Can your small business justify buying new devices? Consider new smartphones nowadays perform only slightly better than recently-released ones. You might sometimes buy refurbished devices for personal use. But can you afford such a risk for your business. Buying poorly performing devices for your team could quickly become an expensive mistake. Do you shy away from “refurbished” tech for your company? Well, other entrepreneurs do too. It’s true you can’t fully erase that risk. But new options now exist.
Are Refurbished Devices Too Risky?
Do you consider “refurbs” too risky for your business? And what do you think about “BYOD”? Bring your own device policies usually apply to phones only. And so as a business owner you might even frown upon BYOD. Because certain machines as BYOD make no sense. Imagine your employees bringing their home computers to the office, for example. So can you find an easy way to minimize risk while equipping employees with tech basics? Then the money-saving potential of refurbs becomes worth a closer look.
Demand for Refurbished Machines is Growing
New machines bring immediate peace of mind. But they also represent budget challenges. However, the global refurbished smartphone market experiences continued growth. For example, one recent year showed an increase of 13%. Smartphone makers like ZTE and Samsung admit they’ve seen better years in terms of sales. Maybe consumers and business owners alike are tiring of the cycle of shiny marketing pushes that hit us like clockwork?
Finding Reliable Refurbs Remains a Challenge
However, evaluating reliable refurbs remains a daunting process. Because you need to weigh several factors in the buying decision — not just price alone. And what if you lack the time to read and sort through dozens of refurbisher reviews? Perhaps you don’t know where to even begin? One brand seeks to ease this shopping process and push refurbs into the mainstream.
One Company Provides a Solution
Back Market entered the US market in early 2018. But the company dates back to 2014 in Europe. Today Back Market operates offices in Paris, Bordeaux and New York. Small Business Trends recently interviewed Back Market co-founder Thibaud Hug de Larauze.
His company sells refurbished smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs and the like. Their site presents shoppers with a streamlined experience. So Back Market strives to make purchasing refurbs as close to a ‘like new’ experience as possible.
The Market Began with Individual Consumers
Back Market was initially popular with individual consumers, but it didn’t take long for them to notice small businesses visiting the site to save money.
Thibaud Hug de Larauze, CEO and co-founder of Back Market, founded the company in France because of the abundance of tech refurbishing talent and pursuit of innovations. He was able to quickly assemble a team to create his vision of a platform that was efficient for both sellers and buyers, with algorithms, AI, and predictive analytics powering much of the UX.
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A Conversation with Back Market
Small Business Trends: What can your company do for a small business?
Thibaud Hug de Larauze: The concept is straightforward; we want to make buying refurbished mainstream by bringing transparency and ease to the shopper. Back Market is the first marketplace focused on bringing high-quality refurbished electronic devices and appliances to the public, businesses and organizations. When it comes to your business, considering refurbs or an older model of a gadget carries some risk — we understand that. Once you select a category, our site shows you the top item in terms of refurbisher track record, quality and price. We also help reduce the global e-waste crisis caused by too much purchasing-and-disposing. For over four years, we’ve been providing access to a variety of certified refurbished electronics like smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, servers and other essential gear.
Small Business Trends: Certified by whom?
Thibaud Hug de Larauze: Let me answer that question by telling you about how our company got started. My previous job was to plug merchants’ catalogs on big, general marketplaces. One day, I got a call from a refurbishing factory that wanted to list its products on eBay and Amazon. When I visited them I was surprised to find a slew of incredible machines, all fine-tuned by skilled people with an enormous amount of expertise. The sophistication the refurbishers used impressed me and I saw how they certified devices.
I saw an opportunity to help them get access to more consumers. So it’s either the factories or manufacturers who do the certifications. And just this year we started offering a collection of iPhones where Apple is the certifier. We’re proud to say we can provide some Apple-certified iPhones through Back Market, officially certified and complete with “freshly sealed” Apple packaging. We named our special collection “From Apple, with Love”.
Back Market Uses Rigid Evaluation for Refurb Products
We also have a rigid 23-point evaluation process for every product and supplier we use. We even have an in-house ‘doctor’ who performs regular testing of each supplier’s products to make sure that they are up to our standards. For customers shopping on the website, we have made great strides in the UX through a proprietary algorithm. Instead of displaying our entire catalog, like a traditional marketplace, we only display the single best product at any one time for a specific product model or SKU, taking into account not only price, but also the historical performance of every refurbisher including customer service responsiveness, fail rates, et cetera, among 14 other variables.
“Second hand devices” is a Catch-all Phrase and Not Always Fair
Without Back Market, I felt it was a shame that end-users would end up understanding very little about these products, which would be categorized simply as ‘second-hand devices.’ That’s when I realized these great items belonged in a category all on their own, and the seed grew into a big idea: build a one-stop shop, exclusively dedicated to refurbished electronics, curating the best of them, and showcasing what differentiates and distinguishes a product. The idea was to deliver a ‘like new’ buying experience including things like extended warranties, money back returns and real customer service.
— Back Market (@backmarket) February 20, 2019
Bulk Orders for Refurbs Continue to Grow
Back Market’s co-founders are Quentin Le Brouster and Vianney Vaute. While we were initially focused on individual buyers, we began seeing more and more requests for bulk or multiple quantity purchases. Upon connecting with these customers we got feedback that frugal business owners and IT managers wanted this option. Many other vendors offer a business enterprise discount, but that can often come with minimum order quantities that our customers can’t meet or simply don’t need.
Small Business Trends: That’s interesting. Whenever I ask OEMs’ PR departments about bulk orders, they never give a straight answer. Even with the dominant BYOD trend, they should still be able to answer. Many of the smartphone OEMs deflect and say small businesses should ask a carrier like Verizon about bulk-buying. I think that’s too convoluted with a lot of fine print. So what type of feedback do you aim for?
Thibaud Hug de Larauze: One customer, Dr. Angelie Zamora, told us she is able to provide top notch service to her patients and does not even notice a difference in the refurbished devices she uses in her practice. She says she looks forward to using Back Market when any of her three dental clinics need electronics. That is something we love hearing.
Refurbed Technology Represents a Greener Option
Small Business Trends: What else should people know about your brand?
According to a recent UN report, the US produces about 6.3 million tons, or 14% of the world’s electronic waste. Worldwide, almost 45 million tons of electronics were tossed out in 2016. Out of that staggering amount, only 20% has been recycled in some shape or form. The remaining 80% is untraceable and presumably at least some of it has made its way to a more environmentally damaging end at the landfill.
This issue is compounded by planned obsolescence, with manufacturers and big brands releasing new models every year. It can be hard to say no to “the latest and greatest”, and wanting the best for your business. But the reality is that often these new models provide incremental upgrades while raising prices by significant amounts. Buying refurbished is not only more cost effective, it also reduces your e-waste impact on the environment, and these green values are becoming more important. What we do aligns with those environmental values.
Pictured: L-R: Quentin Le Brouster, Vianney Vaute, Thibaud Hug de Larauze