-since 2018

How charity shops are going digital

Charity shops are increasingly using online and digital technology to ensure their retail operations are reaching a wider audience.

The benefits for charity shops of embracing digital technology can be huge.

A Charity Retail Association report last year found that 88 per cent of those in the sector already selling online say the move has allowed them to gain the best possible price for unusual and high-value items, such as collectable and antiques.

Eight out of ten stressed that moving to an online sales operation had helped expand their reach, with two in three saying they are now regularly selling to overseas customers.

But not all charities are ensuring they are using digital technology to increase their retail sales revenue.

Seven out of ten large charities, with between 101 and 300 stores, sell online. But among those with less than ten branches the proportion falls to just 54 per cent.

Overall 55 per cent of the 138 charity shops surveyed have an online selling operation.

Here’s how charities can ensure they are making the most of online selling and digital technology to improve their retailing.

Target tech-savvy generation Z

Generation Z, made up of 18 to 24 year olds, are tech savvy and keen to find a bargain online.

But research by retail software firm Cybertill last year found that just two per cent of charity shops are promoting their online shopping operation via the key platform this generation uses – Instagram.

Those already embracing this generation of customers include British Red Cross, Save the Children and Barnardo’s, who are all using the online clothing retailer Asos to sell items. This global site is aimed at 20-somethings, with 20 million users across the UK, US and Europe.

Online promotion

Wider social media promotion, taking in Instagram for a younger market and Facebook and Twitter for all ages, is vital. Using #charityshop can help on Twitter for charities to promote specific offers, stores and items.The public  also use this hashtag to share bargains they’ve picked up.

Shropshire Cat Rescue is among small charities to effectively do this, offering shoppers clear directions about its location and items on offer.

Set up your own online charity shop

Four out of ten online charity retailers have set up their own shop, which is often used alongside third party selling websites.

Among those to set up their own retail operation is Sue Ryder, which operates 450 stores UK wide, has an eBay store and its own online shop via its website, which specialises in homeware, furniture and garden equipment.

Oxfam is another to set up its own online retail site. This includes offering ethically sourced products, virtual gifts as well as second hand goods. Its online shop features a collectables section of items including art, photography, comics and stamps.

Digitising the High Street

Charities are increasingly turning to technology to make shopping and donating easier for those visiting traditional high street stores.

Earlier this year Cybertill announced it had revamped its digital price labelling tool so that charity retailers can more easily claim Gift Aid. Through the system those donating with Gift Aid can input their details on a tablet, which is stored via the cloud and integrated with digitally produced labels.

Tapping into the cashless High Street market is also vital for charity shops.

This is not just to accept contactless payments at the till but also through making contactless donation points available in other retailers’ shops too.

The StreetSupPORT scheme in Newport uses contactless donation points for charities in the windows of stores across the Welsh city. Shoppers can tap their bank card on the window to make a donation.

Use third party selling sites

Selling via a third party sales platforms is an ideal cost-effective option for those looking to sell online.

eBay is the most popular, used by almost all (97 per cent) online charity retailers, says the Charity Retail Association. Meanwhile, around a third use Amazon and two thirds use multiple websites to sell items.

Last year eBay’s charity programme raised £22.5m for good causes, up 13 per cent on the previous year. The most popular good causes for eBay shoppers and charity supporters are cancer support, children, animals and military veterans. This can include themed sales, such as LGBT homelessness charity Albert Kennedy Trust raising £40,000 in celebration of Pride.

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