Using artificial intelligence (AI) is a double win for the ecommerce and recommerce industry. Recommerce is the fast-growing online resale marketplace segment such as Poshmark, threadUP, The RealReal, eBay, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and dozens more. In fashion alone the resale market is expected to reach $26 billion in 2022. AI enables used merchandise resellers to easily and quickly scale their business while also supporting the global movement toward sustainability, the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle items rather than contributing to more landfill waste, and throwing away usable goods.
The resale market, including product returns, for major retail brands has more than tripled over the last two years. This booming recommerce economy is driving new entrants and inspiring newer resellers to up their game and scale their business. The use of technology, notably AI and automation, is the answer to moving from a 5,000-item turn a month to double, or more, that volume.
Marketplace Listing is Key
The reality of the resale industry is that full scalability is not possible without tech-enabled operations. To double or even triple monthly volume, AI can empower a reseller to economically identify, describe and list thousands of items in a timeframe that supports sales and profitability. An AI listing solution uses machine vision to quickly and accurately categorize an item. For example, if a shirt is ready to be listed, based on AI’s database of learned intelligence, it ‘knows’ and recognizes that the image is a men’s dress shirt. Then, using AI will describe the color, style, pricing, and other attributes a customer wants to see before making a purchase decision.
AI-powered machine vision significantly improves the ability to produce and/or process more goods per minute. Today, humans look at each item to determine what exactly it is: price, material, brand, gender, what can be recycled, and just basic overall condition. Individual items lack consistent data-based identifiers like SKUs, codes, or tags, so everything is treated as a one-off product.
For resellers wanting to leverage mega-sites like eBay, efficient machine vision listing is also key to entry. The recommerce market is experiencing strong growth, but the competition for sales is growing simultaneously. To be successful over time, items being resold need to have listings that look and feel professional and align with the algorithms existing in the world of digital reselling.
Listings that are thorough and accurate and have SEO-compliant titles will expedite sales and are imperative for partnering with shopping sites. Using AI, a reseller will be able to automatically push out new items to an eBay store, for example. Likewise, if a reseller has any seasonal items – Fourth of July t-shirts or beach items – quickly getting them to the marketplace is essential to profit.
Returns Need Fast Turnaround
In 2021 returns totaled $761 billion, representing $309 billion in losses and $77 billion in untapped revenue due to items not being relisted in an efficient timeframe. For example, if neon brights are in fashion Spring this year, a reseller needs those returned items up on their site asap to leverage consumer tastes. Automated, faster listing, with AI and machine vision, helps resellers get goods back up and ready for the next sale.
Sustainability is the Double Win
AI can increase volume and profitability and help whittle down the billions of dollars in failed replacement of returned items. Long term, it is an important part of greening the planet. Reselling items can slow down the need for new items, adding to an over-supply that chokes the supply chain and fills landfills across the globe. However, for reselling to become more successful, the underlying processes, like fast return posting, accurate and efficient item descriptions, and constantly refreshing sites to stay current, can only be accomplished if humans use AI and other technologies to stay ahead of the goods flow.
Automated listings will also affect making prices more attractive to the consumer. By using automation, the processing cost per item will drop, and using economies of scale, the reseller can sustain profitability and offer items at a price point that is attractive to the consumer. Depending on the state of the economy – which in the U.S. is currently suffering from inflation – price sensitivity will play an even more significant part in customer buying.
A Sustainable Future
While AI and machine vision can seem technically esoteric to resellers, third-party solution providers in the marketplace can implement AI automation without a reseller having to find technical staff in a competitive labor market. AI is now integrated into ecommerce operations on a larger scale and will no doubt gain further acceptance in the fast-growing reseller market. It is an essential factor in the reselling industry, helping to green the planet.