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Charitable Multichannel E-Commerce: The Salvation Army Online
Salvos Stores, while part of a much larger, international charity, has recently launched its first local online sales channel via eBay.
Receiving some much-deserved attention in the mainstream press of late, The Salvation Army’s retail branch, Salvos Stores has gone multichannel via its new eBay frontage.
Operating over 200 hundred brick-and-mortar outlets across WA, SA, NT, Victoria and Tasmania, Salvos Stores already operate as a fully functioning retail business, acting as an optimal way to recycle donated goods while also generating more donations simultaneously.
To gain further insight into this retail business operated by a charity, we recently interviewed Marketing Co-ordinator, Aife O’Loughlin and eBay Co-ordinator, Ekaterina Shchukina – both passionate supporters of The Salvation Army’s digital initiatives.
Point of difference: Donated goods sold to raise money for charity
Fulfilment provider: Australia Post
How does the Salvos Stores business currently operate?
A.O. – Salvos Stores maintains a professional retail network with passionate and dedicated store staff, professional Support Office and a great team of retail managers, led by a board of highly qualified individuals with numerous years of corporate experience.
All profit from the sale of goods at Salvos Stores contributes to invaluable community programs operated by The Salvation Army.
Everything Salvos Stores sell is an investment of energy and resource. A single cotton t-shirt uses around 2-3,000 litres of water to make, so by shopping second hand it extends the life of that investment. Above and beyond this, Salvos Stores prevented 20-25 million tonnes of goods from being sent to landfill. The dedication and passion of Salvos Stores staff and volunteers, as well as the generosity of the wider community, has been vital to the success of Salvos Stores. Last year alone Salvos Stores raised over 18 million dollars that went directly to The Salvation Army’s invaluable work in the community.
When was the online presence created, how did the idea come about and what challenges had to be overcome to enable it?
A.O. – The retail landscape has changed significantly in recent years with advancing technologies meaning most retail outlets are now open 24 hours through an online medium. Salvos Stores acknowledges this change and made a decision to take up an online presence. Operating an online retail store in this traditional sense of creating a website which allows customers to purchase goods online was not something that Salvos Stores would be in a position to create.
Initially the eBay store was trialled on a small scale to great success. This allowed Salvos Stores to develop this further and gave us a method of showcasing some of the more unusual and collectable items that have been donated.
E.S. – The online store was managed externally through Salvos Stores marketing agency, but as the online presence grew it became increasingly apparent that this aspect of the business should be controlled internally. This decision led to the development of a small team, comprised of two, to manage the eBay store.
The greatest challenge for the eBay store is the same as that of our bricks and mortar – stock. As all stock available for sale has been donated, it can be quite challenging ensuring there is a constant supply of good quality stock which will be of interest to the online community we have established. .
Are there any indicators of the online venture’s success you can share?
A.O. – The eBay store has been quite successful for Salvos Stores and since it became a full time managed aspect of our business in May 2013, it has continued to grow and go from strength to strength. We now experience roughly 10 percent repeat custom through our eBay store which was not there previously and this is continuing to grow each month.
What are some of the technologies and providers you’ve partnered with to offer your online presence?
E.S. – Salvos Stores use two different technologies to assist with the management of the eBay site. For any mattresses sold Auctivia is used, but most items are listed using Listomax. They allow us to schedule our listings to go live and conclude in the evening when we have a larger online presence. Items can either be collected from our warehouse in Victoria or delivered using Australia Post.
How do you market your online offering?
A.O. – We do not have a specific marketing plan in place for our online presence. There is a strong link on our website to the eBay site and recently we have been using our social media presence to showcase many items, to great success. On the description page of our items we also use the cross promotional facility available in Listomax to reference other items the buyer may be interested in.