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Case Studies

Bidorbuy: Andy Higgins

Bidorbuy has more than 1,1 million unique visitors, around 700 000 items for sale and 80 000 successful sales every month. Not bad for a business that had its origins on the floor of a London flat, bombed in the crash and survived the local Internet drought.

Monique Verduyn



Andy Higgins of Bid or Buy

It was the late 90s. Andy Higgins was 24, living in London and working for a company called The young South African had already helped to set up several online auction sites in the UK, Germany, France and Italy for his employer, and business was booming. This was the era that launched – and crushed – a million dreams. Caught up in the exuberance of the time, and having gained a huge amount of experience in the online environment, he decided to come home and set up a local online marketplace – the first of its kind in the country. Higgins didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. He knew that developing a unique system when someone else had already done a great job of it was a waste of time and money. That’s why he based his model for Bidorbuy on eBay, the world’s largest online trading community.

What differentiated Bidorbuy from online retailers then – and now – is that it doesn’t sell anything. It merely provides a platform to facilitate trade between buyers and sellers. Hence, set-up costs were low as there were no big capital expenses, no need for a brick-and-mortar presence, and staff could be kept to a minimum as the business would be driven largely by the technology backbone. In addition, it was a model that could easily be replicated anywhere in the world. To understand the business model, you have to know how the platform functions: any user who wants to sell can list the item or service for sale on the website. The seller sets a start time, end time and price, and provides a detailed description and images of the item. Other users can browse and bid on or buy items they are interested in. If there’s a sale, the Bidorbuy system puts the buyer and seller in contact with each other and it’s then up to them to conclude the deal, including payment and shipment. Bidorbuy makes its money by charging the seller a commission of between 1% and 5% on all sales, except for high-ticket items such as cars and properties where a flat listing fee per item is charged.

Finding the money

Enthused by his idea, a colleague in London suggested Higgins speak to her father, an Israeli investor who was visiting the city. The two met at a private casino. Higgins arrived armed with a two-page business plan and had to borrow a jacket to be allowed entry. “My plan was sketchy, but it was a time when investors wanted big ideas more than a solid business plan,” Higgins recalls. “He was utterly taken with launching this type of business in a country that was off the radar and really represented a land of opportunity. I also managed to convince him that given my experience, I was the right guy to do it. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Israel to meet with his business partners.”

They were keen on the idea too. Online marketplaces were already big in Europe and the US, eBay was a tried and tested business model, and the rest of the world represented huge prospects – it was 1999, and the boom was in full swing. eBay had gone public a year earlier and founders Pierre Omidyar and Jeffrey Skoll were billionaires. With strong branding and a focus on collectibles, the site had started when Omidyar listed a single broken laser pointer for sale – as a test for his pet project – and sold it to a collector of laser pointers for $14,83, far more than he had bargained on. Everywhere Internet companies were emerging with ferocity and frequency. Caught up in the euphoria, Higgins’ investors gave him $250 000 to start the business. It launched in South Africa first, but he had by now decided to base Bidorbuy in Sydney from where he would launch other sites across the world. Once the South African site was live, India and Australia were next on the list.

Wake-up Call

Then the unthinkable happened: in March 2000, while he and his team were preparing to launch in 12 countries, the Nasdaq collapsed and the Internet boom came to a halt. Multi-million dollar start-ups had reported huge losses, some folding within months of launching. There was no hope of attracting further investment and no way that Bidorbuy was going to carve a niche for itself in the doom and gloom of the fall out.

Higgins retrenched employees and put cost-cutting measures in place just to keep the company afloat; most of the sites were shut down, except for those in South Africa and India, where the absence of competitors made it possible to keep going. Higgins also hadn’t counted on stiff competition in Australia from the likes of eBay and Yahoo Auctions, both of which were backed by big local media companies and were about to launch too. The Australian site was sold to eBay and 50 people were let go; the Indian site was eventually merged with competitor (and subsequently sold to eBay in 2004), with the profits from the sale being ploughed back into the South African operation. “We had some offers to buy the company, but they were way below what it was worth,” says Higgins. ”And neither I nor the shareholders were ready to sell because we believed we had a great product and that if we could ride out the storm, we would eventually reap the rewards.“We had to let about 25 employees go in South Africa, which was a hard task. I came back in August 2001 and at one point, it was just me and one other person working for the company.

