By Georgia Parsonson
As the first wave of COVID-19 swept across Australia in early 2020, Lifeline Queensland was forced to close its 130 stores essentially overnight.
It represented a significant loss in revenue for the organisation’s Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention services. Lifeline Queensland had no choice but to adapt accordingly. To maintain its service to the Queensland community, Lifeline shifted to the Internet and set up an online store.
QUT Emeritus Professor Miles McGregor-Lowndes is a board member of UnitingCare, which operates Lifeline under Licensing Queensland. He is also the former director of the QUT Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non-Profit Studies.
Regarding the matter, he said, “Non-profit organisations needed leaders to take courage and seek opportunities to survive and thrive when faced with a crisis.”
Professor McGregor-Lowndes has spent years studying and contributing to the improvement of non-profit organisations. He has developed Accounting, Marketing, and Human Resource materials to allow such organisations to minimise costs and professionalise their services.
“Lifeline Queensland’s rapid response to the revenue shortfall was brilliant,” he said.
“I have been around the sector for more than 40 years and interested in op shops, and this is truly a remarkable breakthrough executed with expertise and passion on a shoestring budget in the most challenging of social and economic conditions.”
Jamie Mackay, General Manager of Lifeline Retail, said, “We had just temporarily closed our 130 stores and needed to find a way to offset the loss in retail sales revenue.”
“So we formed a team of people from three different warehouses and devised a plan to build and take a website live within four weeks.
“We turned up to work (online) every day and worked through the plan together – solving issues from logistics to website interface, from backend IT infrastructure to uploading product photos.
“Very quickly, we became one of Australia’s largest online op shops. I believe Australians are excited to have the op shopping experience they love, now delivered online.”
Mr Mackay believes that one of the main reasons people op-shop at Lifeline is its purpose. All of the shops’ profits go towards the organisation’s 24-7 Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention program.
“People love to support this service,” he said.
Another reason, he explained, was because “our product offering is genuinely appealing and our stores are funky and retro. Just because we are an op shop doesn’t mean people shouldn’t expect high-quality products and a first-class customer experience.”
“We are constantly looking at ways to improve our customer experience because we know it’s the key to the future success of the business.”
Dr Shasha Wang of QUT’s Business School is researching op shoppers motivations in all facets of society. Such reasons are related (though not restricted) to personal finances, anti-consumption, and nostalgia.
Dr Wang, a Social Media Marketing Communication researcher, said, “Lifeline Queensland has made sophisticated use of sales promotion in social media. For example, they ran a ‘flash sale’ on Facebook which appeals to people sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) when you have a limited time to make a choice.”
She also explained that online vendors are trusted by consumers when they provide clear, accessible posts, and Lifeline has successfully demonstrated this fact.
“Lifeline is already a trusted organisation, the online op shop is clearly set out, and their customer service policies engender trust.”