it to cover the retailer cost might work. There are lots of factors to consider with this but the overall message is so powerful in making customers feel good about the brand that it could pay off well.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
7 months 16 days ago

Amazon once again demonstrates leadership where most companies fail — in doing the right thing for its customers and communities. This move continues to demonstrate that Amazon does things that are not obviously in its own best interest, but that are clearly good for customers and other stakeholders (i.e., communities and an organization like Goodwill that helps people in need). This is a great story and move to kick off 2017, even though it’s not new, that shows the good that can happen when leaders do the right things.

Adrien Nussenbaum
BrainTrust

Positive press is never a bad thing. Amazon is once again putting the customer at the forefront. If customers are charitable people, they will love Amazon for this. If not, there is no negative feel to this at all, so no harm to the Amazon brand. Smart marketing.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

Looks good and feels good doesn’t always manifest doing good. The PR will far outweigh the small percent of customers who will participate.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"They may not be able to prove an ROI on this, but it’s one of those soft efforts that great leadership knows will create fantastic brand sentiment."
"The costs are not good business. This is a play on the social Millennial shopper."
"This program will go over very well with those consumers who have carbon-footprint guilt with each Amazon box that arrives."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is it that Amazon customers will use Give Back Box regularly in the years to come?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...