Trade-In Program Markets: Where Do You Fit In?

Posted by Chintan Shah on Oct 9, 2015 9:55:32 AM

Mobile_Trade-In_Programs-3Mobile buyback programs are emerging as an increasingly popular win-win for service providers, resellers, and consumers. Customers who trade-in their old devices receive a sizeable credit toward a new device, and service providers can recoup some of the money spent on upgrade promotions in the second-hand market. Over the years, several trade-in channels have become popular paths for consumers, with each offering a different pricing model. Understanding where you fit in the four major tiers of trade-in programs is essential to determining the prices you can offer.  

Tier-One Carriers

Big service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile sit atop the trade-in program tiers, positions that allow them to offer more value to consumers who are looking to sell an old device.

These providers are not solely focused on the lofty economics of buying and selling used devices. They use trade-in programs to attract customers and sign them to either an equipment installment plan (EIP) or lease that lasts anywhere from 12 to 18 to 24 months. This model lends itself to a litany of promotions, especially related to trade-in offers.

For the sake of consistency, let’s examine the value of the iPhone 6 with the recent release of the iPhone6s and iPhone6s Plus. When the new iPhone models were released in September, the big service providers offered to match competitor trade-in values and gave out credits valued higher than many other buyback programs.

For example, T-Mobile will let customers pay as little as $5 per month for an iPhone6s by trading in the iPhone 6 model. If they turned in an “old” iPhone 5s, they could get the iPhone6s for $10 per month. Not to be outdone, Sprint responded to T-Mobile’s deal by offering the iPhone6s for $1 per month with the trade-in of an iPhone 6.

No matter how much they offer, trade-in programs are a vital piece of business for modern tier-one carriers, but it’s clear that they are supplemental programs built to incentivize sign-ups and renewals for EIPs and leases.

Apple Store

When Apple unveiled its iPhone6 and other new products in September, the tech giant also jumped into the trade-in game.

Apple announced it will sell the Phone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus with the option for customers to pay full price for a device over a 24-month period but, in turn, also be eligible to receive a new phone within a year. Consumers can buy a new phone every year and also receive the service repair program AppleCare+ for $32 per month for two years. They still need to choose a carrier for service.

Apple’s move into the leasing business says a lot about the aftermarket for old phones. But like the tier-one carriers, Apple wants to use its trade-in program as a means to ensure sales in the long term, hoping customers will choose to keep coming back for the latest smartphones.

Device Retailers

Retailers such as Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart all offer trade-in programs for mobile devices and can renew customer contracts on behalf of major service providers.

These retailers rely on promotions like tier-one carriers, but are more dependent on the economics of buying and selling second-hand devices. For example, Best Buy recently offered $315 for a used, 16-GB iPhone 6 in excellent condition, while Sprint offered up to $310 – but possibly less – for the same phone in similar condition. Best Buy can incentivize the offer with store credits toward accessories or other items, but they don’t typically throw caution to the wind just to get more devices in hand.

True Online Buyers

It’s becoming easier for consumers to get money quickly through online device trade-in programs. Companies in this category, like Gazelle and uSell, are solely focused on the economics of buying and selling devices in the aftermarket. 

Value is everything for these companies. Offering too much leads to losses for the whole company, but offering too little leads consumers to trade their devices in elsewhere. To increase trade-ins Gazelle recently offered a 10% bonus promotion paying customers more for their used mobile devices, which Gazelle will turn around and sell in the aftermarket. The biggest incentive to use online buy back companies is the instantaneous reward without having customers leave the comfort of their home.


Know Your Customer, Know Your Pricing Model

Each business model has its own goals and preferred customer types. Once you have carefully defined the parameters for your offer, you can then investigate reseller pricing to optimize the margin on each and every transaction.

How would you characterize your trade-in goals? Share your ideas below.

Download this white paper to learn how to create an efficient trade-in program that satisfies consumers and keeps them coming back every time they want to change devices.

About This Blog

The HYLA Mobile blog is a place for thoughtful dialogue that will ultimately change the perception of “used” phones around the world. Visit the HYLA website to learn more.

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