Earlier, around 70-80% of the traffic came from desktop while the remaining came from mobile. Within the last three-four years, it changed to 75%, and today, we are at about 90-95% from mobile
In a diverse country like India, OLX had to work harder to make the concept of selling and buying of used items a common phenomenon, as compared to other countries it is present in. OLX’s Amarjit Singh Batra talks about how consumers are at the core of the business, from using consumer insights to creating interesting advertising to making the whole process simpler for users. Edited excerpts:
By: Meghna Sharma
The advertising from OLX has always been experimental. What has been the thought process behind campaigns like Womaniya or The break-up challenge?
OLX is a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers. We did not have anybody to copy or get inspired from in India. One of the fundamental things we have done since the beginning is to use consumer insights throughout our journey. We look at three types of customer insights. Under the first type, we conduct general researches across the board for the full year and under that we have some large reports like the consumer research on used goods and selling trends (CRUST) which we have been doing for the last three years. Second, we do specific researches. In the third, we analyse the behaviour and ask questions from people who are using OLX.
For example, earlier, the problem was, people didn’t know what to do with our platform. From that came the idea of Bech de. But we realised further that a lot of women were not using the platform while they were the owners of the goods. They were the ones who decided what would happen with the stuff lying at home. Thus came about the Womaniya campaign.
If you look at the CRUST report, one of the biggest insights was that they were holding and stocking items for more than six months which was collectively worth about Rs 78,000 crore. We gave the marketing idea directly to the consumer as the Six Months Break-Up Challenge.
How has your marketing spend changed over time?
We are a product-driven organisation. Marketing is still our major expenditure. Offline marketing used to be 60% of our overall marketing budget till a few years back and has now come down to about 40-50%. The rest of it is going to digital; while 70-80% of our offline spend goes to TV.
Which medium is your preferred platform for advertising?
We have seen that TV has been very effective for us but as we have progressed, our brand has become quite well known. So we have shifted more to digital and digital marketing; especially mobile has become quite effective. We can do more specific targeting with digital.
With TV, the challenge has been to know about the returns on the money you have spent. We do strong analytics around media effectiveness and dive deep into what channels are working for us; even what spots on TV are working for us or not. We are probably the first brand to advertise in five or six languages simultaneously in different scripts targeted towards different regions.
Does OLX adopt different marketing strategies in each country? The concept of a garage sale is also
Absolutely, and that is the fundamental difference between other markets and India. In India, there was no concept of a garage sale or flea markets and hence, when we started OLX in India, one of our biggest challenges was to explain to people the need to sell stuff. We had to craft out a story on our own; whereas in other markets, it was very easy. For any new concept — we have something like garage sale to online sale, offline shopping to online shopping — we need a bit of education. One of the core parts of our marketing processes over the last two years has been to adopt an educational stance in our marketing strategy, and evangelising the whole idea of buying
For OLX India, which medium — desktop or mobile — contributes the maximum traffic? Also, which category sees maximum traction?
I think we were one of the first brands to realise that if India has to go down the path of internet adoption, it has to happen on mobile. Earlier, around 70-80% of the traffic came from desktop while the remaining came from mobile. Within the last three-four years, it changed to 75%, and today, we are at about 90-95% from mobile, whereas if we look at the European market, it is still at about 50% desktop and 50% mobile. Our mobile app is actually driving a major part of our traffic and business.
We have also witnessed a category shift. Around five to six years back, people used the portal to sell off goods which would fetch them a high price. To get over the initial inhibitions one thought of getting rid of items which they were ‘stuck’ with. And hence, items like old cars, bikes, phones, etc attracted sellers as well as buyers to the platform. Through research we realised that people normally don’t want to sell to very far flung places. For a car, one doesn’t mind travelling far; but for a guitar or handbag you would prefer to have it nearby. So today, on OLX, you can see stuff around you which is one or two kilometres away.
The whole experience of browsing, like in a flea market, has literally changed. The categories which are really doing well for the last year-and-a-half for us have been fashion and other personal goods that have grown over 150-200%. We are also seeing traction in real estate and jobs.
As a market player, how does one deal with controversies like stolen goods being sold on the portal and what steps can one take to tackle them?
People are at the heart of our business, and their safety and wellbeing is of prime importance. Online crimes, like offline crimes, are a reflection of the ailments plaguing our society. Curbing them requires a mindset change more than anything else. At OLX, we use a combination of awareness programmes and constant improvement of our product to enhance the safety of our users. We are continuously strengthening our technical filters to keep the platform and our users safe.
A few months ago we made significant improvements in our app to make it more secure — it ensures that there are no anonymous users on the app. We are also a chat-first app, and don’t make our users’ phone numbers public in order to ensure their safety and privacy. As a brand, we take measures to create awareness on online safety, and we have been closely working with various law enforcement agencies to ensure it.