Monday, December 8, 2008

Browse Digitally, Shop Locally

Everyone has his or her own perception of Goodwill. Many of the regular shoppers enjoy the treasure-hunting aspect that comes from the layout, organization, and overall atmosphere of Goodwill stores. But there are also many people who avoid Goodwill stores because of the cluttered atmosphere, the smell, or as one shopper put it, “I really just don’t have the time or the patience to go through the aisles of Goodwill.” During research, no one claimed that the deterrent for shopping at Goodwill is the merchandise, but it is solely a negative perception of Goodwill stores themselves. It seems that if there were a way these people could shop at Goodwill without physically going into the store, they might be pleased with the merchandise they find for sale. When one shopper was asked what she would like to change about Goodwill, she replied, “If I could be here by myself.” She laughed and dismissed the idea as impossible, but with our proposal her vision could become reality.


With the concerns of these people specifically in mind, our group proposes an online Goodwill store called With the growing number of people shopping online, could be a way to reach a demographic that does not typically shop in the stores. The goals are to increase revenue, educate more people about the Goodwill mission, and place their presence in the already established online community.

Goodwill already uses the Internet to sell books through other sites such as eBay and Amazon without telling customers they are buying from Goodwill. Suzhana Burmeister, the Director of Marketing at Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, said this is to avoid “negative feedback” that a competitor could leave, plus sites like Amazon and eBay are already established websites that people use regularly. She also said that the books sold online typically sell for four times as much as they do in the Goodwill stores. The amount of revenue that could be made through other types of products could be greatly beneficial to Goodwill. During our research, we found that many Goodwill store managers have already seen the opportunity of selling goods online. They have taken the initiative to increase profits for their store by selling Goodwill merchandise on the Internet under personal accounts.

How Will Work

The items to be put online will come in through the normal sorting process: employees sort donated items at each store daily. It will be up to the sorter’s discretion to choose which items will be put online. The minimum value of each item is ten dollars in hopes that the items will be of better quality and more unique, such as specialty shoes, furniture, and collectible items. Ideally, the sorter would have an eye for items that could sell for more money like classic records or vintage clothing. Some decisions, like what kinds of items would sell best or how many items per week should go online, would ultimately be up to the store managers. The chosen items will be photographed, receive a tag with the item number and the date received, and put in a storage section in the back of the store. Many of the stores already have areas that can be utilized for this storage need. The photographs of the items will then be uploaded to the server and organized by the site’s software. There will be an online supervisor assigned to the Central Texas region to monitor the website and make sure everything runs smoothly.

Once a customer purchases an item at using an online payment method such as Pay Pal, the item will be taken off the website and the respective store will be alerted that the item has been sold. The employee will find the item, mark it as “Sold” with the date purchased and the customer’s name, and move it to the “Sold” section that is also in the back of the store. In research interviews for this project, Goodwill staff emphasized that there is not a lot of room for stagnant merchandise, therefore the policy would be that the customer must pick up their item within 48 hours or their credit card will be charged three dollars per day. After five days the item will be put back on sale in the store and the buyer will not receive a refund.

The advantage of having customers pick up items in-store instead of being shipped is that people are physically brought in and possibly introduced to a Goodwill store for the first time. One shopper said that his initial expectation of Goodwill was, “It was not as nice. But you can get really good deals here.” Another shopper said that if he could tell someone one thing about Goodwill, it would be that it is, “a lot nicer than you might imagine.” We hope that by getting the online shoppers into the store, any of the negative ideas held by those who have never shopped at Goodwill will be alleviated and they will come back again.

One perceived concern with online retailing of Goodwill merchandise is that customers will not be able to see the items before purchasing them. This is an issue any online retailer runs into whether the products are new or used. For this reason, online purchases could be returned following the standard Goodwill thirty-day return policy.

Employee Guide

An “Employee Guide to Managing a Goodwill Online Store” will be sent to every location as a PDF file for reference at any time. The guide will have all of the information an employee might need for operating the online store, such as instructions on how to activate an online store, take quality pictures, upload photos to the internet, store the items, and what to do after an item is sold.

