Sensis’ Trading Post Challenges eBay in Australia

Sensis has announced the offering of online auctions on its Trading Post Web site. According to an article in The Sydney Morning Herald: “some two million people already use the www.tradingpost.com.au site to buy and sell goods and services. The company now aims to attract a share of the additional 3.4 million Australians using online auction facilities. ‘Sensis has taken decisive steps to return our classifieds business to growth,’ ” said Bruce Akhurst, Sensis’ chief executive officer.

One of the key issues prompting the launch was eBay’s decision to require use of its PayPal system rather than allowing other forms of payment. “Trading Post has been listening closely and is now providing auctions with a broad range of payment options for sellers to choose from. We’ve also made it easier to register, buy, sell, navigate, search and compare products online,” said Akhurst.

EBay has enjoyed exceptional growth and success in Australia owning 42.2 percent of the online shopping and classified marketplace compared with Trading Post’s 2.12 percent, as reported by Hitwise. Sensis has made a significant investment in the new online auction business, adding phone and e-mail based customer service, a mobile version for Telstra users, side-by-side comparison options and 524 categories. The site is powered Intershop and the FAST platform.

The mashing up of classifieds with directories and other directional media, such as eBay, is a logical path for Sensis as online auctions are another way to bring together buyers and sellers. To maximize its opportunity, Sensis will not charge for listings but will extract a fee when the product is sold giving it a piece of every transaction. Monetizing the transactional aspect of directional media has been a goal of most every directory publisher.

Sensis’ Trading Post property has had less than stellar results, so the move into online auctions with a purely Australian focus (sellers must reside in Australia) is a wise one. Increasing its classified market share while creating a new revenue stream will help push Sensis toward its 2011 target of A$3 billion.

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