Secondhand no longer means second best

Last June, during “Viva Technology” in France, Marc Olivier of the French Association of Online Business said:

“70% of internet users were buying and selling secondhand in 2021”

While a recent report by ThredUp stated:

Resale is expected to be bigger than fast–fashion by 2029, and the total secondhand market is projected to grow to almost twice the size of retail by the same year.”

In this article, we want to provide valuable insights by focusing on:

  • What is the secondhand market - or ‘recommerce’ - and why is it skyrocketing?
  • What are the main business models and which ones are winning the pre-loved battle?
  • What are the remaining pain points and how can InPost/Mondial Relay support this growing area of e-commerce



Secondhand market: What is it and why is it skyrocketing?


Put simply, secondhand is a way to resell or re-rent pre-used (or pre-loved) items. The concept has existed for years, but the ways in which we view and engage with secondhand have changed dramatically over the past decade.


Recommerce is not a new trend

Recommerce experiences can be found everywhere in the physical world, whether it is at a “flea-market”, in a vintage or thrift shop, antique store, charity shop or car dealership. There is a secondhand market for almost every product category, be it electronics, clothing, books, media, jewellery, accessories, cars, bikes, appliances… The list goes on.


Until the beginning of the century, secondhand was seen as a consumption habit for people who “couldn’t afford” to buy something brand new. In an era of mass consumption, buying or selling pre-loved items was anything but trendy!

Back then, it was driven by two major factors:

  • Affordability: It was always cheaper to buy a secondhand product than a new one, or to buy several products for the price of a new one
  • Re-usability: An item that was no longer needed could benefit another person and therefore its lifecycle was extended

Traditionally, when looking for an item on the secondhand market, there was often uncertainty or a “luck” factor to take into account. We could not always find exactly what we wanted exactly so we had to put up with what was available.

But, over the last 20 years, society has shifted significantly, resulting in the recommerce boom.


Secondhand market – a response to the behaviour-shift in society

This shift in behaviour has been largely driven by Gen Zs and Millennials who now make up more than 40% of the consumer population. Since Gen Zs' spending is on the rise, their shopping behaviours are coming under scrutiny by industry analysts. Indeed, like Millennials before them, “they don’t want to pay full price for anything”. 

According to the latest Deloitte report, the main issues for Gen Zs and Millennials are the cost of living, followed by climate change. They are deeply concerned about the state of the world, and are actively trying to balance the challenges of their everyday lives with their desire to drive societal change.


Gen Z and Millennials_HR


Similar findings were revealed in a McKinsey report, stating that consumers are less concerned with owning the latest fashion trends than previous generations. There has been a marked shift in consumer behaviour towards “less is more”:

“1-in-4 are not as concerned with wearing the latest trends now versus before the pandemic, and Millennials and Gen Z in particular value buying high-quality products that last a long time.”

As a result, pre-loved items are the perfect solution, both in terms of affordability and sustainability.

At the same time, access to a wider range of secondhand markets has been enabled by digitisation.

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Recommerce business models: Accelerated through digitisation


Consumer access to secondhand markets has widened with e-commerce and there are now multiple different models and ways to buy pre-loved items.


Secondhand market: Business model 1 - Reconditioning

Reconditioning, historically most widely recognised in the electronics sector, is based on the sourcing of pre-loved items by wholesalers. They check the quality of the items, repair and repackage them to be put forward to individual buyers on their own platform. They also usually coordinate storage and shipment.

Major players in this space are Pixmania founded in 2000, ReBuy in 2004, Recommerce in 2009, Certideal in 2015, and YesYes in 2017.

According to website “Between 2016-2020, used smartphone sales grew by a compound annual growth rate of … 20% in Europe. Going forward, for the next five years, the used smartphone market is expected to grow three times faster than the new smartphone market.”


Secondhand market: Business model 2 - Marketplaces

A marketplace is based on the platform model, that we can define as follows:

“A platform is a business model that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups.”

The power of platforms relies on the fact that they are designed to create communities and markets that allow users to interact and transact. In order to make these exchanges happen, platforms aim to create large, scalable networks of users and resources that can be accessed on demand. Online platforms have the benefit of attracting a wide variety of products that would be difficult to find in a physical store.

When platforms manage transactions, propose carriers, or offer customer service to secure relationships between the buyer and the seller, they become marketplaces.

