It’s Simple: Cash for Electronics on Gazelle.com

Keep It Simple, Stupid could be the motto for Gazelle. Gazelle touts itself as a dead-simple to use site for trading in electronics for cash. And that simplicity is what has it on awards lists like Lead411′s Technology 500 and Inc. 500, and accounts for the fact that the company raked in $8.3 million in revenues in 2009.

“The customer experience that we’ve created is our best marketing channel,” says Dan Smith, Vice President of Marketing at Gazelle. The company is, he says, obsessed with simplifying the customer experience.

What does that user experience look like? Visit Gazelle.com and type in the electronic device you want to sell. Choose which model you have and answer a few questions about the condition. Bam. Instant quote on how much they’ll pay you. Shipping is free, and they’ll even wipe your personal data from the device.

After that, your device has two places it can go. If it’s in usable condition, as 90% of Gazelle’s inventory is, it will get resold via Gazelle’s eBay channel or through wholesalers. If it’s not, it will be responsibly recycled. “It’s a naturally green service,” says Smith.

Gazelle is striving to redefine the consumption of electronics. Take the car buying model. When you buy a new car, you don’t trash the old one; you trade it in for cash or credit towards the new one. So many people don’t know what to do with old electronics, and let them gather dust in a drawer. Gazelle wants to keep those electronics in action and pay you to take them off your hands.

But what kind of money are we talking about? It depends, says Smith, on the age and condition of the product. Some items, like the iPhone and Droid phones, hold their value better than others. Some customers get more than they paid for the product, since mobile carriers subsidize the cost of the phone and build it into the phone service plan.

Charitable Contributions

Gazelle’s not just green. They’re good too. After many customers requested sending masses of products in to them in exchange for donations to their favorite charities, Gazelle created Gazelle for Good. Essentially they set up a special page for your organization, which you can promote via email, social media, etc. People turn in their electronic devices and the value of all the items is donated to the charity of your choice. NBC and Microsoft have used Gazelle for Good for their own charity fundraising.

Psst: Have You Heard About Gazelle?

The user experience, according to Smith, is the company’s best marketing ally. The sheer simplicity of use is enough to get customers to tell others about it, helping it spread virally. Gazelle also dabbles in internet marketing and social media campaigns. With each iPhone launch, Gazelle hosted a RIP iPhone campaign on Twitter where followers were encouraged to eulogize their iPhones.

She led a good life, albeit short. But I’m ready for the 4G!

Winners were given the newest iPhone.

Another successful marketing channel is retailer partnerships. Smith says the company partners with the likes of Costco and Office Depot to host in-store and online trade in programs. They’ve hosted laptop drives with Office Depot where customers could bring in old laptops and get credit toward new ones. He hopes to see more in-store integration in the future among retailers.

Conquering the World

Gazelle’s biggest obstacle, according to Smith, is the fact that people simply aren’t yet thinking about cashing in on those dusty electronics. But in this small industry of “ReCommerce,” Gazelle is a big player. The few competitors they have focus on just a few types of products (like only mobile phones), whereas Gazelle buys products in 20 categories. It’s going to take a mind-shift to get people aware that they are sitting on cash, and it’s happening, slowly but surely.

Smith says the holiday season is big for Gazelle: “The holiday time is a strong period for us, while people look to earn cash to help with their holiday shopping.”

Gazelle hit 100,000 customers this summer, and looks to do even better by year end. And as retailers begin to see the value in partnering with Gazelle for in-store trading, Gazelle’s future looks nothing but bright.