Computer in store for browsing

To inform customers who are already shopping at Goodwill about, and for those who wish to shop online while in-store, there will be a computer in each Goodwill location that is strictly dedicated to accessing Since the online merchandise will not be on the floor until the next week, the customers can browse the current week’s selection while also seeing what is available in the retail store around them. If a customer wishes to buy an item online, he or she will have the convenience to purchase it over the Internet and take it home immediately.

The time and cost of implementing would be minimal since it can be easily integrated into the existing Goodwill system. The only expenses would be software for the website, web fees, and initial marketing. Staffing costs would be offset by increased revenue from goods. It would be up to each store individually to decide if extra staff is necessary to efficiently run the program.

Items will stay online for seven days in order to have a rotating selection and for the items to keep flowing throughout the Goodwill system. The images on the site will display each item’s expiration date, or the day they will be taken off the Internet and moved from storage in the back of the store onto the floor. The website will also explain which store location they can be found in, and that there will be a whole new set of items to shop for the next week. After they are taken off the website, the items will follow through the regular item routine. Merchandise stays in the retail store for three weeks, and then is shipped to a Blue Hanger Outlet Store where it is are available for purchase for just a few hours before sold in bulk or thrown away. The advantage of online merchandise is that it gets one extra week in the system at the very beginning of the sales process. The Website

Austin page of

The website itself is designed to be clean and orderly-a relief to those who find Goodwill retail stores to be too cluttered to efficiently shop in, such as one individual who told us, “I generally don’t have time to go through all the crap.” Online shoppers will be able to browse by store and category, with thumbnail images and prices shown for each item. Categories include things like art, toys, games, music, computers, furniture, kitchenware, etc. A shopper will also be able to subscribe to an RSS feed, which allows him to get e-mail updates on certain categories of their choosing. For example, if a shopper collected Nike shoes, he could subscribe to get notifications any time Nike shoes are entered into the system. This is a valuable feature for collectors or anyone who is looking for a specific genre of items. Once a customer decides on the items he or she wishes to buy, he simply clicks on the “Add to Shopping Bag” icon and continues through the steps of payment. There will also be a link to the Goodwill Industries of Central Texas’ main page to encourage customers to learn more about Goodwill.

Suzhana Burmeister informed us that Goodwill continually struggles with educating the public abut their mission. Their mission statement is important because it is the sole reason behind Goodwill’s existence. When shoppers were asked if they would use the Goodwill services more after they were told the mission, almost everyone said yes. We felt that it was important to make every online shopper aware of what Goodwill does, therefore the mission statement is shown at the top of each page and after checkout so it is the last thing a customer reads when he or she leaves the site.

Last page of

Marketing Strategies

Advertising is a large part of what will make a success. In the past, marketing for a Computer Works website has not been successful. Computer Works is the program through which Goodwill sells and recycles computer parts and whole systems. The website meant to sell parts online has proved inefficient due to a lack of funding and manpower to run the program. Our strategy for marketing is an attempt to avoid these mistakes by beginning with free advertising in the stores. Hanging posters on the walls and printing the website’s URL on every checkout bag are two ways that already loyal shoppers can find out about

Austinist blog entry

Other types of free advertising, such as word of mouth, online banners, and blog entries, can provide awareness to more people in the community. For example, “The Austinist” is a local blog that users can advertise their business, news, or events while providing more information than a standard ad. Posting on city-specific blogs also helps promote the locality of Goodwill; that goods and revenue circulate within the community.

Possible newspaper ad

Possible billboard ad

If those strategies do not bring enough people to, traditional marketing strategies such as billboards, print ads, and radio and television commercials could be utilized. The ads will use the slogan “Browse Digitally, Shop Locally” to remind users that they can conveniently shop at home for stores near them.

Mission: is a cost-effective way for Goodwill to reach the already established community of online shoppers. The hope is that it will increase revenue while educating the community on Goodwill’s mission of helping put people to work. It is not meant to start something completely new-it is meant to add on to the existing Goodwill system. is a way to advance the initial purpose of the retail stores: to generate revenue to provide job-related services for people with barriers to employment. Online shopping supports and enhances Goodwill’s mission through the addition of technology and the Internet.

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