A Look At Recommerce: The Second-Hand Economy


What is Recommerce?

In 1995, eBay launched its online shopping platform to the public. In the 26 years since, the company has carved a niche for itself as a site for consumers to sell their used goods to other consumers, a type of C2C transaction known as recommerce.

To further underscore the importance of recommerce to eBay’s platform, users, and more, eBay recently released its 2020 Recommerce Report. For those who don’t have time to read the full report themselves, the highlights can be read below.

First big takeaway: Recommerce is on the rise. Nearly 72% of US eBay sellers who participated in the survey said that buying pre-owned items has become more customary nowadays.

This is not only a US phenomenon, but an event affecting many of the countries in which eBay operates. In the five countries selected, the percentage of eBay C2C customers who purchased pre-owned items in the past 12 months ranges from 81% in the UK (with the US only one point behind) to at least 68% in Canada.

With the generation divided, it is clear that Generation Z is moving towards a larger number of second-hand purchases. If younger consumers are engaging with recommerce now, that buying pattern could continue for years down the line.

recommerce ebay

When considering the reasons for the rise in popularity of recommerce, a common place to look is the recent recession. Hard economic times shun consumers from buying new. If they don’t eliminate their purchases altogether, they favor a more affordable used item rather than something new.

eBay may have gained additional leverage from its online platform as traditional resale sites (such as garage sales and thrift stores) faced difficulty operating in 2020. This does not mean that the increase in recommerce is completely reversible; People who see the benefits of selling used items and buying second-hand may be reluctant to change their habits.

The recent economic downturn further demonstrates the economic benefits of recommerce. In 2020, more people around the world started selling pre-owned items online to earn extra income. The recommerce market (as eBay has facilitated it) has incredibly low barriers to entry, which means most people can participate.

On average, Americans own 36 household items that can do well in the resale market. If they are able to part with the said items, they have the opportunity to bring in $3,675 in additional income. For Canadians, the value of the dollar (USD) is estimated to be more than $5,660.

While many sellers are likely to use recommerce as a temporary favor, those more dedicated may decide to specialize in items that would be prohibitive for most to buy new, such as musical equipment.

A seller looking for new items can check traditional resale sites (such as yard and estate sales) in his area in search of hidden treasures. Traditional resale sites are limited in geographic scope whereas eBay can attract customers from all over the world.

yard sale recommerce

On the buyer’s side, recommerce offers a more affordable price point than the market for new goods. Buyers can also find items that are no longer being produced, such as “obsolete” gaming consoles.

If a buyer wants to buy something on eBay, they can choose to take advantage of eBay’s auction-style format to reach a price that is mutually agreed upon with the buyer. In short, buyers of resale merchandise can have more choice and flexibility at their disposal, while spending less money than they would otherwise.

There is another major beneficiary of recommerce that hasn’t been discussed yet: Planet Earth. Recommerce is good for the environment in two major ways. Buying a used good means that the water, energy, and resources that produce a new good don’t have to be consumed, and selling the used good postpones a trip to the landfill.

While many consumers want to buy more eco-friendly products, the prices for green goods can be high at times. Shopping second hand can have the same effect or better at half the price. In the apparel and electronics industries alone, recommerce on eBay saved 720,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. This is one way to shrink the carbon footprint!

eBay Recommerce Report

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Author: Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the founder and president of Nowsourcing, an industry-leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH, that works with companies ranging from startups to the Fortune 500. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016–present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.