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Charities missing out on online marketplace opportunities

Charities could be bringing in more donations and expanding their donor base, but do not have the resources to establish an online selling platform

Charities that are not selling online are missing out on additional revenue and a wider donor base, according to a report by a UK charity association.

The Charity Retail Association report found over half of survey respondents have not set up an online selling operation, which has severely limited charity shops from the opportunity to connect with wider audiences and establish a connection with donors.

The Association said: “Despite the continuing growth of online sales….there is still a significant number of charity retailers yet to try selling online.”

The majority of respondents chose to sell online to maximise their reach and grow a donor base. The report said it shows that members have strived to maximise the value of donations “by reaching customers who are looking for specific items as they may pay more than a local person coming into the shop off the street”.

Of the respondents who are using online platforms, 67 per cent said they have reached customers overseas and 89 per cent expect an increase in 2018/19.

“Managing listing centrally makes it easier to control content quality and branding, and it helps to develop the expertise to maximise the sales value of donated items within the team,” the Association said in the report.

“Members trading online in large volumes also reported cost advantages in managing their online operation centrally. Moreover, some respondents mentioned that this way, the customer service provided is more consistent.”

The charity shops that have established a marketplace, either on their own platform or on third-party marketplaces, said the top reasons for selling online include achieving a higher selling price for valued goods, increasing customer reach across the globe and citing it as a place in which to build on brand awareness.

However, some charities reported they are unable to establish an online space due to having higher priorities elsewhere. There was also concern over a lack of skills in the area and a lack of funds to fill online selling roles and training.

One small charity reported: “We should be selling online but have no idea how to get started, how to allocate sales to specific shops, how to manage the fulfilment and whether we should employ specific staff to do it.”

Almost all survey respondents reported selling on eBay and 31 per cent use Amazon, with most either agreeing or strongly agreeing that eBay, Amazon and other third-party marketplaces are easy to use. More than 40 per cent use their own online platform and two in three sell through multiple websites.

Despite a usage increase, respondents did express concerns over operating in these spaces, citing either unfamiliarity or a difficulty in using it internally.

“Selling on one online marketplace is challenging enough; add multiple marketplaces and maybe your own online store into the mix and managing the online retail operation becomes very complex,” the Association said.

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