The Future Of Marketplaces: Vik Barodia, eBay/Gumtree

Vik Barodia has been Head of Motors at eBay/Gumtree for close to three years, with this position he has garnered a front row seat to the current digital revolution hitting both marketplaces and the automotive industry. We had a few questions for Vik before his panel appearance at Freespee’s upcoming May 23rd event, “Do we really want to talk to robots?” in London. 

How has the buyer/seller relationship evolved in the last five years?

Gumtree and eBay are all about introductions. By that, we mean introducing buyer and seller so that they can agree on a transaction. That is the basic premise of marketplaces like ours. In the last years, what we have seen is that trust is now the single most important things deciding factor between the two parties. In fact, the “trust-drive” is so strong; buyers would rather pay more to buy an item from a trusted seller than a cheaper, identical item from a “weaker” seller. Trust is formed in many ways – experience reviews, ratings and a verified status all play a significant part.

Gumtree is focusing more on personalising the user experience, do you think the advent of AI will help or hinder this for marketplaces?

Artificial intelligence will play a very important role in the future of classified marketplaces. From booking tickets, buying and selling cars parts, and delivery – all facets of the buyer and seller chains can be impacted by AI. The challenge for marketplaces will be in our ability to use AI to build seamless experiences. Imagine a car part – AI can help the seller accurately list the part correctly for all the relevant vehicles it could be fitted into. The buyer gets the correct part every time. The use of AI can then help the buyer to fit the part themselves with DIY help or book the car into a service centre. All done seamlessly. Or a user buying a dress – AI can help them match that dress to a pair of shoes, handbag and even nail varnish colour – displaying all combinations for the user to choose from and buy. The options are endless – ultimately always driving success for seller and buyer which is what our platforms are all about. Personalising the entire value of any purchase is very much our focus in the coming years.

What part of the auto marketplace environment can be improved by the right technology?

For me, data is the secret to all success, and any technology, whether it be AI or predictive tools for users – dealers and private sellers – needs to sit on reliable and structured data. The auto sector has fantastic structured data, but the industry as a whole is not good enough at generating maximum value from it.

When its a high value purchase like a car, how do you build trust?

Trust on high-value items like a car must be built up for sure, both for buyer and seller, but also on the vehicle itself. Notwithstanding reviews and ratings for interested parties, we at Gumtree and eBay also help build trust in the vehicle itself by screening vehicles before they are listed. Every car listed with a number plate is checked in the background for four key things: Has the car been stolen, scrapped, exported or involved in a serious incident? That means that car is not sellable.
If at least one of these checks is positive, then the vehicle is blocked from being listed on the website. As a result, we ensure two things. Buyers on the platform can be sure that they have a choice of vehicles that are legal to sell that have a sound history. And by making this check visible, we remove inertia from the contact process, i.e. potential buyers do not need to go elsewhere to do this check – we keep the buyer on site and in front of the seller’s vehicle. This is great news for buyer and seller alike.

Do you see a collaboration between auto brands and marketplaces like eBay in the future?

Very much so. We can already see that the huge parts and accessory category on eBay drives vibrancy in the car selling category. We are not far from a world where car manufacturers use platforms like ours (because of the huge amount of traffic that we generate) to provide services to car buyers and car owners alike. The impact of eBay and Gumtree in helping auto brands to drive engagement beyond the car purchase/disposal should not be underestimated as they seek to find a new way to lengthen their relationship with those customers.

What is your view on the increase in car rental via marketplaces especially among millennials?

We are fast becoming a rental economy, and the industry is morphing into rental on demand. Disposable income is low, and millennials, with their funds fragmented in location and only in supply on a gig-to-gig basis, will make car ownership for this category difficult.
Enter CaaS –cars-as-a-service if you like, or any other fad name that can be applied. There are already start-ups with this model – today I need a small town car for a city meeting (renting for function), at the weekend, I need a convertible to go top down to the beach (renting for experience). How these early adopters fare will be interesting to watch as pricing is still quite premium. However as more come to market, and the choice is widened, prices should come down. I fully expect this sector to grow, alongside the more entrepreneurial car owners who use platforms to rent out their cars. It will be stronger as a proposition in cities where car picks up and drop off locations are more readily available as opposed to an out-of-town location. My thought is that it will take some time to become a standard mode of “ownership”, mainly because private leasing is still booming and is very affordable.

What part of the Freespee platform transformed your business? How?

