Global Matters

What is Recommerce?

The latest trend in sustainable consumption is mostly nothing new — literally.

Photographer taking a picture of a shirt for a recommerce shopping website.

Long the trawling grounds of hipsters and bargain hunters, consignment stores, flea markets, and thrift stores of all flavors are well-known options for sustainable shopping. Today, a similar ethos — to keep perfectly good goods in use and out of the waste stream — is being reborn as Recommerce.

Recommerce, defined

Short for “reverse commerce,” Recommerce takes a circular approach to manufacturing and consumption, where products and materials are reintroduced back into the economy rather than dumped in landfills, ultimately helping to reduce waste and pollution. According to the EPA, less than 15 percent of textiles are actually recycled1, leaving approximately 85 percent of post-consumer textiles either burnt or buried in the ground.

As an alternative, Recommerce brings together the spirit of the R’s of sustainable personal consumption — reduce, reuse, recycle — and recasts them, connecting buyers and sellers through customer-to-customer (C2C) online marketplaces. There, consumers can refill, repair, resell, rent, return, and redistribute goods that, in the past, might have only had one life to live. More and more, consumers are passing on perfectly new goods for perfectly good used ones.

What is driving Recommerce?

According to Visa Globescan research, which surveyed 7,000 consumers and 1,750 small and micro businesses (SMBs) across seven countries in Europe around their relationship with Recommerce, half of consumers take part in at least one Recommerce activity more than once per year. And no single factor is driving consumer uptake. For resale, rental, and repair efforts, financial motivators like saving or making additional money are the primary reasons for choosing Recommerce. For refill and return services, users are ultimately motivated by environmental concerns.

Younger consumers are also more likely to shop secondhand because it’s an affordable way to acquire higher-quality goods and it minimizes their environmental footprint. Outside of simply shopping secondhand, 18-34 year-olds are the main users of every category of Recommerce activity (except for refill, where 35 – 54 year-olds have an edge). For brands looking to reach a younger market, focusing on affordable and sustainable options is one way to speak the language of a new generation. 

Whatever the motivation for consumers, businesses of all shapes and sizes are capitalizing on Recommerce as a way to attract new customers, reduce costs and increase sales. With bigger markets in mind, traditional retailers are making it easier for customers to make sustainable choices while increasing brand affinity with buy-back and resale programs, where customers can return items (sometimes in exchange for a gift card) and purchase pre-owned goods.

The future of Recommerce

As the planet’s climate changes and cost-of-living increases in many parts of the world, the way consumers shop (and the options that businesses of all sizes offer) have perhaps never been under greater scrutiny. And given where payments sit, at many intersections between consumers and businesses, the industry itself can help enable a shift in consumer behavior, from the kind of one-time-use habits of the past, to the more sustainable behaviors our present and future require.

To help accelerate the transition toward a more regenerative and equitable circular economy, Visa has created a new digital Recommerce space to help individuals and businesses learn more about how to adopt the six R’s of Recommerce (resale, repair, rental, refill, return and redistribution). As a next step, Visa is set to develop a behavioral insights lab — an open-source experiment around sustainable behavior. Through working with clients and partners, the lab aims to uncover actionable ways to implement real-world solutions and empower individuals to adopt more sustainable behaviors in their everyday lives.


To learn more, check out Visa’s digital Recommerce space.


Tag: Payment trends

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