February 21, 2014, 9:47 AM

‘Pre-owned’ sales online require retailers to reassure consumers

Money-back guarantees and authentication are among the tactics retailers use.

Lead Photo

Consumers might show a growing interest in buying used goods online, but others are skeptical about the quality of the items for sale, according to the forthcoming March issue of Internet Retailer magazine.

That means retailers selling used goods online don’t just have to master traditional marketing techniques. They also have to reassure uncertain consumers, says Sharon Schneider, co-founder and CEO of MoxieJean.com, which specializes in used children's apparel. The e-retailer offers a money-back guarantee to help convince uncertain shoppers to buy, and offers free shipping on orders of more than $50. "It definitely can be a challenge to get buyers comfortable if their experience was of garage sales," Schneider says. “We have to help them give it a try."

YoogisCloset.com, a 5-year-old online reseller of designer handbags, similarly offers buyers a 30-day money-back guarantee. The retailer also seeks to quell consumers’ concerns by authenticating its merchandise to guard against counterfeits. It uses a checklist that includes examining craftsmanship and serial numbers. "It slows down the number of SKUs and goods we can publish on our web site, but it's a requirement," says co-founder Simon Han.  

While tedious, the process helps drive customer satisfaction, Han says. "The buyers are happy because all of a sudden they get a Chanel bag that typically never goes on sale at a fair price, and it's authenticated,” he says.

MoxieJean, which Schneider launched with her sister in 2012, seeks to keep shoppers happy with its site design. The site, which runs on the Shopify e-commerce platform, features clear photographs of products neatly hung on wooden hangers, and consumers can enlarge an image to get an up-close view of its condition before making a purchase. Consumers can also navigate the site by gender, brand, type of clothing, season and size.

The site features about 25,000 unique SKUs and uploads 750 to 1,000 new items twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. The regularity is designed to encourage shoppers to check the site frequently for new merchandise.

The 20,000 customers who have signed up for new inventory alerts also receive e-mails that feature recommendations based on a combination of their prior purchases and products that are trending on the site. The recommendation technology, provided by vendor SimpleRelevance, plugs data from the retailer’s e-commerce platform into MailChimp, which MoxieJean uses for e-mail marketing. For example, the e-retailer will alert a shopper who recently purchased items for a size 3T girl that new 3T girls’ items have arrived, and add a recommendation for a 4T product to account for growing kids. The company also uses Facebook, Twitter and other social media to notify followers of new arrivals and promotions.

Of course, second-hand stores don’t just have to attract shoppers, they also have to attract consumers looking to sell their used items online. Finding an efficient way to do so is critical to having a steady flow of inventory, says Michele Hofherr, CEO of home furnishings resale site PreviouslyOwnedByAGayMan.com, which serves sellers and buyers in the San Francisco Bay area. (Despite its name, the e-retailer welcomes merchandise from all sellers.) Hofherr and partner Lindsay Snyder arrange to pick up and deliver items sold on the site. "To get good inventory, we needed to offer that option," she says.

For much more about the world of pre-owned sales online, check out the March issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Subscribe for free by clicking here.

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