We were not making any money. I managed to keep going only because I had saved the pounds I had earned in England.” Higgins says that although he was tempted to give up, he chose instead to put the business in maintenance mode, keeping it ticking over with just a couple of hundred users and making sure expenses were minimal. Although the timing could not have been worse for Bidorbuy’s launch, Higgins admits that he also fell into the trap – too much, too fast. His dreams of global success had been cut down to size and he had to re-adjust his thinking. The South African site was also weighed down by Internet access that was expensive and slow. He refers to the years from 2002 to 2004 as the Dark Age for local Internet users. Nonetheless, his investors were keen to persevere and so Bidorbuy grew bit by bit, its popularity fuelled by the fact that there were no direct competitors in the country. Higgins kept himself busy by running the business while doing his MBA at the same time. “I’d taken a hard knock, but I was still young and I was single so I had all the time in the world to keep working.”

Payoff Time

2005 was a turning point. That’s when always-on access began to replace dial-up. Bidorbuy saw the impact of this progress as its gross merchandise value (GMV) grew by between 60% and 120% every year from 2007. It’s now at R30 million a month. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of goods sold on Bidorbuy are new, not second-hand. The ratio of fixed price listings relative to auction listings is on the increase, says Higgins, and similar to sites such as eBay, sellers make a business out of trading on the Bidorbuy website.
Having started out as buyers, they realise they too can make money by selling goods. In some cases these sellers have quit their jobs and become full-time traders. Students have put themselves through university and stay-at-home moms are earning a great income. The most popular category is jewellery and watches, followed by coins and notes, gemstones and rocks, computers, cellphones and electronics.

“It’s a good mix of mainstream consumables and unusual collectibles,” says Higgins. “A lot of the traders operate from home; the walls of their homes are lined with merchandise they’ve imported from China. One guy who sells bedding and linen has practically turned his home into a warehouse. He has his whole family involved in the business.” Today, Bidorbuy employs 25 people – one marketing person, three accounts people, a tech team of five, and the balance is made up of customer service and IT security. “The biggest challenge to the business is that people think it’s unsafe. We process more than 80 000 transactions in a month, and although fraud is very low, every fraudulent transaction reflects extremely badly on us. We cannot eliminate scammers, but we have sophisticated systems in place to protect our users. Each seller is also rated publicly, which is an effective way of weeding out dishonest sellers.”

Drawing Customers

Much of Bidorbuy’s marketing has always been online, although a national radio campaign, as well as selective advertising in niche magazines, on street poles and on billboards have also been part of the marketing mix. It’s the transactional model that has fuelled revenue growth. It’s so successful that the business does not even require a sales team. “The bulk of our marketing budget is spent online. We’re big on search engine optimisation and Bidorbuy is one of the top Google customers in the country. We track and measure everything so we know what we are spending and what the return is. We are also listed on many shopping comparison websites such as, and

Focus on the user

One example of how Bidorbuy focuses on enhancing the user experience is bobPay, a payment system that is an optional add-on for users. This speeds up the receipt of payments between buyers and sellers and helps sellers to reconcile payments they receive. This service includes credit card and EFT payments. “Dealing with payments is fundamental; customers must be able to pay by EFT and credit card. Many smaller sellers don’t qualify for credit card merchant accounts themselves, so they use our payment system. We also give large sellers customised tools to make bulk listing of products easier, and to enable integration with online shopping cart solutions.”

A strong technology platform

Reflecting on the growth of the business, and describing himself as a bit of a nerd, Higgins notes that his strength lay in IT, all of which has been kept in-house. “The technology platform is at the heart of our business model, and it’s very scalable – the number of transactions could triple or quadruple and we would not have to increase our overheads. The entire business is automated and is run by our own team.” In the early days, one of the key requirements was to build the network of sellers and buyers, the archetypal Catch-22 as they would come only if there were lots of buyers and sellers.“We had a sluggish start, but the business scaled rapidly once we achieved critical mass,” says Higgins, referring to Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. Simply put, the value of the network increases with the total number of users, because the total number of people with whom each user may trade increases. Today Bidorbuy has more than 1,1 million unique visitors, 26 million page impressions, and 700 000 items listed for sale every month. Gross merchandise value is at R30 million per month and growing. is the largest online marketplace in SA

Site Statistics

  • Over 1,1 million unique visitors every month (source: Google Analytics)
  • Over 26 million page impressions every month (source: Google Analytics)
  • Over 700 000 items listed for sale every month
  • Over 80 000 sales every month
  • Over 50 000 successful online auctions (i.e. ending with a winning bidder) are conducted every month
  • The site is growing at more than 60% per year

Quick Facts

  • is ranked the 7th most popular domain in the world
  • is ranked the 20th most popular site in the world visited by South Africans

Source: Alexa Top Sites

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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Case Studies

Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

CEO Howard Schultz reveals how Starbucks does it.

