Monday, December 8, 2008

Shop At Home

After conducting weeks of research that involved several visits to Goodwill stores in Austin, Texas, a few behind the scenes tours, and a dozen interviews with employees and shoppers, our research group discovered a few issues that might be addressed at Goodwill Industries. After speaking to shoppers at Barton Creek Square mall it became apparent that many people are unaware of Goodwill’s mission statement and there is a lower turn out of younger shoppers at Goodwill thrift stores. Some of the logistical problems include the inconsistent layout of items within the five different Goodwill stores we visited, and the difficulty in finding specific items and sizes of cloths due to disorganization. In order to overcome these problems, my group and I devised a mock online shopping website that consists of a systems flow chart, a guide to managing a Goodwill online store, and some marketing strategies in hopes of generating more revenue and further educating those who are uninformed.

Our research shows that many shoppers are unaware of Goodwill’s mission and purpose in our community. Goodwill’s mission is to sell donated items to make enough revenue to be able to maintain its own business. The organization uses the revenue to benefit its community by creating programs for individuals and families by providing job-related services for those who are unemployed. Goodwill services include adult programs and youth programs. The adult program is available to all eligible people regardless of race, gender, disability, or religion. The adult program includes a job source program that help search for jobs for those who have difficulties in their career path due to setbacks in areas such as education and housing. There are also community rehabilitation programs that offer assistance for people with disabilities seeking entry into the workforce such as application, interviewing, and job seeking training. Lastly there is an assistive technology lab that provides the community training services on specialized equipment and demonstrations on navigating the internet and other software such as Jaws, Magic, and, Deaflink. Goodwill partners with other youth service agencies such as Workforce Investment Act to help youth stay in school and prepare them for career opportunities with programs like career counseling and job readiness training exercises. A “healthy” Goodwill store is a self-sufficient one that receives enough donations to make enough revenue to support itself and to carry out Goodwill’s mission by providing the services to the community. However, some stores require trucks to physically deliver goods to them because they are not self-sufficient and need more donations to sell to make a large enough profit to stay in business and serve those who are in need. The ratio of “healthy” Goodwill stores to the stores that require constant deliveries is about half.

Many shoppers, especially teenagers, are reluctant to go to Goodwill stores due to, as one interviewee noted, the “overwhelming clutter”. After speaking to shoppers away from Goodwill we noted that they choose not to shop at Goodwill because of the time and labor involved with searching for specific items. One shopper mentioned her past experience at Goodwill and the difficulty she faced due to the clutter and the fact that the clothes are organized by color and not by size. She said “There was no way for me to find the right sized shirt without having to flip through every green shirt on the rack.” When we asked Amy Rames, marketing communications specialist at Goodwill headquarters, how the layout was determined, her response was, “The clothes are organized by color rather than size. The same goes for hard-line objects because this is the fastest way to put items onto floors with the least amount of time and manpower required to do so.” Suzanha Burmeister, Goodwill’s marketing director, said “Even if there is any spare room most managers are not willing to give up any space because they want to put out as much items onto the shelves and floors as possible.” Even though the managers are only trying to generate as much profit as possible many shoppers feel overwhelmed and are often frustrated by the lack of order and are burdened by the excessive amount of goods inside the store.

In order to increase awareness about Goodwill’s mission statement and to make shopping hassle-free we proposed an online website that will allow visitors an opportunity to learn, browse, and purchase goods without having to leave their homes. It was not our intention to rid or rebrand Goodwill’s current identity but instead to build on the existing logo by adding unique aspects that will promote the idea of shopping online. The new online logo is a modification of the current logo because we felt that it would still retain the company’s image. We removed the half smiley face image that takes place of the letter “g” in the name Goodwill underneath the larger half smiley face on top of it to make it less redundant. We replaced it with a cleaner, neater, and a simpler typeface that spells out the website’s URL,,/ instead. Below the website’s URL lies a tagline, “browse digitally, shop locally,” to emphasize the fact that the users can shop comfortably at home but at the same time are supporting their local community by purchasing goods from nearby Goodwill stores. Although, the changes between the two logos are subtle, the old logo is still recognizable while the new logo is different enough for the viewers to make the distinction between the two.