The most significant impact across eBay and Gumtree has been our ability to demonstrate value to our dealers. This is not just about saying how many calls we generate for them as a return on their investment, but also to add value to the process too. The most loved feature we have is that of missed call notifications – telling dealers what number they have missed, but also linking that to the car they have listed. Notwithstanding the benefit of helping them sell more cars, we have been amazed to see how vibrant our Gumtree and eBay motors categories are. We can now claim that in any working day, between our platforms, we generate a call to a dealer every five seconds!
Find out more about Freespee’s May 23rd event here: 

Standing Out: What’s Behind A Brand Name?

“The sweetest word in the brand universe is your brand’s name.”
Bill Schley & Carl Nichols, Jr from the book “Why Johnny Can’t Brand.”

What’s in a name? A lot. For Freespee, we wanted to reflect the core aspect of what we believe in – seamless and “free” communication/speech between brand and consumer.
Our co-founder and chief strategy officer Carl Holmquist elaborated further, “the name is a tuned version of FREEdom of SPEEch. The idea from day one was to empower the consumer to speak to brands in the way they choose. Rather than having brands push you into different forms etc. If the consumer wants to talk to you, let them talk, if they want to chat, let them chat, if they want to email, let them send an email, etc.”
A brand’s name is its greatest differentiator and is the first indicator of what a company produces. For example, Microsoft – probably one of the most successful B2B companies on earth comes from the words MICROprocessor and SOFTware. Of course, the quality of their service has come to define the company, but the name is what we remember most.
On the flipside, becoming memorable can take a turn. When the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council asked the public to name their polar research vessel, no one expected “Boaty McBoatface” to be the winning (and viral) choice.
Though such a name would have stood out in the tumbling Antarctic seas, the selection was still subversive. Especially when considering the boat’s purpose as a logistic and research support vessel for the British Antarctic Survey. Perhaps Boaty McBoatface would have distracted from the critical work?
Another reason why a brand’s moniker should be creatively aligned with their DNA, who they are and what they do must be embedded in the fabric of their signature. Microsoft is clearly technology based; the Boring Company is a drilling collective. It doesn’t always have to be exact but at the very least – connected. Sports label Nike may not sound related to its product but its named after the Greek goddess of victory, a common goal of any athlete.

In B2B branding its best to be on the nose, there is a difference between B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) characterisation, and it’s down to the buyer, whether it be a business or consumer. The relationship between buyer and brand in B2B is purely rational, and the targeting has to be specific.
Xabier Ormazabal, former head of UK marketing at B2B company told Marketing Week: “The complexity of each buyer is different. It’s about connecting to key buyer personas and communicating effectively the added value and what you are selling to the stakeholders who you’re trying to influence.”
A brand name sits on many influences; core values, DNA and target audience being a few major ones, let’s explore.

Core Values

What are core values exactly? They are a consistent set of rules that every company should abide by to maintain consistency and therefore strength.
A good brand name has a prolific influence, and when it reflects core values accurately, it’s practically magical. Speaking of, Jeff Bezos first named his company Cadabra, a play on “Abracadabra” but when it sounded too close to “cadaver” he quickly opted for his second choice, Amazon.
The word Amazon evokes images of a massive, exotic landscape. The online marketplace its allied with does the same. Somehow, this e-commerce juggernaut has maintained and evolved its initial goal of becoming the “earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online,” according to Amazon’s mission statement. 


Much like the nucleotides structuring our bodies, company DNA is its organisational design, including processes like decisions, commitments, networks and mind-sets. Core values and DNA aren’t the same things, values are found in the DNA. A company’s DNA can and does evolve, sometimes the name is included in the shift, especially when the product outgrows the brand. Wachovia bank became Wells Fargo; BackRub became Google (thank goodness), change is good once the core values are in place.

Target Audience

Target audiences in B2B are not like those found in the consumer-centric markets, B2B audiences have some pain points to resolve and oft-times not a lot of time to do it. A good name can affect whether your company is at the front of their minds. Freespee’s clients are looking for a smoother line of communication and understanding between brand and consumer; our name reflects such a goal. Free speech, freedom of communication and ease of understanding. It’s all there.
To recap, a useful brand name is the cherry on a company cake and can make or break perceptions, its founded on core values and can evolve to fit the ever-changing market. Unlike human names, a company doesn’t always grow into their moniker, particularly in the B2B space, it has to reflect the aim and goals a brand holds dear from the outset.
Via: Marketing Week, AD WeekMarketing MO, The Guardian, Rewind and Capture. 

