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Exclusive: Goodwill e-commerce initiative builds online marketplace

Matt Kaness
Matt Kaness, CEO, GoodwillFinds

GoodwillFinds, a growing consortium of 14 individual non-profit Goodwill organizations, is deploying an e-commerce infrastructure based on Salesforce technology.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Matt Kaness, CEO of GoodwillFinds, about the initiative’s ongoing efforts to boost Goodwill’s presence in the e-commerce sector.

What is GoodwillFinds’ e-commerce strategy?

Goodwill operates on a federated model, meaning it's not a corporation or a franchise. It's an affiliation of 154 individual, independent nonprofits at the state and local levels. And each of those Goodwills has participated in online resale through its own individual storefronts within the eBay and Amazon environment, as well as a few other online marketplaces. 

There has also been a regional effort by a local Goodwill in Southern California, which built out the website shop that the majority of Goodwills use and list their items online through an auction format. Within this venture, about 12 Goodwills got together four or five years ago and identified the looming threat of various for-profit resale players.

In 2021, six Goodwills formed a partnership known as GoodwillFinds and contracted to partner with Salesforce to be its primary tech stack. Several other developers and agency vendors that were all contracted to build out configurations and customizations and some new enhancements. 

But for the most part, the platform is built upon the Salesforce Commerce, Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and learning management system (LMS) modules. In the first 12 months of operation, we have generated $25 million in gross merchandise value (GMV), signed up 600,000 subscribers to our email lists and had billions of impressions.

GoodwillFinds now has 14 participating Goodwill organizations. We plan to be at 40 by the end of 2024.

What made GoodWillFinds decide to select Salesforce as your e-commerce tech stack?

The founders believed that this was an important venture for the entire Goodwill network. As a broader enterprise, Goodwill collectively generates roughly $6 billion a year in revenue with less than 10% of that coming through online channels. 

We collectively believe that the opportunity for the Goodwill network is to sell at least 25%, if not more, of our donations through online channels compared to stores and clearance centers. That is a billion-dollar, incremental gross market value opportunity and in envisioning that level of scale, Salesforce was selected, in part because of its ability to work with enterprise-level partners.

Building an online marketplace from scratch in the resale category is not easy; all of the items are one-off and unique and there's a lack of predictability in the content of the merchandise because it depends upon donation flow.

Specifically within the Goodwill network, where our operations are fully decentralized, there is no centralized distribution center or command center. Considering this complexity, Salesforce was considered to be the ideal partner in being able to build something that specifically meets how Goodwill operates.

What are GoodwillFind’s e-commerce plans for 2024?

We expect to be rapidly expand the marketplace, and also we're looking at strategic partnerships with e-commerce technology firms such as eBay, who we've been working with. 

Not just to enable co-listing on their platform with our members, but also thinking more strategically about a marketing partnership. We're engaging with the retail industry as well to partner on how retailers can ethically dispose of their returns. 

Do you see digital becoming a more important channel in the thrift industry in general?

Yes. It reminds me of the rise of Web 2.0, when every retailer had to figure out how to be an ‘omnichannel’ retailer, with a lot of internal work that had to happen and automation and data management driving a lot of that change. 

Fifteen years ago, customers who were catalog or mall shoppers were becoming e-commerce shoppers and more demand was moving online. That migration has begun within the online thrift space. 

There's no more stigma on second-hand merchandise and in some cases with younger shoppers, there's status in buying unique finds. I feel like we're in the early inning of the trend of omnichannel transformation happening within the thrift category.


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