Remember when the idea of buying a "used" car brought up images of shady salesmen and cars that broke down as soon as you got off the lot? Then car companies began "certifying" used vehicles, and buying "pre-owned" became common practice. It was even seen as a smart business move. Buying certified-used items is becoming commonplace for mainstream consumers whether it's cars, electronics, or books & DVDs. So what does resale's future look like? Following in the footsteps of retail, the future of used is all online. As technology continues to make the experience of selling and purchasing second-hand items easier and more secure, when will other verticals start to embrace resale?
We're calling this new movement "re-commerce," or the redistribution of used goods through online channels. As a counter to peer-to-peer websites like eBay or Craigslist, re-commerce eliminates the risk of buying and selling used products by putting a credible third party at the center of all transactions. Instead of sifting through disorganized racks, or negotiating with a stranger online, re-commerce shoppers browse fully certified, quality items, at low price points from the comfort of home.
thredUP.com, the company I co-founded in 2009, makes it easy to sort through over 100,000 "practically new" children's clothing items, which have been fully vetted by quality specialists. Just like certified pre-owned cars, each item is individually inspected by our team of consignors to ensure clothing is in like-new condition. And on the sell-side, kids' clothing sellers flock to thredUP to avoid monitoring auctions, or waiting months for their stuff to sell. thredUP has made it easy to send in bags of gently used kids' clothing for free, anytime and earn cash.
thredUP isn't the only one. There are quite a few successful re-commerce companies such as Gazelle, NextWorth and Fashionphile. For this space to continue growing, and for second-hand shopping to become a default consumer habit, the experience needs to be transparent, risk-free and seamless. For those who are looking to enter and grow this space, here are some tips on how thredUP has made this model work, and started to disrupt a $13B dollar industry. Let's work together to prove that used is smarter, and start to shift the stigma one consumer at a time.
THE DO's and DON'Ts of USED ONLINE
DO step in as the middleman: Buying and selling online is hard. Make it easier on everyone by stepping in to collect, authenticate and re-sell used goods. You'll be able to eliminate the bad sellers, ensure high quality, and build trust among shoppers.
DON'T launch a swapping site: Quite a few start-ups are building platforms to connect buyers and sellers directly. The problem is that these sites don't solve pre-existing issues experienced on Craigslist and eBay. Don't replicate. Innovate.
DO provide 100% transparency: In order for consumers to begin trusting "used," they have to understand where the goods are coming from, where they are going, and if the prices are fair.
DON'T be shady: Re-commerce sites have room for judgment calls. How much was the item worth originally? What percentage should the seller get? What will the buyer be charged? Hiding any of these decisions will make your site seem dishonest.
DO create frictionless selling: eBay is too much work for mainstream consumers. Give people an incredibly simple way to send their used goods in bulk and earn cash. If selling clothing were as easy as recycling cans, everyone would do it.
DON'T make me wait: Sellers want to offload their stuff as quickly as possible. Don't make sellers negotiate with buyers, and don't make them wait until someone wants their stuff. Try accepting any and all inventory year-round to eliminate friction.
DO create an option to give: Some consumers don't sell online because it's too much work for too little cash. Give sellers another incentive to clean out and cash in by allowing them donate any earnings to a cause they care about.
DO put quality first: Many consumers expect poor quality when it comes to used goods. Prove them wrong by putting quality first, and ensuring that every item you resell has gone through a rigorous quality inspection. If something slips through the cracks, give a refund.