home Customer Experience, Disrupt the Disrupters Gumtree helping customers succeed in the second-hand economy during COVID

Gumtree helping customers succeed in the second-hand economy during COVID

Gumtree helps local buyers and sellers to connect and exchange goods and services across Australia. When COVID struck Gumtree had to make drastic changes to its operating model and how it serviced its customers. Amanda Behre, Head of Marketing, explains how Gumtree leveraged its data and customer insights to engage and connect with the communities it serves.

Amanda Behre,
Head of Marketing, Gumtree Australia. Amanda is a presenter at the IQPC Conference –
14th Annual Customer Experience Management Disrupt

Gumtree may receive, on average, 80 – 90,000 listings a day from sellers of second hand or used goods. Buyers search these listings, which are divided into categories, to find items they’re looking to buy. When someone finds something on Gumtree they want, they contact the seller to arrange payment and how to pick up the item.

When COVID struck Gumtree had to respond quickly by introducing a range of programs to ensure their customers could keep trading during the Pandemic. Behre comments, “Gumtree facilitates a lot of face-to-face trading. We had to make drastic changes to our model during COVID due to social distancing and lock down restrictions.  Gumtree doesn’t normally offer delivery options but during COVID we partnered with Sendle so buyers could have their goods delivered.”

“We also introduced something we called the ‘contactless trade’ badge. Customers had to use this ‘contactless trade’ badge to indicate to buyers and sellers that they would follow the right protocols when trading during COVID.”

To support their response to the pandemic, a COVID taskforce was setup to ensure Gumtree had quick communications and were able to respond in real-time to customers. “One thing we focus on is balancing supply and demand. A trading platform like our relies on that balance of getting the right buyers connected to the right sellers so they’re all getting success on the platform. This is where leveraging our data plays a crucial role in finding that right balance.”

“For example, we can identify what items are in high demand in certain areas and then reach out to the relevant communities to let them know. So, let’s say in Melbourne, or even down to the suburb level, we would look at our search demand trends and say, ‘Surfboards and iPhones are really popular in your local area right now. Why don’t you place a listing and earn some extra money while buyers are looking?”

Responding to the needs of the community

Connection to and supporting the community is critically important for Gumtree as Behre explains, “It’s really clear that we’re quite a community organisation and, during the pandemic, we became a little bit of a beacon in the community and it influenced a lot of what we did. For example, at the start of the pandemic a lot of the toilet paper and hand sanitisers that were flying off supermarket shelves were ending up on Gumtree.”

“So, there was lots of profiteering and price gouging behavior on the site. We were receiving numerous complaints from customers so we quickly made the decision to remove all of those products on the platform because it wasn’t the right behaviour.”

A significant initiative Gumtree established over the pandemic was something they refer to as the Gummie Support Network. Many people had lost their jobs or main source of income and many needed help to acquire basic essentials. Gumtree allowed people to place listings on the platform asking for help while others could offer help via the platform.

“Hundreds of people placed wanted ads on the site because they needed help with certain things like shopping for essential items. We had people offering dog walking services, lawn mowing and things like that. It was really great and inspiring to see the level of interaction with the community happening over that time.”

Turning hardship into success and sustainability

Gumtree offered the community plenty of assistance and support via social media and various communication channels. “We are very proactive around sharing trust and safety tips as well as customer success stories. A number of our customers who experienced varying degrees of hardship from losing their jobs and livelihoods, were able to turn their side hustles into their main form of income by buying and selling things on Gumtree, refurbishing items for sale and so forth.”

As well as helping people secure alternative incomes for themselves a healthy second-hand economy is good for the environment, Behre says, “Refurbishing and trading second-hand goods limits the amount of material that goes to landfill. We encourage a philosophy of one in and one out, where before buying something new you try to sell something old.”

Gumtree places a lot of effort in publicising and promoting the benefits of the secondhand economy to foster economic opportunities as well as encouraging responsible living.  “It really goes to the heart of what we’re about. We really promote the value and benefits of the second-hand economy to overcome the stigma of buying second-hand goods.”.

Staying true to one’s brands and values

If there’s one thing Amanda Behre has learnt through her career and her time at Gumtree is the importance of sticking to one’s values and staying true to the brand. She says, “From a customer perspective, people want to work with brands that are doing good and contributing positive to the community and the world. It’s about winning the hearts and minds of your customers.” “One of my big things is to make sure we’re staying true to our brand and values, no matter what events or challenges or opportunities are thrown at us. It’s about ensuring we respond with agility with what’s important for our customers and how they can succeed in the secondhand economy.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.