Brand Purpose Circular Economy Sustainable Transformation

How Gumtree plans to change perceptions of shopping secondhand to save the planet

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By Ellen Ormesher, Senior Reporter

March 21, 2023 | 7 min read

For years, the online platform has been helping people shop secondhand, locally. Now it wants to help retailers transition towards a circular economy.

Waterloo Station Gumtree

Gumtree’s pop-up skip in Waterloo Station for World Recycling Day / Gumtree

Gumtree has always been a community-driven platform, its CMO, Hannah Rouch tells The Drum. And “helping people find what they need locally, affordably and easily is of course, inherently sustainable.”

“We’ve always talked about this as our purpose,” she explains, “we want people to share more and waste less. But since the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, it’s all become intertwined and we’ve seen greater adoption, as well as people using the platform in different ways.”

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But as the climate crisis worsens, Gumtree has started to take its role in increasing circularity a lot more seriously. From a marketing perspective, that has meant “highlighting what the problem is, and how we can be part of the solution collectively with our community.”

“One way we’ve been doing that is by leveraging our carbon calculator and really quantifying for consumers what the impact is, what the saving is, and how important it is to waste less and keep things in circulation.”

“We’ve also been really trying to get under the bonnet of some of the opposition to secondhand – whether that’s perceptions around quality, concerns around availability or broader stigmas around the sourcing and buying of secondhand items.”

In a bid to normalize the adoption of secondhand shopping and bring it further into the mainstream, Rouch says it’s been increasing its partnerships with retailers “who want to test the waters of secondhand schemes and create their own circular models.”

“We worked with Ikea back in 2021, when it piloted its own buyback scheme. We’re now working with another charity partner to launch a circular hub. Retailers want to understand if there is a demand for their stock secondhand and we can support that because it’s great for our users, who can come to the site and search brand terms – it’s really positive.”

And last year, Gumtree's ‘Good Finds’ campaign, which included product placement as well as indents aimed to increase the uptake of second-hand shopping among the younger generations through its partnership with soap opera Hollyoaks.

Rouch says that inherently, increasing the number of retailers and platforms providing buyback and secondhand options only improves the experience for consumers. “Yes we’re a business at the end of the day, and we do have competitors, but the bigger we can make the circular economy and second-hand market, the better it is for everyone.”

But Rouch says she’s conscious that Gumtree’s sustainability messaging cannot only be through its services – but that it must be embedded in the brand’s responsibility as an advertiser.

“Now we’ve moved away from Ebay,” (the platform was sold to Adevinta in 2020) she says, “we’ve had the opportunity to develop our own ESG strategy.” And Gumtree is now much more selective with the advertisers it allows on its own site.

“We have a strict blacklist of advertisers we won’t work with and we review this regularly,” says Rouch. “We don’t work directly with petroleum companies or fast fashion, but importantly, we’re also shifting our advertising model around how we work with advertisers, brands and retailers going forward.” She uses retail events that drive higher consumption like Black Friday as an example.

“We’ve got 14 million unique users who are, of course, going to be buying things on Black Friday. So we’re working with retailers to encourage buyers to offset and list those items and lean into the circular nature of that messaging.”

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“We’re also moving towards more integrated partnerships, branded content campaigns and growing our SME advertisers. We’ve got an increasingly entrepreneurial audience and so it’s going to become important how we work with them to drive those behavior changes collectively.”

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