Here, we need to distinguish between C2B2C marketplaces and C2C marketplaces. On the C2B2C model, the seller ships product(s) to the warehouse of the platform, which manages product description, potential authentication or homologation. It also manages the delivery to the buyer or to a third party. Examples of this are Momox founded in 2006, or Ziffit in 2013.

The main difference between the two models is the distribution, which is managed by the seller for the C2C transactions, and by the platform for C2B2C transactions.

C2C marketplaces have been around since 1995, with eBay and Craigslist followed by Etsy in 2005.

With the move to “mobile-first”, new players appeared such as Vinted in 2008, Vestiaire Collective and Vide dressing in 2009, and Depop in 2011.

In the fashion industry, this model is clearly setting the pace. It is no surprise that a report from Global Data and ThredUp forecasts that resale will be 11 times faster than retail clothing in the US by 2025.

Resale Growth_HR

Retailers who have historically focused on a simple B2C model are now engaging in recommerce initiatives, with many of them launching C2C marketplaces in recent years.


Secondhand market: Brand and retailers initiatives

“62% of consumers said they’d purchase more from a brand that officially partners with a secondhand platform or company”.

So, recommerce is not just an optional extra anymore, it is a way to retain customers and to deliver on their increasing demand for sustainability.

We can divide these initiatives into 3 distinct models: Partnership, Investments and In-House.


Partnership with secondhand marketplaces

This is the first opportunity for brands and retailers to unlock recommerce opportunities.

Here are some examples:

  • The RealReal, a luxury C2C secondhand marketplace partnering with Gucci and Burberry.
  • Thift+, a C2B2C marketplace. They provide either credit to be spent on Thrift+, or an Asos voucher. They are partnering with a wide range of brands:
    • High street brands such as Asos, H&M, Topshop, and Zara
    • Premium brands such as French Connection, Whistles, COS, North Face, and Patagonia
    • Designer brands such as Burberry, Chloé, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney
  • Dotte, a UK pre-loved kid’s clothing platform which partners with both high street brands and luxury brands. They also offer a service to donate clothes after ordering by providing a dedicated bag to ship items to be recycled. They have raised £407,000 since last May.


Investments in secondhand marketplaces

Investing in shares or buying recommerce platforms is another option for brands.

For example, in the luxury goods sector, Watchfinder, a platform of pre-loved luxury watches was bought by Richemont in 2018

More recently, in 2021, Kering acquired 5% share of Vestiaire Collective capital during its last funding round of €178 million.


In-House recommerce offering

This last initiative can be either phygital or fully-digital.

  • Phygital: People drop their items in a store and receive a voucher to buy a new branded item. For example, in the US, Levi’s ‘Second Hand’ or Lululemon’s ‘Like New
  • Fully digital: H&M launched their RE:WEAR app in 2021. It is available in 20 countries, and allows sellers to find buyers easily. They receive either store credit or an H&M gift card with 20% added value. A meet-up option is also available to save on shipping fees

In house is the best option for a brand to capture the experience within their own eco-system. We assume that brands and retailers will own their dedicated marketplaces as an extension of their websites, where they will control assortment, pricing, customer experience options, and, most importantly, data.

That’s probably why Yes Yes (mentioned in the section on reconditioning) and Pretty Little Thing have recently launched their own marketplaces.

However, developing your own engine is expensive. That’s why start-ups often opt for “white label” recommerce platforms for brands. For example, French white label specialist Faume recently raised €7 billion, and is already partnering with The Kooples, Hugo Boss and ba&sh.

For B2C marketplaces that already have the technology, it is more straightforward to create their own secondhand offering. Zalando Pre-owned is a good example of this, while Veepee’s “Re-turn” service allows them to release stock and improve product rotation. In turn, this is driving a shift from sales and discount channels to secondhand channels

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Secondhand market: Remaining customer pain-points


As we have seen, marketplaces make it much easier for buyers and sellers to connect and transact. But what are the remaining obstacles?

Let’s focus on three main aspects - trust, ease of use and cost-efficiency – and examine how InPost/Mondial Relay can help.


Trust, ease of use and cost-effectiveness

Reducing returns has been a focus of retailers in the past few years. 

