As a sustainability oriented social enterprise, Déjà Vu has differentiated itself from other platforms through innovation in two areas, business model and technology, based on the local conditions in China, and by making efforts to integrate sustainability ideas into various aspects of its operations. Through its consumer-to-business-to-consumer (C2B2C) business model, it can control the quality and ensure the safety of second-hand goods, and make them available to a wider group of consumers. Through the use of advanced algorithms, it can set fair prices and ensure the authenticity of products. Through these innovations, Déjà Vu has solved several problems that were holding back the growth of the market for second-hand goods in China.
University of Nottingham Ningbo China
In terms of business model innovation, Déjà Vu is the first C2B2C enterprise in the Chinese resale industry. Unlike traditional C2C enterprises, which allow consumers to sell used goods directly to other consumers, the C2B2C model allows companies to get involved in the resale process and monitor the quality of the second-hand products by cleaning, restoring and disinfecting them. Through Déjà Vu's unique refurbishment process, second-hand goods are disinfected in ozone chambers, cleaned and “renewed” effectively. In addition, Déjà Vu has taken advantage of the unique characteristics of the Chinese market, moving its standardized second-hand goods business from offline to WeChat and other online platforms, allowing it rapidly grow the number of consumers it can reach and the volume of goods it can handle.
The second innovation is related to the use of advanced technology. Based on machine learning principles, Déjà Vu has developed a database of authenticity to ensure only original books can be purchased. Apart from this, Déjà Vu has used algorithms to develop a unique pricing model that determines the most reasonable price for each item according to market supply and demand conditions and content. In other words, pricing is dynamic based on the market.
These innovation have significantly improved the efficiency of the resale process, and increase consumer trust in the resale market. More broadly, these innovations injected new ideas into China's resale industry (for instance, they have promoted the digitalization of the industry) and furthered the development of the circular economy in China.
The inspiration for Déjà Vu came from the experience of the founder, Maozhu, with the second-hand market when she was an undergraduate student. Initially, she wanted to develop a convenient disposal channel for consumer durables, to reduce the costs for each user and extend the lifespan of products. Additionally, she thought it was a good time to get into the second-hand business in China since the economy had developed rapidly and there is plenty of evidence of excess consumption in Chinese society. In Maozhu’s view, Chinese will increasingly reflect on their consumption behavior in the near future, and then shift toward more restrained consumption patterns. In terms of the business category, books were a good choice to start a resale business because it is a highly standardized category. In this circumstance, a company could provide a unique user service if a database could be built. Moreover, Maozhu claimed that there are a number of opportunities that were worth pursuing due to their potential social and environmental impact. Although they require hard work and might not be lucrative, it felt worth it to use creativity to make a difference in the market. Therefore, Déjà Vu was established.
Déjà Vu’s recycling business has a positive impact on the environment and ecosystem, since it has extended the lifespan of those resold products, which aligns with UN SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) that aims to control the material footprint. During the 4 years since its establishment, Déjà Vu has successfully promoted the value of the circular economy to the general public by building a shared platform with both online and offline services. Buyers can enjoy the guaranteed used goods at relatively lower prices without worrying about their quality, while sellers are provided with a sustainable way to dispose of their used products while gaining some income.
Moreover, Déjà Vu also developed a groundbreaking model that makes the circular economy more accessible to various groups. In this model, the selection of second-hand goods is determined by machine learning algorithms instead of the views or preferences of shop owners, and the prices of these products depend on supply and demand in the market, which breaks the entry barrier into the resale market and allows more people to participate in the circular economy. In addition, Déjà Vu’s ‘scanning code-pricing system’ has increased the efficiency and transparency of the trade of second-hand books, which ensures the quality of traded books while reducing the negotiation time between both sides. Furthermore, this system also prevents the trade of pirated books by populating its database with the features of original books and improving its ability to identify pirated ones, which improves the environment of this market.
By creating a new and profitable business model and utilising its innovative technologies, Déjà Vu has earned profits while being environmentally friendly at the same time. In 2020, the number of registered users online reached 6 million. With around 1500 orders from customers, Déjà Vu processed 20 to 30 thousand second-hand books each day. Apart from the online platform, Déjà Vu also has offline stores in Beijing and Shanghai, selling around 300 books and 50 to 100 clothes per day with a 80% selling rate and average turnover rate of 18 days.
Currently, there are more than 100 employees in Shanghai, Beijing and Kunshan, who are responsible for product selection, pricing, supply chain management and user interaction. These employees have shown great passion for the resale business in China, which creates a good working environment, making the business more productive and profitable towards the future goals. Moreover, due to the great potential of their business, Déjà Vu has attracted several investments from various companies such as Tencent, Matrix Capital, K2VC and Next Capital, attracting financing of over USD 15 million, which is further helpful to its further expansion.
Furthermore, having established a unique resale platform, Déjà Vu will further increase its brand awareness and promote sustainable value by launching a plan called “Net A Lot” in 2021. This plan aims to collaborate with other sustainable garment brands, such as EVERLANE, to gain more benefits through co-branding. By utilising Déjà Vu’s online channels, the environmentally friendly practices of these companies, including using sustainable materials and transparent production processes, will be more widely recognised by customers.
The resale of books and other durables, such as clothing, extends the lifespan of these products, which reduces the waste of natural resources including trees and fuel. By selling approximately 20 thousand books to new customers each day, it has brought these products back to the market, which improves the situation of overproduction and over-consumption, reducing the burden on the earth. Additionally, the environmentally-friendly packaging used by this company also brings benefits to the ecosystem. For example, their degradable laminating film will fully degrade into water and carbon dioxide within half a year after being composted, and their degradable packaging cushioning will degrade by 80% within half a year after being exposed to the sun for 10 days before landfill disposal. These innovative materials diminish harm to the environment without negatively affecting the daily operations of the company. Moreover, this company also reuses the shipping boxes from its customers; 100 to 200 boxes received from users are reused daily, which is a sustainable practice that is rarely seen in current the Chinese market.
Apart from this, Déjà Vu has also increased social awareness of the importance of sustainable consumption. As for the book business, there are around 6 million users in total and 1,500 orders are placed per day, implying that an increasing number of people accept the idea of buying and selling second-hand books.
In addition, its offline second-hand clothing business also changed the conventional concept of second-hand clothes among people, which helps raise social awareness of the importance of reuse. With a strict process of disinfection and cleaning that can eliminate 99.9% of bacteria, Déjà Vu has changed the traditional impressions of second-hand clothing as being dirty, old and damaged. Accompanied by fine decoration, these clothes are neatly displayed in the store, classified by styles and color, which makes the public more able to accept second-hand clothing. Currently, Déjà Vu has collected approximately 1,500 clothes in a single store, covering over 400 brands, varying from fast fashion brands to traditional brands, offering customers a one-step low-cost exploration to look for clothes with affordable prices that are set no higher than 25% of the original price.
Emily YANG, Operator
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Business Website: https://www.duozhuayu.com
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
Déjà Vu is an innovative company that promotes the resale of durable consumer goods such as books, clothing and electronic devices, which was established in 2017. Its motto is “Good products worth being purchased twice”. It aims to encourage the reuse of consumer durables—such as books and clothing—in response to the phenomena of overproduction and over-consumption. In order to achieve this mission, Déjà Vu has created an innovative online platform, backed by a unique business model and advanced technologies, to facilitate the growth of the Chinese resale market and reduce the waste of resources by extending the lifespan of products.