Retail trade-in programs, where a retailer offers to exchange a used item from a customer for credit towards a new purchase, have become increasingly popular in recent years. These trade-in programs are an essential part of many marketing and sales strategies. Three trends have converged to trigger this: minimalism, sustainability, and the consolidation of the resale market. That makes now the perfect time for retailers to buy-in to buy-backs.
Prior to 2008, consumers bought into a mindset of endless accumulation. Not anymore. The recession and Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” movement ushered in an era of minimalism. Big houses with roomy closets gave way to tiny houses, clothing swaps, and furniture thrifting.
Shoppers shifted their emphasis from “own” to “use”. Millennials and Gen Z especially are less interested in owning and more interested in having the benefit of a product for a period of time. Trade-in programs accommodate this shift. They allow consumers to upgrade and enjoy the benefits of new items by swapping out items they have now for something new. This enables them to relinquish their current items in a socially and environmentally sustainable way – all within a branded experience.
Add to this the consolidation of the resale market. In the early 2010s, vintage, resale, and consignment stores started going online. This greatly changed the nature of the resale market. Whereas previously consumers only had access to resale items in their geographic area, Internet resale took item visibility global. This opened access not just to items – but to pricing. Now, the value of resale goods has equilibrated across markets. The emergence of transparent pricing gave resale goods a defined value.
All of these trends can be a net positive to retailers. Trade-in programs create an intersection between brand loyalty, customer experience, and value for the benefit of retailers, consumers, and the environment.
Does it take time to think through a sustainability strategy that is strategic, profitable, and aligns with your brand? Yes. But the pieces are all there to make this a worthwhile program. And now is that time.