September 28, 2023

Three strategies for keeping customers excited about your pre-loved program

Three strategies for keeping customers excited about your pre-loved program

The number of brands offering pre-loved programs is growing quickly. That’s a great thing (even if not all of them are working with us…yet). The more we normalize shopping pre-loved, the more it will feed into a virtuous cycle that fuels a permanent shift to sustainable consumption and production.

Many more brands are also thinking through how to best approach pre-loved programs. The teams thinking through these problems are researching interesting questions, engaging with customers, and drawing up plans. They are undoubtedly having a great time thinking about the possibilities and eagerly awaiting the day their programs are launched.

But the launch isn’t where the story ends — it’s just the end of the first chapter. The rest of the story is filled with many challenges that could spell the end of the program. Particularly in their early years of their programs, brands need to prepare for these challenges and be ready to respond if they do arise.

Today, we’re going to explore three strategies for overcoming one of the most common challenges faced by newly-launched programs — how to keep them growing after the initial excitement of the launch fades — with someone who knows all about managing successful pre-loved programs, Cynthia Power, founder of Molte Volte.

Get your employees on board

In my experience, leadership’s buy-in is a huge factor in the success of a program. If leadership is wishy washy or not vocally supportive, teams will not get the work done because it won’t seem as important. - Cynthia Power

Executive buy-in is needed to launch a pre-loved program. However, employee buy-in will keep your program growing. We’ll explain…

Employees are your best advocates. They know your products inside and out, they represent your brand to customers every day, and they have a vested interest in making sure that your business succeeds. There is nobody better to genuinely promote your pre-loved program. Build up their excitement and let them spread it.

Start by encouraging your employees to participate in your program (perhaps give them an extra incentive as a perk). It’s likely that most own your products, so encourage them to sell the ones they don’t and gather their feedback on the selling experience. Others may be collectors. Encourage them to shop for those rare items and gather their feedback on the shopping experience. Your employees bring a unique perspective to the table. You should hear them out. Involve them in decisions that affect the way your program works, and they will embrace its success.

Next, encourage them to share their authentic experiences on social media. It may take a little bit of coaching, but trust your employees to carry your message into the world using their own voices. Not only will doing so help build excitement within their networks, but it will also provide employee testimonials of your brand’s commitment to sustainability, which will have the added benefit of attracting new talent.

Lastly, consider how customer-facing employees, such as your support team, can build excitement about your program through their interactions with customers. For example, the response to a customer asking about an out-of-production item should encourage customers to hunt for it in your pre-loved store. Or perhaps instead of just rejecting a return for falling outside of your return policy, the response could suggest that the customer list the item for sale in your resale store and earn back some of that money. It’s far better to give that customer an option than to just shut the door.

One important point to keep in mind though is that employees will only be effective at helping grow your program if they are committed and engaged in that effort. One of the best ways to foster that commitment and engagement is to clearly communicate how the program’s success ties to the overall success of the company and its mission.

Remind them of this connection often, and back up your message with actions, such as the ones we’ll discuss next.

Keep your program top-of-mind

I believe consistent communication about a resale program to a brand’s full-file customer is one of the most important actions a brand can take to make their program successful. Customers may need to hear about your program 3, 4 or 5 times before really investigating it! A brand must believe that the resale program will benefit their entire value proposition to their customers and act accordingly. - Cynthia Power

When the excitement surrounding the launch of your pre-loved program fades, the challenge becomes finding creative ways to keep your program top-of-mind for your customers. To do this effectively, brands have to give their programs a good chance to be discovered by customers as part of as many interactions as possible.

Start by looking for opportunities to highlight the benefits of your program to your customers, and to signal its importance to your brand. For example, include links to your program in your store’s primary navigation and footer. Weave mentions of your program into your newsletters and social media updates so that it becomes part of your overall identity. Provide detailed information about the program through call-outs on your homepage or a dedicated section of your store. Make it easy to see that you offer a program, and clear that you are encouraging people to participate. Toast and Nudie jeans are examples of companies that do this well.

Also, you can target specific customers who are most likely to be interested in participating. For example, a children’s clothing brand knows that kids will outgrow their clothes in a matter of months. It could invite customers to resell those six months after their purchase assuming that they’ve been outgrown. This would generate a steady supply of pre-loved products for shoppers, as well as incentive for parents to purchase new, larger clothes for their kids.

There are many other opportunities to mention pre-loved options during every stage of the purchasing process, including alongside search results, in product profiles, and even as part of post-sale interactions. The more times that the program appears in communications, the more likely customers will consider participating in it. Take a look at your customer journey to identify touch points that lend themselves to showcasing your pre-loved program.

Keep it fresh

Make sure that your Marketing Team has goals related to telling the resale story. Make it one of the stories that needs to be folded in on a monthly basis, at a minimum. The important thing is to be committed to consistently sharing your resale program with your customer- how you do it is up to you! - Cynthia Power

People are drawn to things that are fun and exciting, obviously. Over time, though, experiences become familiar and therefore less of a draw. To overcome this challenge, it’s important to understand what motivates customers to participate in your pre-loved program, and to offer them the right kind of incentives to continue to participate in your program.

Some customers are primarily interested in selling. Sellers care about making as many sales as possible, as quickly as possible, and earning as much as possible. Keeping them coming back therefore comes down to providing the right set of financial incentives. Start with your selling fee. How does it compare relative to general marketplaces (who are your competitors in this context, by the way)? Next, consider your gift card bonus. Does it provide enough of an incentive to convince sellers to redeem their proceeds in gift cards? The right mix of financial incentives will make selling through your pre-loved program more profitable, and by extension more attractive, to sellers.

It’s also important to ensure that you are helping to provide sellers with a steady flow of potential customers to make sure that items sell quickly. This is where understanding what motivates shoppers is important. Shoppers are primarily interested in finding deals and unique looks. In a peer-to-peer program, brands can’t necessarily control those factors, but they can certainly influence them. For example, brands can suggest listing prices to sellers even though sellers have final say over the price. Brands can also limit which products can be listed and remove listings that don’t comply with their standards as a way of controlling what products are available for sale. In addition, providing the ability for buyers and shoppers to make offers to each other is a great way for brands to encourage deal-making and add another level of fun to the experience.

In a direct-listing program though, brands have complete control over both motivators. Marking down prices to move products is obvious. The more interesting option though is in managing the inventory itself. Knowing that shoppers are looking for unique looks, brands can periodically release archived or rare pieces into their stores as an incentive for people to return and as a differentiator from general marketplaces. Alternatively, brands can collect pre-loved inventory for a few months, then release it all at once during a limited window. DÔEN’s Hand Me DÔEN program is a particularly good example of this approach. This approach is great for keeping shoppers excited about your program, and lends itself nicely to establishing a regular touch point with customers.

The important thing to remember is that just because your program started out in one form doesn’t mean that it has to stay in that form forever. Experiment to find an approach (or set of approaches) that works best for your brand. As with anything new, it’s best to stay flexible and evolve over time.

Learn More

If you’re considering a pre-loved program for your brand, we’d love to chat.

More information about the services that Cynthia offers is available at You can also reach Cynthia at