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

  • Player: Howard Schultz
  • Company: Starbucks
  • Market cap: $85 bn
  • Established: 1971 (Schultz purchased the brand in 1987)
  • Website:

When Howard Schultz was raising money for his first coffee shop called Il Giornale (later to be renamed Starbucks) he was finding it hard to land investors. The reason was simple: Schultz was trying to create a coffee culture where none existed.

The idea that the man on the street would pay a premium price for a cup of Italian coffee with a name he couldn’t pronounce seemed nothing short of preposterous. But that wasn’t the only reason people weren’t willing to buy into his idea. Schultz, you see, refused to talk like a proper capitalist. He kept emphasising the fact that he wanted ‘to do good’.

Related: How tashas Built A Recession Proof Business

Schultz recounted the trouble he had finding investors during a recent visit to South Africa for the local launch of Starbucks. He spoke at a Q&A session hosted by the Wits Business School.

“My wife was eight months pregnant at the time,” says Schultz. “Her father actually sat me down and said: ‘My daughter is pregnant, and she’s working. You have a hobby. You need to get a job.”’

But, as is so typical of entrepreneurs, Schultz persevered and eventually got the funding he needed.

“The first time someone gave me $100 000, I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls.

Since those early days (the shop opened in the mid-1980s), Starbucks has grown rather prodigiously. Consider the following: By the late 1980s there were 11 Starbucks stores that employed about 100 people. A few years later, in 1992, the company went public with a market cap of $270 million. Today, it has around 24 000 stores in more than 70 countries. And its market cap? A cool $85 billion.

While growth is good, it has a tendency to birth a ravenous monster that is impossible to satiate.

“We have to add $2,5 billion in revenue every year for the next five years just to maintain our current growth rate and satisfy Wall Street,” says Schultz. “And to do this, we will need to add 80 000 employees over the next 12 months. Essentially, we’re launching a new massive company every year.”

Yet, despite this, Starbucks manages to maintain its unique culture. Just as when Starbucks was a far smaller operation, it is known for stores manned by high-energy individuals who have a clear love for the brand. How has the brand managed this? Schultz attributes it to the following seven core principles.


1. Partners not employees

Howard Schultz’s father worked as a truck driver, delivering and picking up cloth diapers in the days before Pampers. When he slipped and seriously injured himself, he was summarily retrenched. Schultz wanted to create a very different company.

One of the reasons he didn’t adopt a franchise model was that he wanted to be able to offer each employee at least some stake in Starbucks.

When the company went public, each employee became entitled to a portion of their annual salary in the form of stock options. That is still the case today, which is why Starbucks employees are called ‘partners’.

“Success is best when it’s shared,” says Schultz. “At Starbucks, we always ask: What’s in it for our people? Starbucks is accused of being great at marketing, but it spends very little on marketing. It’s all about the experience we offer in the stores.

Managers and leaders must do everything to exceed the expectations of our people so that they can exceed the expectations of our customers.

Related: Howard Blake Stays Hungry With His Innovation Strategy

2. Regular interaction

The management of Starbucks does everything in its power to engage with employees regularly.

“We travel extensively, and the amount of face-time management has with employees across the globe is really unusual for a company of Starbucks’s size,” says Schultz.

Schultz himself, for instance, sat down with each and every new Starbucks employee in South Africa during his recent visit.

Starbucks also has what it calls ‘Town Hall Meetings’ all over the world, during which management interacts with employees in an open and informal manner.

“We tell employees that they are free to speak up during these meetings without fear of retribution. We want honest opinions,” says Schultz.


3. Respecting (and cherishing) employees

Howard Schultz is a humanist at heart, and this is reflected in the culture of the company that he created.

“The universal language of Starbucks is a deep sense of humanity,” says Schultz. “Building a company is a lot like raising children. You are imprinting a company with a culture and a set of values. Now, if a child falls, what do you do? You pick it up and comfort it. You don’t scold it. You need to take the same approach in business.”

