How UsedEverywhere Is Transforming The Classified Ad Through Social Commerce
Online classifieds really came to the fore with the arrival of Craigslist in 1996. A fairly ugly, yet extremely simple, easy to use site that made it easy for people to start selling things online. Thousands of others have since emerged that have hoped to copy the model, and while some have succeeded (Gumtree etc.), many have failed because they have tried to copy Craigslist with little change other than perhaps some unnecessary buttons and distracting design.
The problem is that this never going to work because Craigslist was pretty much the first, and remains the best, of its kind. But what there is plenty of room for is innovation in the space: taking an existing model and re-applying it with emerging technologies. This is whatUsedEverywhere is doing, as they’re attempting to take the simple online classified space, and transform it through social commerce.
Canadian-based UsedEverywhere.com is owned (predictably for an online classified site) by the newspaper group Black Press, and is another much-needed example of the newspaper industry embracing online and social technologies. It was founded in 2003 and is now run by Tish Hill following the acquisition by the Black Press Group.
When I met with Tish to discuss the site, it became clear that above everything, what matters to the way in which the site is run is localisation. We’ve seen this work to great effect with the likes of Groupon, who adopt localised sites in particular countries, rather than rolling out identical branding across regions. The same strategy is applied at UsedEverywhere, but this is then taken further with the way in which social commerce is implemented.
Showing how classified sites can make use of social commerce, Used Everywhere began implementing group buying deals, that they found to be of huge success and popular among their users. Their first local deal was rolled out last month, for a local retailer.
The deal on offer was to purchase a $20 gift voucher for $10. The offering started off small, by allocating 100 redemptions. These sold out almost immediately and because of the high demand, the site then went down for two hours following the introduction of the deal. A problem for a new launch, but certainly a good one to have. This also extended through into the stores, as people were hunting down the store manager to purchase the deal, not having quite grasped the concept of online group buying.
This is certainly an impressive story, but case studies like this are common enough due to the viral nature of group buying (although it is starting to hit its limits). What sets UsedEverywhere apar though, is the combination of social with a local strategy. And more importantly, a local strategy that seems to work.
Each region the site is active in has their own dedicated management team, who look after community building locally, being given almost complete autonomy from the umbrella company. And while they may not be able to take on the likes of a Groupon here, they are almost certainly starting to take on Craigslist, which doesn’t offer much in the way of localisation. And this is where the unique opportunity lies for UsedEverywhere: combining localisation, classifieds and social commerce, to facilitate easy selling with intense word of mouth.
Is the demand there?
While the functionality and direction of UsedEverywhere is clear, what remains to be seen is whether there is significant user demand for another third party selling site. As everything is becoming ‘Facebookified’ in the area of social commerce, with many commentators seamlessly switching between using social commerce and Facebook commerce while really meaning the same thing, should the focus instead be on a native Facebook offering?
While UsedEverywhere is certainly not ignoring Facebook, with an active Facebook presence and planned integration of Facebook functionality, it seems that the value might be in developing a strong classified offering within Facebook.
Of course, this has been tried by Facebook themselves, with the fairly flat ‘Facebook Marketplace’ which launched without much fanfare and has pretty much carried on in the same way. But this was in many ways ahead of its time, before people were comfortable with purchasing via Facebook, or really had established networks that are needed for something like Marketplace to properly function.
At risk of sounding too gushing over Facebook, I really do see this as the single most important aspect of social commerce – both for the place in which it will happen, and the features that will transform the commerce process. If a site like UsedEverywhere can come along and do for commerce what Branchout did for professional networking on Facebook, we could see Facebook commerce being taken in a new direction.