  • Trust: In the pre-purchase stage, how can we ensure that the product is the right one and that there is no fraud, especially for electronic or luxury goods?
    In this case the secondhand marketplace should act as a trusted third-party. For example, Vestiaire Collective has more than 60 dedicated luxury goods experts working in-house. Another example is BackMarket with its quality check and rating system.
    Trust is also enabled through reviews. According to a Globe newswire's study, 95% of consumers read online reviews before they shop, and “83% of consumers consider trusted reviews”.
  • Ease of use: Marketplaces have focused on creating the best-designed customer experience. This experience should be extended until the point of item collection or shipping, matching the consumer’s preferences and choice of delivery options. Otherwise, the post-purchase journey can ruin the brand’s efforts and prevent users from wanting to buy or sell again. According to a recent study, 85% of respondents will not shop again after having had a poor delivery experience.
  • Cost-efficiency: When buying or selling online, the total cost has to be taken into account. For the recommerce seller, that means minimising the shipping cost, and for the buyer, reducing the delivery cost.


Recommerce: What does a “positive delivery experience” mean and how can Mondial Relay / InPost help?

Our mission is to provide best-in-class user experience for merchants and consumers as per our tagline: ‘Simplify everything’ – redefining e-commerce logistics.

How? By providing a cost-effective, digital-first and greener solution for merchants which gives customers more convenience.


  • Trust:

“The last mile is the last word” — and what consumers remember. Among those who experienced delivery failures, 24% said it meant they lost trust in the delivery company. This was followed by refusing to order from the retailer again (23%) and lost trust in the retailer (21%).

Every day, we strive to offer outstanding service, and this is acknowledged by our users, resulting in these examples of feedback from two of our major markets:

    • InPost Lockers are #1 choice with 81% of consumer choosing them
    • Our lockers have a Net Promoter Score of 72
The United Kingdom
    • Launch of a new service dedicated to secondhand markets strongly adopted by consumers (45% used the service more than once within 10 weeks of the launch)
    • Our lockers have a Net Promoter Score of 89

Another aspect of a positive delivery experience is tracking and visibility, with 28% of e-shoppers saying that was an important element for them.

At InPost / Mondial Relay, our aim is to provide a seamless and fuss-free journey, which is fully digitised, tracked and available at scale.

Our solution offers tracking at every stage of the delivery journey and a fully-secure service, meaning sellers and buyers always know exactly where their parcel is. This reduces a customer’s need to contact us, and improves loyalty and trust.


  • Ease of use and convenience

According to a UK study from Sorted, waiting at home for a parcel or missed deliveries is the main source of frustration for e-shoppers. After the pandemic, 22% anticipated they would be missing deliveries, or that deliveries would be left outside their home more frequently after they returned to normal working life.

That’s why our pick-up and drop-off points (PUDOs) allow users to collect, drop off and return parcels at local shops situated in convenient locations with extended opening hours. Together with our network of automated parcel machines (APMs), they make picking up, dropping off and returning e-commerce packages incredibly straightforward by giving consumers the power to choose the best option for them.

Our locations, from supermarkets and convenience stores, to train stations and shopping centres, enable our customers to use our lockers as part of their daily routine, and reduce journeys by trip chaining.

This is one of the reasons why Ziffit partnered with us in April to facilitate free drop-off of pre-loved preloved books, CDs, DVDs and games.


  • Cost-efficiency and sustainability:

Optimised shipping cost is the second most important element of a positive delivery experience, after delivery within three days.

Our model is based on parcel consolidation. For example, in our Polish market, 700 parcels are, on average, delivered by one of our vans to a locker or PUDO point vs. 100 per van for “to-door” delivery.

This model is far less fossil fuel dependent. According to our internal studies, a parcel delivered to an locker needs 76% less petrol than for “to-door”. In Poland alone, that accounted for a saving of 54 million liters of petrol in 2021.

Moreover, each van collects parcels from lockers and PUDO points in returns, so there are no empty vans driving back to our depots.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030, there will be a 36% increase in delivery fleets in 100 major cities throughout the world, resulting in a 30% increase in carbon emissions. Knowing that the last mile of each delivery is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions, our model is the most effective in facing up to these environmental challenges.

Thanks to our internal analysis and tools based on ECOINVENT data, our model can, for example, reduce the CO2 impact of a parcel delivered in a locker vs. to door by 75%.

Finally, we should mention a new study by UNiDAYS, a discount website for students. They found that “80% of Gen Z would consider paying more for products that meet their last mile sustainability expectations. An interesting point to think about…

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If you are working on anything in the secondhand market space and are interested in connecting with us to discuss your current customer experience and delivery challenges, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!


Find out more about our secondhand market's clients, especially BEEBS in our exclusive interview

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