An Interview With The Brains Behind Our Product And Operations

Product, engineering and operations are our backbone; these teams have helped propel Freespee into a front-running position within the conversational commerce arena. The last few weeks has seen the introduction of new faces and features to our community and platform.
With these launches in mind, we wanted to delve deeper into the production side of what makes Freespee tick. I caught up with our product managers, product marketing manager and head of tech operations to better understand the goings-on behind the scenes.

Product Managers and Product Marketing Manager: Jussi Pekka-Kekki, Carolin Wellering, and Heather Baden.

Product managers and product marketing managers probably have the best idea of what the client wants and know how to execute these requests. They’re creators at the end of the day, bringing together multiple variables to establish a unified product, all under the umbrella of the company vision. No easy task.
Freespee product managers Jussi Pekka Kekki and Carolin Wellering are based in Uppsala and run the operation from Freespee’s Swedish Hub, alongside London HQ-based Product Marketing Manager Heather Baden.

What is the role of product marketing in Freespee?

Heather: Traditionally, our role is to be the translator between product & engineering and sales/marketing. As with sides of the brain, every product marketer will “favour” a side. I lean more towards spending more time and energy with product and engineering – understanding how they operate and their pain points. This helps me in creating a more well-rounded translation to sales.
On a day to day, I work very closely with the product team to understand what is going to be released and when. We meet regularly to understand the detail of the features. I follow what they’re doing in Jira and try to have a general view of where things are before they get close to launch. As a translator, I then take my knowledge from both sides and create content that is technically rich but high level.

How are you involved in releasing a product?

Heather: That’s a pretty broad question. There really is no start or end to launching a new product/feature. There are a couple of key parts to a launch, but the foundation of it is always the technology. I work closely with engineering and product to understand the tech regardless of the size of the product and take that to create content.
The way I do this is through translating the tech into competitive solutions for sales to have an edge. For each release, I communicate the content internally in various ways (from newsletters to full-on training sessions). I’ll also produce externally facing guides and value propositions. One of the initiatives we’re kicking off now is improving our tech documentation, and full Getting Started for developers. It’s really exciting to have various facets of enablement and different audiences to translate to.

How do you approach building a new feature?

Carolin: Usually, it depends a bit where the new request is coming from, it starts with a problem that a client has, and then we think of ways the client can solve it. There is always a lot of useful feedback from clients and success managers. We then define particular and very technical requirements. These instructions are given to the engineers, and they execute. We work in agile, so we get a lot of feedback, a lot of learning by doing. It’s an on-the-go process.
One of the best parts of building a new feature is how everyone contributes to the functionality; everyone is trying to solve the problem.
Probably one of the most challenging aspects is the stakeholder management; it can be a bit of a challenge to evaluate how long a solution will take, sometimes we don’t know where we will end up. We don’t know the direct path, for sales and the success managers.

What has been your greatest achievement so far as a Freespee Product Manager?

Carolin: How we kicked off as a team was quite smooth. I tried to provide a vision for the team that we felt responsible for, making sure that everyone stays symbiotic. For me, the team always comes first. I at least always try to make sure everyone can contribute to where we want to go. I don’t like to dictate where we want to go. If its contradicting my opinion it’s even better. Freedom of communication in every aspect is vital.
With regards to product, I’d say a significant achievement has been building the roadmap. Overall, I hope that with Freespee, we help customers/clients better evaluate the calls coming in and the conversations they have with their customers. Freespee can show them the value in these conversations.

What is the role of product manager in a cloud communications platform like ours?

Jussi: Well, the first part is to be the advocate for both the customer and the consumer. The consumers are the broader audience; they’re on a website looking for a car, for us that person is important, but it’s the customer or client who pays our bills. They serve the consumer, but since there are millions of consumers its difficult to talk to them directly. So we talk to our customers to understand how they can better provide for their consumer base.
Our role is to interpret the signals and messages we get from both parties, all over the world. We sort of create answers to problems.

What has it been like developing the product?

Jussi: Challenge-wise, at some point you realise how little you know. We’re going full speed ahead testing solutions, but sometimes you forget how fast you’re going. We are constantly building it; it feels like it’s never going to be finished. It’s the toughest part, you want to get something done, but before that’s done you’re already working on the next thing, you don’t have the time to enjoy your accomplishments.
On the positive side, we have endless amount of innovative energy where the team is constantly looking to solve a problem. We’re in a nice place where we have the potential to grow the company and product. We have so many more ideas that we can’t wait to implement.