4. Protecting the culture

Being tolerant of failure, however, does not mean the same thing as indulging bad behaviour. In fact, Starbucks is fiercely protective of its culture, and it doesn’t tolerate bad behaviour.

“We teach employees that they have a voice, and that they should speak up when they see someone doing something wrong. You can’t enable bad behaviour because it will erode a company’s culture.”

Related: Don’t Let Expansion Ruin A Great Company Culture

5. Spending money on employees

According to Schultz, the management teams of most large companies would be horrified to discover the amount of time and money spent on Starbucks employees.

“We have been very innovative with technology, and we have created a massive digital eco-system. Interestingly, though, we spent as much time and money focusing on the things that were employee-facing as the ones that were customer-facing.”


6. Rewarding the right things

Schultz famously stepped away from the role of Starbucks CEO for around five years, and during that time the culture of the company quickly deteriorated.

“The company lost its way. The people who were managing the company — who were all good people — were measuring and rewarding the wrong things. Things such as profit and stock price became the focus. In any business, you need to continuously ask: What is our core purpose for being? Otherwise you lose your way.”

Schultz believes that his big mistake was not selecting a successor from within the culture. When he eventually retires, he intends to choose someone from within the operation who is in touch with the culture of the brand.

7. Being human

The film Fight Club famously depicted Starbucks as the epitome of the faceless corporation taking over the globe, but the company is actually quite unique in its willingness to speak out and engage with people on a social (and even political) level.

“We are very outspoken as a company. We feel that we live in a time where the rules of engagement have changed. What I mean by this is that we need to do more for the communities that we serve. The question we ask ourselves is: What is the role of a for-profit public company? Looking at this question has resulted in us taking on social issues such as same-sex marriage, gay rights, gun control and racism.”

For example, Starbucks recently unveiled its first store in Ferguson, Missouri (which has been plagued by racial unrest) as part of a plan to support efforts to rebuild and revitalise communities.

Read next: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

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Case Studies

How Merchant Capital And Retroviral Were Built To Sell

Entrepreneur chats to Dov Girnun of Merchant Capital and Mike Sharman of Retroviral. We explore why their companies attracted funders, and how the relationship can be used to grow their businesses.

Nadine Todd



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The Tech Based Business

Know your business’s numbers inside out, and don’t try to bluff your way through any questions that relate to numbers.


Vital Stats

  • Player: Dov Girnun
  • Company: Merchant Capital
  • What they do: Lending solutions for SMEs
  • Est: 2013
  • Investor: Rand Merchant Investment Holdings
  • Shareholding: 25%
  • Visit:

Less than two years into his business, Dov Girnun attracted the attention of Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMIH), a financial services investment company that includes the founders of FirstRand, Laurie Diepenaar, Paul Harris and GT Ferreira. These are no small industry players. On an investment level, they’re the funders who backed Adrian Gore when he launched Discovery and Willem Roos when he started OUTsurance.

How had Girnun found himself in the position to pitch to investors at this level? Months earlier, RMIH had launched a fintech incubator called Alpha Code. The idea was to find pre-revenue start-ups that would be the next game-changers. Their research brought them to Merchant Capital.

“We didn’t exactly fit their mandate because we were already operational and profitable,” says Girnun, “but they still really loved the business. They’d been researching the fintech space, and had recognised the potential in SME lending, which is our focus. They really wanted to invest, but at the time I was unsure if I wanted to dilute my shares further.”

Girnun already had an investor, the Capricorn Group, whose investments include Hollard, Nandos and Clientèle, and until this point he’d been careful to maintain his shareholding. His relationship with Capricorn was excellent, as the investment team added huge strategic value to the business over and above capital, and so he hadn’t been actively seeking additional funding.

And then a new opportunity presented itself. “We realised we have golden data on the SME space. How could we cross-sell to our base and monetise that data? We started chatting to RMIH, who were aligned to our thinking.

“Once I realised the value RMIH could add to our business, my whole perspective shifted. Here was an investor that could potentially help me to build a billion dollar business. I’d be diluting shares, but building a much bigger pie.”

Related: Funding Growth with Dov Girnun

The price of equity

Girnun is referring to the investment lesson that equity is cheap early on, and very expensive later, when a funder holds more shares of your business than you do. If you look for funding later, your valuation is higher, you’ve got a proven track record, and the same amount of money secures fewer shares. Sell too early, and the exact opposite happens.

This had always been Girnun’s view, but an understanding of how far the business could potentially go with RMIH’s backing was changing his mind.

