Few retailers would be as far from claiming ecommerce leadership as charity op shops, CMO reports.
But when COVID-related lockdowns descended across Australia last year, charity stores were forced to close their doors along with everyone else considered non-essential.
For the Salvation Army, that meant the closure of a network of more than 300 stores that collectively helped raise more than $41 million annually.
“It was a huge thing,” customer experience manager for Salvos Stores, Aife O’Loughlin, tells CMO. “It was the first time in 150 years the Salvos stores had ever had to close our doors.”
But closure meant more than just shutting down their ability to raise funds. Salvos Stores also play a key role in supporting their surrounding communities, including the 11,000 team members who volunteer within them.
In recognition of this, O’Loughlin says one of the first actions Salvos Stores took was to invite customers and team members to join a closed Facebook group where they could connect with each other and with Salvation Army chaplains to discuss events and how they were feeling. The second major action was to bring forward plans Salvos Stores had in place to embark on a more significant ecommerce journey.
“We had always had a plan in place to evolve our ecommerce offering at Salvos Stores, and our first draft of what that looked like saw us planning to go live in July of 2020,” O’Loughlin says.
Working with its digital agency, Annix, Salvos Stores was able to craft an online offering that launched on 4 May 2021.
Salvo Stores initially launched its ecommerce solution from five stores, and it has now expanded to have more than 200 that are listing items for sale online. Altogether the group has listed more than 80,000 items, of which 61,000 have been sold.