Head of Tech Operations: Peter Hedman

Peter was recently promoted to head of tech operations at Freespee, fronting the Tech operations squad which includes Alaa Rahimi and Håkan Lund. Tech operations is the foundation of our functionality – without operations our infrastructure would cease to exist! Peter gave me a bit more insight.

How do you plan to approach your new position? What does it involve?

Peter: It involves offloading Niklas [Malmgren] with all the operations work he did before becoming CTO. I will have a closer look into the operations team. Hopefully, I can develop a better understanding of what the team is able to do and chat about how I want to work towards each sprint.
The most enjoyable part about taking this role will be the opportunities to change and shape tech operations to my vision. Since I started here, I’ve had a vision of how to make things run as automatic as possible.

We recently moved to AWS (Amazon Web Services), what will this transition offer Freespee?

Peter: It means that we don’t have to worry about potential hardware failures and we have more space to keep expanding. With AWS we haven’t had a single hardware failure, which means everything is covered in the infrastructure. AWS probably has millions of hard drives up for grabs, they likely have hard drive failures every second, but you’d never know, its resolved so quickly and allows us to keep growing.

How does that benefit us?

Peter: It improves our ability to stay online as much as possible. Not even Amazon claims to be able to provide 100% online services, but I haven’t seen any hardware related downtime since I started here a year ago.

What would you say is the most useful tool you work with?

Peter: Jira is probably our most important tool. Before that, I could not live without the text editor Vim.

Greatest achievement so far?

Peter: Implanting the Saltstack software. We’ve gone from installing three servers (for example MySQL), over many hours to getting the job done in minutes.

Freespee: Finalists For The ICMA Technology Award!

Happy days! Freespee was voted as a finalist for the Technology award at the ICMA (International Classified Marketplace Association) Innovation Award ceremony held in Vienna, Austria last week. 
Adrien De Malherbe, our VP for Marketplaces, presented on how the Freespee platform enables marketplaces to better serve their buyers and sellers. 
Notably, Freespee stood out as the only company out of twelve that was a provider (offering services to other marketplaces). It’s an honour to have been placed so highly next to in-house developed technologies!
More about the Technology award via ICMA’s website:
“Virtual insanity” – Technology award – for most revolutionary tech implementation
The award aims to highlight the key tech players in our industry. Advances in Technology that created more efficiency, cost effectivity and have provided firms with an invaluable reach to clients and customers is what the jury will be looking for. This section is also open for service providers.
Thank you to the ICMA judges for our award!

An Enlightening Interview with Freespee’s CTO Niklas Malmgren

Freespee’s CTO Niklas Malmgren recently moved from his position as VP of engineering to CTO; we had a few questions for Niklas regarding his new role and vision for Freespee!

Where and how did you get your start in the tech space?

Niklas: I’ve always been a computer enthusiast, but it took three years behind the wheel of a taxi to realise I wanted a career in tech. I got my  break and learned the trade at online payments company Klarna. I worked there from 2011 to 2016, and it was an amazing journey both personally and professionally. The company grew from 400 to 1400 employees during this period. I started as a developer and ended up a manager.

Do you think driving a taxi helped with how you understand consumer communication?

Niklas: Maybe. You do need to be able to communicate with a wide range of people as a taxi driver; I had conversations with everyone, from bums to billionaires.

How has Freespee’s technology grown since your first day there?

Niklas: I’m proud of the significant improvements the team has made to the tech stack since I joined Freespee. We’ve created a new framework for segments and workflows, and we’ve built a great, scalable software architecture for Freespee Talk, our consumer communication software. We have some of the best tech talent in Uppsala [Sweden], and everyone is really focused on crafting sustainable, stable solutions.

How does VP of Engineering compare and contrast with CTO?

Niklas: I’ve had to learn to delegate! Adding Product to my list of responsibilities has meant more focus on strategies and processes. And recruitment. We have so many open positions right now.

How tuned in to consumer communication do Freespee squads need to be?

Niklas: We want to be the experts in how consumers and our clients/companies want to communicate, so these are essential skills for every employee. But the good thing is that customer communication is something everyone can relate to. As consumers, all of us have bad and good experiences from trying to communicate with companies.

What is in the tech stack and what are you currently up to?

