What is it? Back Market is an online platform that aims to make refurbished devices mainstream. They provide a marketplace for vendors to sell their refurbished devices, guaranteeing quality by vetting vendors and undertaking continuous quality control (Back Market, 2022a). They also offer a 1-year warranty for all items sold through their platform, increasing trust in the renewed device.
Why is this important? In 2019 alone, 53.6 million metric tonnes of electronic waste were discarded and only 17% of these were adequately recycled (Back Market, 2020). Among electronic devices, smartphones are a prime example of high replacement rates and large waste. In Europe, almost 7 new smartphones are sold every second (Sholars, 2021) and those phones are oftentimes replaced before their technical obsolescence, with the average lifespan of a smartphone declining to approximately 12 months (Haucke, 2018). Similar high replacement rates can be seen in other electronics and, while 77% of Europeans would prefer to repair their electronics rather than replace them, only 11% do because of the high cost and lack of available repair offers (Sholars, 2021). Refurbishing electronics not only helps extend the life of existing electronics by giving them a second life but can also lead to less overall consumption of new items and scarce resources.
Main resource strategy: Slowing the loop through enabling longer lifetimes and repeat use of previously used devices.
Other resource strategies: Narrowing the loop through enabling the repeat use of resources in existing devices that are repaired. This reduces the need to use new resources for the production of new items.
Business model aspects:
- Value Proposition: Back Market provide an online platform where refurbishers can offer renewed electronic devices to customers. Back Market vets the refurbishers before allowing them to sell on their site and continuously after through test orders (Back Market, 2022a). This way, they enable a second life and less waste while also restoring trust in refurbished and like-new devices.
- Value Creation & Delivery: Back Market offer their online platform in thirteen countries in 2021 and host over 1000 sellers of renewed electronics on there. The sellers are asked to submit themselves to a review process before joining in order to be certified with the Back Label that allows them to trade on the platform (Back Market, 2022a).
- Value Capture: Back Market captures value through charging a 10% commission fee on any item (Olson, 2018) and a €50 monthly fee to sellers (Cubyn, 2021).
Strategies for degrowth/ sufficiency (based on sufficiency strategies from Niessen & Bocken, 2021):
- Awareness-raising & Question consumption: In 2020, Back Market partnered with iFixit to celebrate ‘Still in its Prime Day’ instead of Black Friday. The two businesses joined forces to highlight the large amount of perfectly fine items that are discarded and to “increase awareness about the toll overconsumption takes on our finances, the planet, and our happiness” (Back Market, 2020).
- Exchange platform: Back Market provide a platform for vetted refurbishers to sell their electronics to customers, thereby offering a B2C exchange platform for renewed devices.
- Open-source creation: As part of a pilot project, Back Market developed the CO2NSCIOUS app with open source code that was meant to show CO2 emissions generated while charging your phone.
Business model experimentation practices: Since its inception in France in 2014, Back Market has grown to serve ever more countries (13 markets in 2021, including launching in the US in 2018) (Back Market, 2021) and has been classified as a unicorn due to its successful acquisition of investment funding (Crunchbase, 2022).
Sustainability outcomes: Back Market estimates, that, in 2019 alone, their customers have prevented the emission of 47,088 tons of CO2, and the extraction of 352,586 tons of raw materials, as well as prevented the creation of nearly 450 tons of e-waste (Back Market, 2022b).
Back Market (18.05.2021). Back Market raises $335 million as its renewed electronics marketplace approaches 5 million customers worldwide. Press release. Accessed 7 February 2022 at: https://press.backmarket.com/series-d-funding
Back Market (2022b). New vs. Refurbished: The Environmental Impact of the Tech Industry. Accessed 7 February 2022 at: https://www.backmarket.com/content/event/new-vs-refursbished-environmental-impact/68
Niessen, L., & Bocken, N. M. P. (2021). How can businesses drive sufficiency? The business for sufficiency framework. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 28, 1090-1103. doi:10.1016/j.spc.2021.07.030
Olson, P. (22.08.2018). This Marketplace Is Revving Up The Refurbished-Phone Assault On Apple. Forbes. Accessed 7 February 2022 at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2018/08/22/back-market-refurbished-iphones-apple-samsung/
Sholars, M. (2021). Back Market Elected to the Right to Repair Ruropean Campaign Steering Committee. Back Market Stories. Accessed 7 February 2022 at: https://story.backmarket.com/back-market-right-to-repair/
About project Circular X
Project Circular X is about ‘Experimentation with Circular Service Business Models’. It is an ambitious research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which supports top researchers from anywhere in the world. Project CIRCULAR X runs from 2020-2025. The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Prof Dr Nancy Bocken, who is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), Maastricht School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. The project cooperates with businesses who want to innovate towards the circular economy.
Project Circular X addresses a new and urgent issue: experimentation with circular service business models (CSBMs). Examples of such new business models include companies shifting from selling products to selling services and introducing lifelong warrantees to extend product lifetimes. However, CSBMs are far from mainstream and research focused on experimentation is little understood. The research aims to conduct interdisciplinary research with 4 objectives:
- Advancing understanding of CSBMs; their emergence and impacts
- Advancing knowledge on CSBM experimentation
- Developing CSBM experimentation tools
- Designing and deploying CSBM experimentation labs
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 850159.
Using this information
When you cite this publication, please use the following source:
Circular X. (2022) Case study: Back Market - Building trust for renewed devices. Accessed from www.circularx.eu