E-commerce solutions for the reuse sector

Posted on the 16th July 2020

E-commerce is a much-discussed topic in the charity reuse sector, even more so as charity shops had to close due to COVID-19. Managing an online shop on top of a physical shop where no two objects are the same is certainly a challenge.

With so many different options available, it can be tricky to navigate this digital world. While we don’t have all the answers for you, we have compiled a pros and cons list of some of the main e-commerce solutions used in the sector by our members.

Broadly speaking, when we talk about eCommerce solutions, we would expect to be able to:

  • Process and manage transactions online
  • Build and manage a digital storefront (an eCommerce store)
  • Manage inventory of said storefront
  • Design and customise said storefront, from the user experience to the visual design to the personalisation needed to drive an omnichannel experience.

Keep this in mind and weigh how important the above criteria is to you when choosing an online solution.

What we hear time and time again is how time-consuming having an online shop is. If you choose to have the same items available online and in-store, you have to remember to update your stock management system.

You also want to ask yourself about the following:

  • Scale – how much are you looking to grow by and is the platform you’re looking at the right fit (functionality, integrations, pricing tiers etc.)
  • Resource – not just your budget, but also staffing. What we hear a lot is that it takes up a lot more time than originally thought to manage an online shop.
  • Features – do you need the platforms to do anything critical beyond selling products? For example, do you want it to be collecting emails address, integrated with other software, use a particular payment gateway etc.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Shops are due to be rolled out this later this year so all these features are likely to change.

ProsCons
It’s Facebook! Everyone has Facebook.You cannot add to the marketplace as “a page”
It's freeYou need to set-up a seller profile separate to your page
You already have a good following on FacebookYou cannot customise to fit your brand
Anyone within a 100-mile radius will see your itemsBe ready to negotiate the price
It’s easy to useThere is no buyer protection
There are dedicated local Buy & Sell groups which are very popularSifting through potential buyers can be time consuming
Payment gateways are available Competition can drive down the price
It can be good to sell bulky item for collection only

Classified ad websites (Gumtree, Pre-loved etc)

ProsCons
Widely used platformsNot customisable to fit your brand
Can be good to sell bulky item for collection only A lot of potential buyers who don’t always convert into a sale
It’s free (on the most part) Be ready to negotiate the price
Open to fraudsters
No integrated payment gateway
Not particularly convenient for multiple sales

eBay

Thank you to TooGoodToWaste for sharing their experience of eBay. You can view their eBay store here: https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/toogoodtowaste

ProsCons
Easy to use High fees for business users
Global coverage with millions of users Only really suitable for smaller items that can be posted
Excellent reference for past sales / prices Not able to integrate with any other online selling platform
Flexible online merchant services via PayPal High levels of competition on popular items driving down prices
High levels of safety protecting sellers and buyers eBay can suspend if you don't abide by the rules
Some customisation is possible

Integrated online shop (eg: woo-commerce, Shopify, Wix)

Thank you to Castle Furniture Project and Reviive for sharing their experiences of integrated online shops. You can view their online stores here:

https://www.castlefurniture.org/shop

http://www.reviive.co.uk/onlineshop/

ProsCons
Easy to set-up Lack of integration with our own back-end systems (stock management)
Within existing website, so no other URL/domain name needed Inability to give things away at zero cost (with Wix)
Fees are reasonable It adds time to putting stock out, photos description and uploading to website.
Payment options simple to set-up and review Second hand furniture is one of those items people like to see before buying so sometimes we get returns and online sales you can return
People can 'buy' and pay when they pick up (Click and Collect)
It helps with processing stock because before you put it in the showroom you have to code it, clean it, photograph and price it. So it becomes part of the stock system.
You can sell 24 hrs a day
It is a good marketing tool to increase visits to the Store. People visit the online shop and then come to the actual shop.
Your own shop means you don’t have to pay e-bay or whoever a fee

Additional Resources

Thank you to Noisy Little Monkey who provided us with these additional resources with some very useful information. Find out more about their work here: https://www.noisylittlemonkey.com/web-design

They have recommended checking Capterra for reviews and ratings of available e-commerce software: https://www.capterra.co.uk/directory/3/ecommerce/software

Further reading:

How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform for Your Store

7 things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform

Best eCommerce Platforms for Non-Profits

If you spot any inconsistencies or outdated information, please don’t hesitate to contact us. As with all modern communications and technology, things can go out-of-date very quickly!

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@brookelark

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