Niklas: We’re currently learning more about how our clients want to communicate with their consumers, as we’re putting the finishing touches on our new product, Freespee Talk.  Together with our contextual routing, Freespee Talk will revolutionise the way consumers, and companies connect.

Would you say contextual routing is the rockstar of our system?

Niklas: Contextual routing is definitely a killer feature. It’s extremely powerful, and it has made it so much easier to explain to friends and family exactly how Freespee simplifies communication. But it’s a budding rock star. It will become immensely more powerful, useful, and intelligent down the line. Wait and see!

Tell us about trends you’re noticing in the cloud telephony eco-system?

Niklas: Voice bots is a hot topic at the moment. Used wisely it can have an immensely positive impact on consumer experience. Used mindlessly it will significantly degrade the experience. Knowing when to connect you to voice bot and when to connect to a human is essential. Do they only want to know opening hours or something more complicated? Does a bot better solve a more straightforward question? It will be a better consumer experience if we can connect you to a bot straight away instead of waiting in a queue. Anything that improves consumer experience by saving time and money is a win-win. The focus on consumer experience will continue to grow, especially combined with leveraging the data that’s available.

What should potential clients know about our API?

Niklas: We have really versatile and powerful API that allows you not only to fetch data but to do just about anything with your account. Handle campaigns, retrieve phone numbers. It’s used by some of Europe’s largest online marketplaces.

Can you share your plans for the future of our platform?

Niklas: You’re going to see us finding new ways of making our customer’s data truly useful to them. And we will continue improving the consumer experience by launching our first consumer-facing widget. On the tech side, as Freespee is expanding, we will put a lot effort into ensuring an even more scalable platform.

What are the challenges facing our industry?

Niklas: Right now, it’s definitely regulations. We have made considerable investments making sure we respect the new EU data protection legislation, GDPR, and we are right now putting the finishing touches on our platform to ensure full compliance.

Want To Recover 81% Of Lost Sales Opportunities? We Know How.

There is a giant misconception about calls and customer service. As millennial expectations seep into the commerce environment, more and more brands are relinquishing voice data in favour of clicks, shares, and views.

In fact, “61% of mobile searchers state that click to call is most important in the purchase phase of the shopping process,” states a study by Google. Customers want to talk on the phone.

With this awareness, giants like Facebook are utilising call data more with click-to-call ads on their platforms to push offline sales.
But we know what you’re thinking; what if those calls are missed? Isn’t it more comfortable to rely solely on channels like email which are automated to answer customers?

Nope. New technology has been developed to ensure that missing a call never happens again and allows businesses to lean a bit more on the value of an old friend, the telephone.

Abandonment recovery (AR)

Any customer-facing enterprise knows that communication is vital – especially in a world where most of society is firmly attached to mobile phones – missing a call is akin to losing a chunk of potential revenue. According to Freespee data, 40% of customers abandon during the first 60 seconds of a call. Worse yet, if they aren’t called back within three to four weeks, a potential buyer will never use the service again. That should never happen, particularly in the automotive sphere where margins are high and time is limited. This is where a tool like abandonment recovery comes in.

The benefits of abandonment recovery

Probably the best part of abandonment recovery solutions is the opportunity to recover every lost sales opportunity. Freespee customers have at times seen 81% recovery rates from abandonment messaging.

Integrating this sort of data into the rest of your sales and marketing stack offers pretty cool opportunities too – a Qubit study found that implementing abandonment recovery into a businesses CRM stack creates a 1.1% uplift in RPV (revenue per visitor).

Another positive of AR is the more holistic approach it brings to the brand/vendor/buyer relationship. For example, say an automotive brand isn’t sure of how customers (i.e. leads) are being managed when they leave the website and call the dealerships. A vast majority of a car salesman’s time is spent on the floor interacting with walk-ins, leaving call opportunities vulnerable. Abandonment recovery can ensure that any calls coming in during the dealership’s peak times are not ignored but that the customer is given an opportunity to reschedule the call at another time. With this process, the customer’s expectations of the brand and the dealership are managed and their experience is not broken. Both the vendor and brand can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a vital buyer connection isn’t lost.

Freespee’s ACR – how does it work?

Obviously, we’re huge fans of abandonment recovery as we see its benefits amongst so many of our customers. That’s why we’re super happy to announce the latest update to the AR workflow.

From today, Freespee’s Abandonment Recovery workflow allows our client’s customers to reschedule time and date for a callback in the event that a call was missed or abandoned.

