eBay really ought to understand classifieds by now. It has (at least) two phenomenal businesses in the portfolio that are exemplary playbooks to emulate: Gumtree in the UK and Marktplaats in Holland. So why is eBay fannying about with eBay branded launches and seemingly half-ditching the Kijiji brand?
In the 1990s, eBay was touted as the death of newspaper and local advertising and yet the space (some 15 years later) is still up for grabs. Craigslist has prospered stateside but America is not the world (as Morrissey once pointed out). It’s still a prize worth winning and could be a fine feather in eBay’s cap.
But I think eBay has forgotten one of its own founding principles, that is no less true with regard to local classifieds. The foundation of a successful marketplace does not lie in ecommerce expertise but rather building and galvanising an online community.
Parachuting a brand in (such as the virtually impossible to relate to Kijiji) or slapping an eBay logo on a pale imitation of the competition, isn’t going to work. Fostering local groups, nurturing grassroots interest and loyalty and getting it right on a hyper-local level is how the likes of Craigslist and Gumtree kicked off and succeeded. Unfortunately, I fear the community building expertise and zeal eBay had has long since been lost. I also think the dogged passion of a start-up that makes community building easier is now impossible within the stodgy eBay Inc. we see now.