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Brief Published: 14 Nov 2019

Sonos’ Trade Up Scheme Illustrates Afterlife Opportunity


US audio company Sonos is launching a Trade Up scheme to encourage consumers to continue using branded electronics and responsibly recycle old and unwanted ones. We explore the opportunity for brands to guide consumers in the product afterlife.

The scheme offers a 30% discount voucher to consumers to trade in their old speakers for a current edition. After applying online, the old product enters recycle mode after 21 days, when it is cleared of all data before deactivating.

At this point, rather than send the device back to Sonos, the company advises users to deliver it to a local recycling centre. The environmental cost of shipping goods in a return scheme is higher than disposing of it locally. Although Sonos loses access to these recyclable materials, this choice encourages individuals to be mindful of the hidden effects of transit.

There remains a lot of confusion amongst consumers about how to recycle e-waste and what services are available to them. This presents a valuable opportunity for brands to build loyalty by holding their hand through this process.

Sonos’ instruction to recycle locally could be improved, as it requires consumers to research these facilities themselves – making it likely that product will end up in the garbage. One alternative is that the discount could be rewarded after the device is taken to the recycling plant. However, this would require co-ordination with infrastructure, or another means of proof. More simply, the app could provide a map detailing local recycling points to help engage consumers with the waste-management network around them.

While a lot of experimentation is still needed, there is much room for brands to work on making products as desirable to recycle as they are to buy, maintaining a strong relationship with consumers throughout their entire journey with a product.

For an example of how to help consumers navigate waste management, see the Ecolana example from Latin American Avant-Garde Design.