Monday, December 8, 2008
After an extensive analysis of Goodwill Industries of Central Texas stores, my group and I discovered a potential avenue for increasing the success of Goodwill. We learned how the system works after donations are dropped off, what shoppers think of Goodwill, and the variances in appearance between the stores in Austin. From these observations we know that Goodwill does a lot of good for the community, but there is room for improvement. After interviewing a wide array of people, we discovered that some people do not like to go into the Goodwill stores to shop. This is due to many people having the misconception that all of the items being sold are in bad condition. Also, we found that people do not like to shop in the stores because they “don’t have time to go through all the clutter," “it feels dirty in there," and that “the stores smell," as well as other reasons.
My group and I feel strongly that Goodwill is a great system for helping people get jobs and start new lives, and that there is a way to reach these people that don’t want to shop in the stores. Our proposal is to increase Goodwill’s revenue by creating a website that will reach a new audience. Shopping online is very popular these days, and by welcoming Goodwill to the online community we hope to overcome people’s misconceptions of the store and bring in more revenue to continue to help people. Our hope is that if Goodwill has a website, consumers will choose to shop there over craigslist, ebay, or other online thrift shops, since Goodwill serves a greater purpose.
After a meeting with marketing director Suzanha Burmeister, we learned that Goodwill Industries of Central Texas did try to have a website before for the Computer Works store. The website was unsuccessful because of a lack of marketing, not enough inventory, and a software that was not very user-friendly. Mrs. Burmeister also revealed to us that some store managers do take higher end items and photograph them and try to sell them on ebay to make more money for the store. Managers have to keep their store under budget, which gives them the incentive to do what they can to make as much money as possible. Mrs. Burmeister also told us about how books are already being sold online, but through Amazon.com. They do not advertise that the books are from Goodwill in fear that competitors will trash their good name in the customer reviews.
After taking in all of our research, my team and I devised a plan to make a successful, easy to use, attractive website, named GoGoodwill.com. One of the major components of our plan is to make the website easy to integrate into the existing Goodwill system. This way each store manager will be more likely to implement the website for their store.
Each store will need an employee to be in charge of the website, but it is up to each store whether this needs to be a new hire, or if there is an existing employee that can take on the responsibilities. Each store will also need a computer for the sales floor, a digital camera, a place to take the pictures of each item, and shelves to store the items.
When donations come in to each store, that sorter will set aside higher end items. The website employee will then choose which items to sell online, which will all have a value of at least ten dollars, and photograph them. They will then assign each item a number and place them on the shelves. The employee will then upload the photographs to the computer, send them to the server, and then the items will be organized on the website by the website software.
When a customer finds an item they want on the website, they will pay with a credit card online. Then, the respective store will be alerted and the item will be taken off the website. The store employee will label the item with a new label that contains the name of the customer and the date that it was paid for. The item will be moved to a shelf that is clearly marked sold, and then the customer has forty-eight hours to come pick up their item. Since there is a limited amount of space for storage, customers will be encouraged to pick up their items on time by implementing a late fee. They will be charged three dollars a day after the forty-eight hour period, for up to five days. After the fifth day of being late to pick up the item, the item will be returned to the floor without a refund to the customer. We decided not to have an option for shipping because each store would have to store all of the shipping supplies, which would take up too much room, and also would need someone that was very good at packing items to insure the items won’t be broken in transit.
Each item will be kept on the website for one week. If it has not been sold within a week, it will be put on the sales floor. There is a countdown for each item on the website so the customers know how much longer it will be available online. The purpose of only keeping the items on the website for a week is so that the website won’t hoard all of the higher end items and there will still be nice items available in the stores. If the customer is not fully pleased with their purchase they can return it to the store they purchased it from within thirty days with their receipt.
Each store will have a computer out on their sales floor for people to check out the website while shopping in the store. This will be a good way to introduce people to the website, so hopefully they will use it when they are at home, too. The computers will be donated by Computer Works, and will only be used for GoGoodwill.com. The computer will be placed by the registers, or on a table anywhere in the store that is convenient and easily accessible by customers.
Each store will receive an employee guide that will instruct the website employee how to set up and use the website. It explains how to set up the website software, how to take a quality photograph, how to store the items, what to do when an item is sold and how the auction process works. It will be in PDF form, so it can be kept on the computer or printed out for the employee to keep as reference.
There will be one website supervisor for each region that will overlook the website to make sure that it is working and to answer any questions that the individual store employees might have.
Implementing the website will only cost the amount of buying the website software and a digital camera. To get the website up and running for each store, it will only take the amount of time it takes to organize a space to store the items and a place to photograph the items, and to set up the software. This should only take one day.
GoGoodwill.com is designed to be very clean and organized, a large contrast to the appearance of inside the stores. This will allow shoppers to easily browse through the items without feeling overwhelmed. The website is organized by city. Each item is labeled with the name of the store that it is located at. This is important because the customer must come to the store to pick up the item. Goodwill is set apart from other thrift stores, like the Salvation Army, because it helps the local community. We want to keep the focus on the community by having the customer come in to the store to pick up their item. By getting the customer into the store, we hope that they will look around and realize that there are good finds in the stores. It can also be a great chance for the customer to bring in donations. There is an auction section on the website so that online shoppers can browse what is up for auction each week at each store. They will not be allowed to bid or buy any of these items online, but are encouraged to attend the live auction if they see something they are interested in.
Also, the GoGoodwill.com aims to educate shoppers about Goodwill’s mission. At the top of the main page for each city is the mission statement. On the top of Austin’s main page it reads “Our mission is to enhance the quality and dignity of life for individuals, families and our community by providing job-related services for people with barriers to employment.” There is also a link directing the shopper to find out more about Goodwill by going to the main website. When the shopper buys an item, there will be a processing page that will feature stories about the lives that Goodwill has helped. Then, once the item is finished being purchased, there will be a page thanking the customer for helping to provide jobs and services for people in need.
We propose that the marketing plan to get GoGoodwill.com known be a cost efficient one. Including the URL on Goodwill shopping bags and placing posters about the website in the stores will let current Goodwill shoppers know about the site. An inexpensive way to get the community to know about the site is to write postings on local online blogs, such as Austinist.com. We suggest that online banners be placed on Austin websites, such as Salon.com and AustinChronicle.com, to let internet surfers know about the new way to shop at Goodwill. If these inexpensive manners do not appear to be working, other ideas are to create ads for newspapers, television commercials, and billboards.
By creating an organized website, that is easily integrated into the existing Goodwill system, partnered with a cost efficient and extensive marketing plan, we hope to attract new customers and increase revenue for Goodwill, while increasing awareness of Goodwill’s mission to help those in need get jobs.