The Trade-In Revolution

Every couple of months I get the new car itch.  It’s not that I don’t like my existing car, but there’s always some new feature or cool gadget or new styling that catches my eye and I start doing the hunting. It’s easy to figure out what a new car with my chosen options will cost, and just as easy to figure out what my loan payments would be.  Much more difficult to determine is the value I’d get on my trade-in. So I browse Craigslist, but my current car is relatively rare and finding a comparable sale price is difficult.  There’s Kelley Blue Book, but even that can be inaccurate for predicting every trade-in.  After exhausting the methods available for figuring out what my current car’s value would be in the used car market, I generally end up taking a drive in said car, realize how much I like it and then decide to stick with it. But my mobile handset is a different story.

A plethora of companies are coming online offering the option to do trade-ins with electronics, especially mobile phones.  With the recent recession, companies and consumers are looking to find value in all manner of places that haven’t been explored before. I have a drawer stacked full of ancient phone and computer hardware – who knew the contents of that drawer were worth money?  But mobile hardware holds more value than people think because wireless service providers usually subsidize the cost of the hardware.  When you sign a two-year contract and walk out with that new $49 smartphone, the actual cost to the carrier could be $249 or more. With that thought in mind, just how much value is sitting in the bottom desk drawers at your company?

With most of the new phone trade-in programs, if you bring in your old phone – from whatever carrier, it doesn’t matter – you get trade-in credit towards your new phone and any accessories.  Bring in a couple of old mobile devices that you’ve held onto as ‘backups’ and perhaps get the new Motorola ATRIX or HTC Inspire for a whole lot less!

It’s not just a good deal for the consumer. The company doing the trade-ins makes money either by sending the older, out-dated phones to a recycling facility or by selling those that retain value on the secondary market – either domestically through venues like eBay or in developing countries where new devices are simply economically out of reach of the average person.

A fantastic side benefit to these trade-in programs is that by utilizing them, you help avoid eWaste. The materials used to manufacture phones are the same as those used to make computers – many contain harmful chemicals and metals that don’t belong in a landfill.  Recycled phones – those that end up with other users and those deconstructed to remove the chemicals and precious metals – will leave a much smaller carbon footprint than those phones that are simply thrown away.

As more companies launch trade-in programs, there’s a chance the supply of older devices will increase and that the amount you’ll get for a trade-in will drop. But in my mind, getting some value – any value – for the old handsets in your bottom drawer is preferable to tossing them out or having them take up space.

I’ve been thinking about other areas where similar trade-in programs could work.  Not only vehicles and consumer electronics, but in the B2B space as well, where companies could allow trade-ins as credit towards various upgrades.  These days, it’s important to make it easy for customers to buy from you. By being willing to help them dispose of their old equipment in exchange for a discount on new equipment, you lower the buying hurdle, increase their loyalty, and potentially shorten upgrade cycles. You may even be able to find your own value in trade ins. Examine the market for your company’s used goods. Knock off a percentage for your margin and decide if you could turn a trade-in business into a small profit machine – all while making your customers’ lives easier and the world a cleaner place.

How does your company handle disposal of old devices?
Have you seen other recycling programs that could benefit your company or companies like yours?
David Egger IRU Mobility Programs Lead Marketing Manager AT&T About David