The science of classifieds

Classifieds are sometimes seen as the clumsy cousins of ecommerce, but in reality they are cleverly designed, well-planned, and developed with sophistication.

April 15, 2014

By Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing, Gumtree South Africa 

Classifieds are sometimes seen as the clumsy cousins of ecommerce, but in reality they are cleverly designed, well-planned, and developed with sophistication.

People are shopping for cars, clothes and services in different ways than they did even five years ago. Fundamental shifts in consumer and advertiser behaviour in major verticals have forced businesses to re-examine how they approach customers, particularly for community businesses – and classifieds are particularly well-suited to this new model of business.

In a certain sense, classifieds have two functions. There is the aspect of its utility – buyers finding sellers and connecting with them. But there is also engagement. Just like any other etailer, individuals spend an average of ten minutes at a time on the site, simply browsing through items according to their interest. In some ways classifieds are more comparable with social media boards like Pinterest than conventional etailers – because the users generate the content and control the interaction. (There are also social share buttons embedded on posts, allowing users to quickly and easily distribute content.)

The added benefit of that is of course that the site is filled with what users want – and only what users want.

The design of the ads may be simple, but they are designed for an age of sparse attention and urgency – users want to see what crops up at a glance, fire off numerous requests for quotes, price negotiations or delivery.

The real power of classifieds lies in its search function. Internationally we’ve already seen that even large retail chains are entering deals with classifieds rather than focus on their own virtual storefronts, simply because of the sophistication of the medium’s search functionality. Users are directed to the exact goods they want either via Google, aggregators or within the site itself on a granular level. Certain industries such as real estate and car dealerships are particularly well-suited to the medium, with many opting for premium accounts that come with added benefits, such as API feeds, to keep their ads at the forefront.

And whilst some may think that visitors only arrive on a classifieds portal once on the odd occasion, when they are trying to buy or sell something, there are in actual fact numerous “super users” that visit the site on a daily basis and are constantly buying, selling and researching items – with some even becoming brokers for friends and family.

Classifieds, then, shouldn’t be dismissed as powerful players in the ecommerce world, but rather embraced as strong allies for any business that wants a truly captive and engaged audience.