Business

This Ex-Walmart Exec Wants To Take Cardboard Boxes Out Of Online Shopping

The cofounder of Jet is leading a push to eliminate cardboard waste from online shopping.

His new startup, Olive, is launching with hundreds of brands and retailers, including Adidas, Anthropologie, Everlane, Goop, Ray-Ban, Sam Edelman and ThirdLove, and will offer shoppers the choice of having their online orders bundled together and sent in a reusable tote bag. The totes, along with any returns, will be picked up once a week.

Olive was started by Nate Faust, who joined Walmart in 2016 after selling Jet for $3.3 billion and then spent three years taking on Amazon while running the retailer’s U.S. e-commerce supply chain and logistics. He is joined at Olive by roughly a dozen others he worked with previously at Walmart, Jet or Diapers.com. (Walmart is also losing Jet’s other cofounder, Marc Lore, who announced last month he will leave to work on a separate project that aims to build a “city of the future.”)

“There’s all this waste created through e-commerce and packaging when you get two, three or four boxes over the course of a day or a week,” says Faust, talking about the billions of cardboard boxes that were used to move over $860 billion in online orders in the U.S. last year, up 44% from the previous year.

Faust got the idea for the company after spending 30 minutes breaking down cardboard boxes and hauling them to the end of the driveway one evening. He and his family were ordering a lot more stuff online during the pandemic, which was convenient, except it translated into a lot more boxes. He named the company Olive because it connotates the color green.

Shoppers must first download the Olive app or add the Olive extension to their internet browser, then they can visit and browse retailer sites like they normally would. When they get to checkout, instead of entering their own address, Olive will autofill the address of one of its distribution centers. The package will be sent there and transferred to a reusable tote. It will be held for a few days and combined with any other orders from participating retail partners and then delivered, at minimum, once a week.

In the age of fast, free shipping, Faust is betting that consumers will be willing to wait a few extra days if it means ditching some of the other headaches that come with e-commerce. Shoppers have the benefit of not dealing with cardboard boxes to break down and recycle, plus Olive will tackle returns. Shoppers simply put unwanted items back in the tote and make a note of it in the app. On their next scheduled delivery day, it will be picked up and processed.

While Faust eventually wants to eliminate cardboard boxes from e-commerce altogether by integrating deeper into a retailer’s supply chain, he has a long way to go. “To be transparent, that is not something we are achieving end-to-end from day 1,” he says. For now, he’s mostly just taking the hassle away from consumers. He is also cutting down on the number of boxes used for returns, plus theoretically cutting down on emissions by consolidating orders into fewer deliveries.

Olive is starting with fashion and accessories retailers in large part because shoppers have not been promised, and therefore don’t expect, two-day shipping when they order a new sweater, for instance. The same cannot be said for essentials easily available on Amazon.

Olive will offer the service to consumers and retailers for free, but make a cut on each sale, typically around 10%. In order to cover its own costs, it will need to bundle orders together. The current break-even estimate is about 1.5 packages for each delivery, says Faust, which is helped by the high average order value at its retail partners. The 13-employee company raised an undisclosed amount of funding in September.

The service will initially be available to a third of the population, mostly those on the West and East Coast who are located near its distribution centers in northern New Jersey and another in Southern California. It plans to eventually open several additional locations.

“Our mission is to create a more sustainable supply chain for e-commerce. And an incredibly convenient consumer delivery and returns experience,” says Faust.

Phillip Malone

Phillip started his career as a freelance journalist who wanted to change the way traditional news reporting work. His venture, Feed Voice, is a move to introduce to the readers a fresh new wave of news reporting. As a learned founder of the news platform, he renders his genius news pieces based on Automobile niche.
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