The classified advertising business is busier than ever before, according to Felix Erken of Junk Mail, with new mobile channels bringing a younger audience to a well-established marketplace.
Offering users their choice of print, web or mobile access to the same large database of classified ads has boosted traffic substantially, says Erken. “Ten years ago we thought we were doing well running 35,000 ads a month. Now we’re easily doing double that number.”
“There’s a generational shift in the media that people prefer,” adds Erken. “The 20-somethings who enjoyed Junk Mail in print when it launched in the 1990s have now partly moved to the web, but their grown-up children prefer to buy and sell via their mobile phones. It’s still the same experience at heart, just through a different medium.”
Erken adds that South Africa is a very classifieds-friendly market. “In some wealthier countries people tend to give their old stuff away. Here we have a large middle class of people who on the one hand want to make some extra cash from stuff they don’t need or want anymore, and on the other hand really enjoy a bargain. Classified ads fill a real need.”
“It’s in some ways a form of entertainment,” adds Erken. “There’s a strong community around Junk Mail and people are very loyal to the brand. There’s a certain element of trust built up. Here’s a typical story: A friend bought a used dartboard on Junk Mail from someone in another town and accidentally overpaid by R50. He told the seller to include the change with the dartboard when he mailed it – and sure enough, the dartboard arrived with a R50 note taped to the back. There’s a feel-good element to these interactions that keeps people coming back.”
The popularity of classified advertising and the relative ease of setting up an online platform also means there is lots of competition, says Erken. “A lot of entrepreneurs look at it and think it will be easy to do. Fortunately size really does count in this business: The bigger your user base, the more likely it is that each advertiser will make a successful sale, and the more attractive your community is. At Junk Mail we plan to make the most of our advantage.”