There was just one challenge. While RMIH’s investment team loved Merchant Capital’s business model, investments need to be signed off by the board, which meant Girnun and his co-founder Daniel Moritz, needed to pitch to them in person, so that they could see their energy, passion and vision for Merchant Capital.

Serious, seasoned investors don’t make this easy. They need to see your passion, and how well you understand your business. They’re not there to make the experience easy.

“Even though I knew they were interested in my business, I still found the experience extremely daunting. There were very few introductions, handshakes or jokes. I was expected to launch into my pitch, and I knew that even though I had been given 20 minutes, the first two minutes would be the deciding factor. If I didn’t grab their attention in that time frame, they wouldn’t be investing in me and my business.”

Tapping into investor concerns

“I had just returned from the Endeavour international selection panel in San Francisco, and I think this played a major role in the success of my pitch,” says Girnun.

“One of my judges, a hugely successful venture capitalist from Sillicon Valley, really explained the significance of the elevator pitch to me. Imagine you’ve gotten into an elevator with the CEO of Goldman Sachs, he said. If you’re lucky, you’ve got seven floors to get them interested enough in your business to want your card, and maybe even a meeting. They can’t possibly learn everything about your business there and then — they just need enough for their interest to be piqued.

“Because you don’t know how much time you have, or who you’ll be talking to and what their area of expertise is, you can’t just learn a pitch off by heart, and you certainly shouldn’t have a power point deck that you rely on. Both are very bad ideas. Instead, you need to know your business so well, inside and out, that you can tailor your pitch to the person you’re talking to, based on what they care about.

“Because of this piece of advice, I was able to tailor the first two minutes of my pitch to the RMIH board and what they care about. If I grabbed their attention, I’d be able to hold it for the next 20 minutes, which actually ended up being close on two hours. If I hadn’t, we would have politely shaken hands after 20 minutes (if not earlier), and been on our way.”

It’s a simple, but incredibly important lesson: Know your business’s numbers inside out, and don’t try to bluff your way through any questions that relate to numbers.

“You have to know your unit economics — are you able to distill the essence of your business economics on the back of a napkin? You need to know the high level stuff and the minute details, and they all have to be at your fingertips. If they aren’t, you have no business trying to sell your company or attract investors.”

Related: Bootstrapping Is Much More Fun Than Investors

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Case Studies

How AutoTrader Anticipated Change

AutoTrader South Africa is an online behemoth, boasting more than three million visitors each month. Not that long ago, though, the brand faced the very real possibility of extinction.

GG van Rooyen




Vital Stats

  • Player: George Mienie
  • Company: AutoTrader South Africa
  • Established: 1992
  • Visit:

Key learnings

  • Trends are out there to be identified. Being caught unprepared is unacceptable.
  • Change needs to be tracked through the use of a measurable KPI.
  • Don’t be afraid to act pre-emptively.
  • Do research. Know your customer.
  • Create an unprecedented user experience.

By the mid-2000s, it was becoming clear that the world was changing. The internet was going mainstream, placing massive pressure on industries that only a few years earlier had seemed untouchable.

The print industry in particular was coming under threat, with readers moving to the internet for information. Things didn’t change overnight, though. The general decline in readership was steady but quite slow.

Like a frog sitting in a slowly-heated pot of water, it was all too easy to ignore the evidence. AutoTrader South Africa, however, was not willing to accept death by attrition.

Related: Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How These 10 Entrepreneurs Did Just That

Measuring change


“When it comes to the digital realm, you can never complain that some development impacted you unexpectedly. The writing is always on the wall, provided you’re taking notice,” says AutoTrader CEO George Mienie.

Long before the global shift to digital mediums started to affect AutoTrader in a real way, the company began to prepare for the inevitable.

“We knew it was coming. The shift to digital was already starting in places such as the US and Europe,” says Mienie.

“We also knew that we needed to measure this shift in a reliable way. When it comes to managing difficult change, you need a KPI that you can reliably measure.”

Comparing unique users of a website to the circulation of the magazine wasn’t reliable enough, since it was impossible to truly know how many people had used any given copy as a reference when shopping for a vehicle. Some other KPI was needed.

“We settled on leads to dealers. We wanted to track how many people had actually contacted vehicle dealers thanks to the magazine, versus how many had contacted a dealer because of the website,” says Mienie.

