To answer this question it is necessary to define the country we are looking at. The societies in countries like the US, UK and Scandinavia are clearly better educated and more open-minded towards refurbished products than we are in central Europe like Germany.
“Refurbished” – a new condition
Probably the current biggest issue is the misunderstanding of what a refurbished product really is. Most of the people associate a refurbished product with a classic “used” product, so they only divide between two product conditions: “New” and “Used”, but this is not the case anymore. The condition “refurbished” is not a sub-category of “used”, it is a self-standing condition, which is between “new” and “used” as it combines the benefits of both! The product price is more likely the price of a “used” product, but technically as well as the exterior it is like-new (depending on the Grading level – see December post).
One of the biggest current problems is the trust-issue of customers. When they have to decide to purchase a brand new phone or a 10-40% cheaper refurbished phone, they are often still taking the higher priced “new” one. As the quality of a refurbished product is depending on the quality process of the refurbisher (as described in my last post), a good quality can only be guaranteed, if you purchase a refurbished product from a well-known player. To increase the trust for the customer most refurbisher offer at least a 1-year warranty (some even up to 36 months), which means that the customer can return the product for every not self-responsible defect within this time period.
Actually in Germany and Austria there is no association existing (like in most of the countries), which would be countable for the refurbished industry (i.e. to develop overall standards). As the industry is just in the beginning it is not a surprise, but of course it would clearly help for the acceptance as well as the awareness of this new industry.
When customers purchasing refurbished products on well-known marketplaces like Amazon or eBay one of the biggest issues is that the customer experience (i.e. product detail page) nearly looks exactly the same as for new products. The result: customers are complaining for example that the product “is fake, as the product is coming in a generic box and not in the original one”. This issue is driven as these marketplace are not changing their whole interface for this new category. Refurbished products are in need of explanation at least for now, where it is still a relatively new “thing”!
In most surveys the majority of people are saying that sustainability is important for me. Nevertheless when asking them what they are currently doing to support the sustainability? The responses are often inaccurate as sustainability is something you have to care to be accepted in the society, but you don´t want to give up the comfort or standards you currently have. If we are able to outline these people that with a refurbished product they do not have to give up any standards (same product quality and also a warranty), but could still do something good for the sustainability, this could really make a difference.
The biggest task in the following years will be to educate the society what refurbished means and especially that it is a new self-standing condition, which is between “new” and “used”. One of the strongest forces to support and develop such a change of thinking, can be the politics. Especially if refurbishing as a part of sustainability is getting a more and more important topic on their political agenda.