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  • Writer's pictureJames Rigg

Unlocking Insights: lessons we can draw from the refurbished smartphone revolution

The smartphone industry appears to be leading the way on sustainability with refurbishment becoming commonplace among both consumers and retailers. Our research showed that 14% of Brits are likely to buy a refurbished or repaired smartphone in the future, compared to just 7% willing to buy a refurbished laptop or 5% for kitchen appliances.

One of the main reasons for such an uptake is the push given to consumers by smartphone retailers. Refurbished smartphones are actively advertised and promoted by retailers with ‘as good as new’ products available both online and in-store. This is a total rejection of the stigma often associated with refurbished goods amongst the consumer electronics industry.

Unfortunately, many businesses are reluctant to promote refurbished products as they believe consumers may consider them lower quality. However, with our research suggesting that 65% of Brits have already purchased a refurbished or repaired electrical item, the reality for consumers is much different. Particularly as the cost-of-living crisis rages on, customers are seeking a bargain where possible. Retailers should be seizing this opportunity to increase their sales and openly encourage customers to purchase refurbed products in the same way their full priced cousins are- full warranty and returns policy intact.

The benefits of promoting refurbished products

The most obvious benefit of refurbishment is its capabilities to reduce e-waste. Fast consumerism of electronics is a growing environmental problem, with electronic devices becoming one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world. Frustratingly just 17% of global e-waste is documented to be collected and properly recycled each year.

Reselling and refurbishing devices gives items a chance to increase their lifespan, reducing the amount of e-waste being dumped in landfill or being illegally exported to developing countries. This is not only beneficial for the environment, but for the manufacturer or retailer themselves too. It allows companies to enhance their corporate social responsibility efforts (CSR), which are attractive to the modern customer. Our research indicates that consumers are increasingly looking for brands that align with their personal values of sustainability and responsible consumption - 67% of people claim to care about the environmental credentials of a brand when purchasing an electrical item. Therefore, by offering refurbished products, organisations can demonstrate their commitment to these values, beneficial for customer satisfaction, increasing sales and overall brand reputation.

Encouraging customer sales

The best way of encouraging customers to purchase refurbished items is making sure they are easy to get hold of. It’s that simple. Creating dedicated sections in-store and online for refurbished products will attract customer attention and increase awareness of the products.

But there are other considerations for retailers. Providing the same selling experience for refurbed and brand-new items is key to ensuring that customers feel confident and comfortable during the buying process. Offering warranties and return policies is the main factor in this. We found that 46% of consumers would feel more encouraged to purchase a refurbished or repaired electrical item if they had a warranty in place. It is a simple addition to the purchasing process, that can significantly improve perceptions and simplify the returns and exchange process, should an issue occur.

Quality is also key when it comes to refurbishing and reselling electronics. Customers may be concerned about the quality of the products, therefore, to avoid any negative experiences they need to be of a high standard. To guarantee this, consumer electronic retailers and manufacturers can benefit from working with a returns management expert. Such professionals can repair returned products to a shop-shelf standard, ensuring they are as good as new. This way, retailers can reap the rewards from reselling refurbished products without putting their reputation on the line.

Final thoughts

The smartphone industry does appear to have the edge when it comes to sustainability and increasing the popularity of refurbished products. Other consumer electronic retailers and manufacturers are missing an opportunity by not promoting repaired items and actively encouraging customers to purchase them. By doing so, they can enjoy increased profits, enhanced CSR efforts, and reduced e-waste. Particularly as customers are becoming increasingly conscious of sustainability, businesses should seize the opportunity and stop their wasteful habits.

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