Finding a KPI

Tracking website leads and comparing them to magazine leads sounds like a simple idea, until you actually start to think about it. If it’s hard to know how many people used a single copy of AutoTrader as a reference, how do you figure out how many leads the mag has generated? It was a conundrum.

Tracking leads on the website would be easier, provided you were willing to harm the user-friendliness of the site. AutoTrader wasn’t willing to do this.

“We could track website leads by forcing every user to fill in some kind of form before gaining access to a dealer’s details, but we weren’t willing to do this,” says Mienie.

“Today, the average user spends a phenomenal amount of time on our site. A typical visit lasts 12 minutes, and we believe this is because our site is easy to use. While KPIs are important, they shouldn’t come at the expense of the user. Everything should be done to make the experience for the client or user as pleasant as possible.

“With this in mind, we give our software engineers a lot of freedom. They don’t need to seek permission to improve the site. If they’ve been working on something that they think will improve the website, they can run with it. You never want bureaucracy to stand in the way of improvement.”

Related: 11 SA Entrepreneurs on What They’ve Learnt About Managing Staff

An innovative solution


In order to effectively measure leads from both AutoTrader magazine and the website, the company came up with a very elegant solution called Call Tracker.

The solution was so elegant and transparent that even regular consumers of AutoTrader probably wouldn’t have noticed its existence.

How does it work? The number that you find for any given dealer in the AutoTrader magazine or on the website was not the same as the regular number of that dealer, although, the number was dedicated to a dealer.

Instead, it is a technology that redirected the call through the company to the dealer. Thus, giving AutoTrader the ability to measure leads via phone to the dealer, which was the most-used way in which consumers got in touch with dealers in those years.

Importantly, the company regularly placed a different number for specific dealers on the website and in the magazine, meaning AutoTrader could track exactly which platform a lead was generated from, and give the dealers useful insights into his/her dealership’s response.

AutoTrader had in essence created a reliable but simple KPI, using sophisticated technology at the time, that could be used to track consumers’ migration from print to digital.

The watershed

As mentioned, the migration of users was fairly slow. AutoTrader had started monitoring the trend in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the website took over from the magazine as the core focus of the business.

In the mid-2000s, the company had printed around 230 000 magazines each month, and managed to sell 55% of those on a regular basis.

Today, it sells about 30 000 magazines a month. However, as magazine sales have declined, the number of visitors to the website has skyrocketed, with more than three million visitors to the website every month, opening more than 40 million pages.

Related: 5 Wrongheaded Attitudes Stunting Your Growth As An Entrepreneur

New competition

The migration of AutoTrader magazine advertisers (sellers) and consumers (buyers) to the website wasn’t guaranteed. Getting buyers and sellers of the magazine to embrace the AutoTrader website required hard work.

“As a magazine, we had a big advantage: Potential competitors were faced with very high barriers to entry. We had the capability to compile a 600-page magazine, print it and distribute it weekly. Any new competitor would have found it hard to match us,” says Mienie. “The internet, however, obliterated those barriers. Suddenly it was much easier to compete with AutoTrader.”

AutoTrader wasn’t afraid to pre-empt the digital shift. “You need to be willing to eat yourself. One of the things we did was to place the website prominently in the magazine, knowing that it would eat into sales. We had to take a short-term hit, but we knew that we would benefit from it in the long term.” The company also placed a huge emphasis on the user experience.

“You need to be the best,” says Mienie. “You need to lead the charge and be first to market with every new development. You also need to know and respect your consumer and dealer. We believe in creating a site that is easy to use and offers more content than you’ll find anywhere else. We also make it a priority to know the consumer’s car-buying journey and car sellers’ needs.

“But, the game is changing again, fewer and fewer consumers are using the phone, and to an even lesser degree email, to get in touch with dealers. Our research over the last year shows that more than 52% of car-buying consumers don’t phone or email a car dealer, but simply take the address and visit the dealer directly.

“When it comes to managing great change within a company, research is incredibly important. But just doing research isn’t enough you need to use it effectively. The temptation exists to hog research because you don’t want competitors to get hold of it. That doesn’t work. We know exactly how much time the average consumer spends studying vehicles before buying a new car. We also know how much of that time is spent online (15 hours), and how much is spent in the physical world visiting dealers (14 hours), and this trend is shifting rapidly toward less time in the physical world and more time searching online, which means the consumer has pretty much made his choice before he leaves his screen. We give that info to our salespeople, who in turn give it to our clients (car sellers). Information needs to be disseminated.”

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