Classified Expansions in America

After traveling through several South and North American cities during the holidays it left me awake at night thinking about cultural differences and how much they affect a business plan.

For example, family members who know my company’s online classifieds in Canada were saying, “You should open a Chilean version!” like it was a brick-and-mortar shop that we could just lease and have up and running over night then everyone would see it and come by every day.  However, things we take for granted in North America like weekend garage sales, second hand and antique stores as well as clothing swap groups aren’t yet necessarily as popular in some South American countries.  So if we opened up a classified company down there, would they easily adopt the concept of going to a stranger’s house with cash in hand?  Is it safe enough for those who haven’t grown up with tips and tricks for shopping?

– Charlotte Cowley, ICMA Future Leaders Network Member,, Marketing Manager

Social media plans and timelines

This month I asked some ICMA members what their strategies were for the next few months in the social media landscape.

For some companies the industry is shrinking and we’re in defensive mode — keeping our current users happy is priority number one.  But for other companies the goal is to employ offense as the best defence.We’re constantly coming up with new and interesting ways to intrigue and interest our audience. Take for example, by combining the “freemium” model to an upgraded shopping experience with shopping carts and check outs, they’re giving professional sellers a whole new reason to stay and keep posting ads. These sellers then spread the word through social media to new users as well.

However, these new features can take months to plan, develop and test. Can we expect the same from social media? Does it also take months to develop and does the atmosphere change at the same rate?  There are arguments on either side of the debate, but for the classified industry I’d say it’s the same idea as our regular business, just in hyperdrive.

Trends #1: classified verticals internationally

After discussing trends in classifieds with several ICMA members around the world this month, I heard many themes come up but the most prevalent was verticals – anywhere from identifying online communities, to speaking with specific target market demographics, and executing niche classified strategies.  So what better subject to discuss in my first ICMA blog post (of many, I hope!)?

Looking at the big picture, large companies like Adicio working with ImpreMedia, are working on expanding and refining  job & career categories – then onto autos and real estate most likely.   But with international multi-language powerhouses like that casting a big shadow, where does the little guy stand?  Are they paving the way for us, or more likely are we experimenting with multiple verticals as we ‘run fast with scissors’ (if this is lost in translation, in Canada we have a saying ‘don’t run with scissors’ , meaning ‘Be Careful!’ which smaller companies at risk of being squashed by biggies don’t have the luxury)?  I digress.

We have the ability to adapt and speak to our customers in a way that a big conglomerate simply cannot.  I doubt craigslist or Schibsted sits down with customers every week the way companies like or IPC Classified can.  Biggies (have I just coined a term?) may do surveys and hire big swanky advertising companies but does the executive at the top level really know how to describe someone in their niche market obsessed with the ‘specialty vehicle’ or ‘electric guitar’ categories like we can?   These larger companies should be scared of us; we’re moving quickly in a big industry, an industry that has shown us over the last 5 years that there is plenty of room for more players, whether it’s moving online or maybe the next iteration will be mobile, tablets, and retinal scans with micro-dermic insert-really-big-word-here ‘big data’ segment classification?  I’m no scientist, but you get the idea.  The trend these days is move quickly or die.  And most members of ICMA are doing this – are the biggies?

Future ICMA Trends blog topics (monthly):
:: For employers posting on their own websites instead of us, how can we convince them to convert or at least try both?  Or do we content scrap?  Or maybe go social instead of partnerships.
:: The world is already becoming social, mobile, and online-all-the-time.  What are classifieds doing to stay ahead of the trend around the globe?
:: If classifieds were available ONLY on smart phones in 5 years what do we have to start doing TODAY?

Written by: Charlotte Cowley of, in Canada

ICMA Rising Star profile