I’ve been shopping at Goodwill for the better part of two decades. And I’ve been buying and selling on eBay for 14 years (despite the fact that they now have what is perhaps the worst customer rewards program on Earth). Both retailers have a bizarre product inventory and a treasure-hunt feel that appeals to some and repels others; I just happen to fall into the category of folks who could easily, EASILY blow an hour on eBay or in a Goodwill store. So how has Goodwill—a company whose history of selling donated merchandise dates back to the early 1900s—never managed to position ShopGoodwill.com (its online auction site) as a legitimate eBay competitor?
Think about this: Goodwill has just about everything it needs to mount a serious online auction offensive against eBay. They have national brand recognition. Pretty much everyone supports their cause. They have a limitless supply of products. And all of the merchandise they sell was originally donated. Despite those strengths, however, they’re a weak eBay competitor (if they can even be considered a competitor).
At this point, you might be tempted to cut Goodwill some slack. After all…Goodwill stores “meet the needs of all job seekers, including programs for youth, seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities, criminal backgrounds and other specialized needs;” this isn’t a Silicon Valley workforce, nor is it intended to be. And it’s not like venture capitalists are throwing money at Goodwill, so how could it fund a better-than-eBay website through sales of donated furniture, lamps, and pre-loved tennis shoes? One might consider giving the organization a pass and accepting that they’re doing the best they can do with their human and capital resources.
I tend to think otherwise. Goodwill organizations generated $5.17 BILLION in revenue in 2013. They boast over 87 million donors. Nearly 3,000 Goodwill stores are in operation around the country. And Goodwill’s nine top executives earned total combined compensation of nearly $2.5 million in 2013. So…in my opinion, Goodwill is big, talented, and wealthy enough to deliver an online auction experience that should make it an eBay competitor.
So why isn’t that happening? Through this post and a follow-up post next week, I’ll list four ways that Goodwill is blowing it with ShopGoodwill.com:
1) Visibility and ease of access
Pull up eBay.com and you’re immediately browsing their marketplace of fixed-price and auction items. Visit Goodwill.org, on the other hand, and you won’t find any mention of an e-commerce site. To find ShopGoodwill.com from Goodwill’s homepage, mouse over “Donate and Shop” in the main menu and click “Shop at Goodwill.” Once that page loads, scroll 3/4 of the way down the page to find the link to ShopGoodwill.com. Click the link and reward yourself for finding the cheese at the end of the maze. On a side note…once you finally get to ShopGoodwill.com, you’ll see a homepage banner ad advising you to check out GoodwillBooks.com, a separate fixed-price Goodwill e-commerce site.
Goodwill, if you’re listening, merge the auction-style ShopGoodwill.com and the fixed-price GoodwillBooks.com. Then bring this combined online megastore to your main Goodwill.org URL. And for the LOVE, be PROUD of it! Make it visible and prominent on your homepage. I know that ShopGoodwill.com was launched independently by Goodwill Industries of Orange County, CA, and I’m sure there was a reason for launching GoodwillBooks.com. But having three websites makes no sense to your customers.
ShopGoodwill.com was launched in 1999. And it still looks much like an e-commerce store from the late 1990’s:
eBay, on the other hand, has traded its old zany online flea market look for a sleek, clean, modern style:
What are your thoughts on these first two ways Goodwill is blowing its potential to become an eBay competitor? I’ll post the second half of this blog next week…stay tuned!
Update: click here to access the second half of this two-part blog post. —-Scott