We designed a flow chart to better explain the process of how an item is sorted and sold to the online consumers. First, an item is donated by any individual to any Goodwill donation center. To better utilize Goodwill’s employees, the Goodwill online system will only require one or two employees per store to supervise and sort out the items that are worth placing on the website. It will be up to the manager’s discretion on who and how many employees would monitor the system because some stores may already have the manpower to do so while others may need to hire additional employees. Once the initial sorter, (either a Goodwill employee who already sorts items or another employee hired for the job) pulls out the more upscale items (anything that is worth more than ten dollars) he or she will have the items photographed. Once the item is photographed the sorter will have to upload the image onto the website, and then tag the item with a label and item number. After the item is properly tagged it will be placed on a hold shelf depending on where space is available per store for a week. Suzanha Burmeister mentioned that even though many of the stores in Austin are cluttered in the front there is enough space in the back, where donations are dropped off, to store the online items. If an item is not sold online within a week it will be placed inside the stores at a lower price. If a shopper wants to make a purchase then he or she will have to click on the “add to shopping bag” icon that is located below the image of the item and pay her balance. The system will then lead the shopper to a “thank you” page where the customer is informed that his or her purchase is going to a good cause (the Goodwill programs that serve the community). Afterwards, the system will remove the item on the website and alert the store manager to remove the item from the hold shelf to the sold shelf for forty-eight hours. The customer will be alerted with a message that provides the directions to the store. The customers must pick up the items themselves in order for both the shoppers and Goodwill to save on shipping and handling. This would also create another opportunity to lure the customers into the stores in order to potentially make additional sales.

In order to maximize profits and make the website as self-sufficient as possible each store manager will be emailed the instructions on how to become a part of the Goodwill online store. To avoid any confusion the guide will explain thoroughly how to activate an online store, how to take quality photographs of items, how to upload images, where to store items, what to do when items are sold, and what happens to auction items. Purchasing or bidding on auction items that are in the store bid cases will not be available online to avoid an event where someone would bid on an item online when someone else is bidding or buying the same item physically at the store at the same time. Therefore, photographs of the auction items are only online to browse through and to encourage people to go to the stores to bid or purchase them.

The concept of the website was to contrast the clutter of goodwill stores by creating a more user friendly way to present the objects to the customers. The website is inviting and easy enough so the users can visually navigate through the website on their own. The visitor will first locate his or her region by clicking on his or her city on the homepage. Once the desired region is selected, users will be greeted with the mission statement on the top of the page along with a link that leads the users to the regional homepage, where they can learn more about the services that are available. To keep the website organized, there is a list of categories on the left that groups items according to their specifications. There is also a search tool for specific needs and a faster search. Lastly, there is a RSS feed that is available to subscribed users to receive updates on new arrivals.

According to Suzanha Burmeister, Goodwill has tried to sell computers and computer parts online in the past but failed to maintain stability because of a lack of effective marketing. The previous website had issues that were never resolved such as, software issues that resulted with an unfriendly user website, insufficient amount of products, and the overall lack of awareness of the website. In order to make our website feasible we had to overcome the challenges that the previous website could not by designing a website that will enable users to easily navigate and browse through the items, provide an abundant and wide selection of various products, and most importantly to inform and encourage the public to visit the website. No matter how comfortable, effortless, and efficient the website will be to the users the website cannot last long if it isn’t able to generate enough revenue. Therefore, it is crucial to inform the public about the website and the available products in order to sell a lot of products. That is why advertising to the public is vital to the success of our proposal.

We came up with a three-point marketing strategy that is cost efficient. First, we had to target the people who already go to the stores by placing posters with website logos and URLs on windows and printing them onto shopping bags. Furthermore, we will try to promote the use of free media to promote the website as an online retailer that supports the non-profit Goodwill Industries. Such as on blogs, social networking sites, and news articles that appear online in print and on television. Also to target those who use the Internet regularly online banner ads will be advertised on high traffic websites such as the Austin Chronicle. Lastly, if Goodwill Industries feel that not enough people are aware of the site, then more money will have to be spent on traditional media such as billboards, newspapers, and television ads.

After conducting our research we realized the challenges that Goodwill Industries has to overcome in order to better carry out their mission. We believe that our online store will be a great tool to help meet these needs. Goodwill should acknowledge our proposal to strengthen their revenue and broaden their awareness in hopes of better serving the community.

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