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Goodwill OC Leads Digital Evolution

Goodwill of Orange County is poised for a digital makeover aimed at modernizing the Santa Ana nonprofit’s online retail backbone amid the increased appetite for e-commerce and resale.
The improvements come as the shopgoodwill.com online store, which was built and is operated by the local division, saw cumulative sales recently top $1 billion.
Half of those sales were generated in the past three years, with 2020 site sales totaling $171.3 million, up 22% from 2019.
“We’re excited about hitting that $1 billion mark, because not only is it reflective of the work that we’ve done here at Goodwill of Orange County as the owner and operator, but it impacts the entire Goodwill network,” said Goodwill of Orange County CEO and President Nicole Suydam.
“I think from our perspective, what we’ve been seeing the last three years is really an acceleration of Goodwills across the country recognizing the value and power of online shopping, and an emergence in interest of thrift and online shopping.”
Goodwill of Orange County is OC’s largest nonprofit, with $126.3 million in local revenue for the 12 months ended June 30.

Looking Head
Suydam and her team are projecting further growth in revenue from the website, with the sales trend in more recent years averaging 20% year-over-year growth.
Circumstances last year just accelerated the push to online.
“So many of the Goodwills were impacted by the pandemic and all of us had to shut our stores down, depending on local communities and now some are dealing with continued restrictions. For many, it accelerated their journey to e-commerce. In the spring [2020] I definitely got calls from some [local Goodwills that] hadn’t been doing e-commerce at all.”
That consumer trend, along with the next generation of Goodwill leadership interested in ramping digital, have helped efforts on the site, which is the e-commerce platform for most–129–local Goodwills across the country.
With little increase in the actual marketing budget to date to help boost the more recent ramp in e-commerce, the organization is now turning to increased intention and strategy around digital marketing for the site, Suydam said.
Goodwill of Orange County enlisted The Buddy Group of Costa Mesa with national marketing, while Irvine-based Synoptek will handle the software end and other aspects related to technology. PK Global, with multiple offices throughout the U.S., is handling the website aesthetic design improvements.
Shoppers later this year will see the launch of Goodwill’s first ever app for its site, a move that’s well justified with more than 60% of online shoppers visiting from a mobile device.
There will also be new branding and improved site navigation, officials said.

Growing Reach
The site will help expand the organization’s reach and ultimately its overarching mission,  said Suydam, who noted that it’s not going to erase Goodwill’s physical store footprint.
“Right now, I think there will always be a desire to have the brick-and-mortar stores because so much about thrift shopping is about the treasure hunt, the thrill of the hunt, and people love that in-person experience,” Suydam said.
“But I believe e-commerce is a way for us to reach another audience of people who may not shop in our stores and, in some cases, maybe they like to do both [online and in-store]. All of us want to be smart about how we do the brick-and-mortar store.”
E-commerce then becomes the complement to physical retail, helping obtain the highest possible value per item to fund the group’s mission of helping those with disabilities and other challenges to obtaining work via education and workforce development programs, among other services.
Last year, shopgoodwill.com saw 81.7% sell-through with jewelry, clothing, computer electronics and collectibles being top categories.

Ahead of His Time
Why and how Goodwill of Orange County was the division that ended up creating the Shop Goodwill site in 1999 and continues to operate it today, dates back to the ’70s with former CEO and President George Kessinger, who left the organization in the aughts to become CEO of Goodwill Industries International.
“He saw what was happening with eBay and he told the team ‘The same things I see at eBay, I see in our stores. I see in our donations.’ So he really challenged the team and that’s how [the site] got started,” Suydam said.
“A lot of other Goodwill CEOs thought he was crazy.”
Suydam said she still regularly speaks with Kessinger and keeps him updated on the site.
The former CEO is rumored to be the first person in the Goodwill network to have an email and Goodwill of Orange County was one of the first to have computers, Suydam pointed out.
“He was just really ahead of his time and forward thinking,” she said. “The team ran with it and we’re just continuing to run with it and take it to the next level.
“What we’re really proud of is that OC isn’t always well known in the rest of the country. When you tell people you’re from OC, you have to describe where it is, so we love that this site has put Goodwill of Orange County on the map to the rest of the Goodwills.”

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