This puts to pasture legacy IVR systems which leave callers languishing in long call queues until finally they are connected to an agent who has little idea of how they got there or what they want to discuss.

You basically want to manage that calling customer’s experience – to allow them the opportunity to reschedule at a time that suits them. With this workflow, you are able to send callers an SMS post-abandonment (or missed call) to apologise for missing the call and requesting they set up a time to be called back.

The SMS is totally customisable and contains a link to a landing page where they can select a date and time for the callback or unsubscribe from the SMS service.

Most exciting, however, is what happens when the time of the call comes. Freespee are able to automatically connect the caller and your agent at the time of the call! This means you are able to continue tracking the outcome of the call and any subsequent conversion.

In conclusion, voice is the future of customer interactions and building a system to ensure every call is valued and coveted should be a priority for any digital business. We’ll leave with a classic film quote we wholeheartedly believe applies here, “nobody puts phone calls in a corner.”
Via: Google Think, Qubit, Freespee

To find out more about our Abandonment Recovery workflow, please speak to your Customer Success Manager or email us.

What We Learned About Feedback From Online Marketplaces

Not everyone loves feedback, especially the negative kind. Online marketplaces love it all. Feedback, both good and bad supports reputation, and without a good rep, there is little trust from the buyer and seller base – which is a marketplace’s bread and butter.

Since eBay began in the mid-nineties, they were arguably the pioneers of the online review system. Now, “61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision,” claims Econsultancy. eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar introduced the process within six months of launching the website where he explained the benefits of open communication in a letter to customers.

“Now, we have an open forum. Use it,” Omidyar wrote in February 1996. “Make your complaints in the open. Better yet, give your praise in the open. Let everyone know what a joy it was to deal with someone.”

eBay soon achieved a reputation for candid feedback. However, the introduction of these feedback systems in online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay also highlighted the flexibility of our trust as buyers. It seemed that once we were able to connect and contribute our pleasure or distaste somehow, it was safe to exchange funds with another anonymously.

“How is it that strangers who have never transacted with one another, and who may be thousands of miles apart, are willing to trust each other? Any transaction requires some level of trust between the buyer and seller, usually in the shadow of some institutional support like the law or other enforcement mechanisms,” writes Steven Tadelis in a paper titled “Reputation and Feedback Systems in Online Platform Markets” from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.

Pierre Omidyar and eBay’s reputation mechanism arguably caused a shift in how buyers interacted online then and today. The company did it by cleverly utilising an online buyer’s newfound willingness to trust, by creating an environment of transparency using age-old commerce methods like the two-sided market; which is the core business model of most online marketplaces today.

These days feedback goes beyond the online marketplace and is prevalent in most consumer-based businesses. It has evolved from a single channel to multiple forms, including SMS which has become a leading source of survey, making it even easier to gather relevant data for customer management.

We can learn a lot about feedback from eCommerce and its ability to automate a kind of moderation within the heavy customer traffic produced in online marketplaces. Here are few facts that taught us a thing or two.

There are two types of feedback

One-sided and two-sided. One sided is mostly derived from one party, such as the buyer reviews on Amazon, while Air BnB uses two-sided where both tenant and owner can leave reviews on their experience.  In the early days of this process, eBay introduced this idea of both buyers and sellers leaving commentary freely, but after 2008 their direction changed. Now, two-sided feedback is relegated to service-based forums like Airbnb and Uber, where both parties rely on each other. One-sided procedures put the onus the marketplace to oversee operations, viewing the product as the buyer and the seller as the client. eBay even initiated a protective scheme for their sellers/clients by introducing PowerSellers, “Buyers must wait at least seven days before leaving a negative or neutral Feedback for a PowerSeller who has been registered on eBay for at least 12 months,” states their website. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, at the end of the day, it’s about what’s healthiest for that particular forum.

It doesn’t affect the bottom line but something more important.

Surprisingly, feedback in online marketplaces does not affect revenue directly, “a one-point increase in reputation corresponds to a 4 cents increase in final price,” writes Tadelis. The one metric that is in fact undermined by a weak feedback system is buyer and seller trust. Trust is the backbone of any B2C e-commerce platform, and it can be difficult to attain, “Since there is no physical interaction with our customers, we rarely get to share traditional dialogue, build a personal rapport or shake their hand. Therefore, in case of marketplaces and e-commerce, on the whole, trust must be perceived and interpreted by the customer,” says WC Marketplace.

So does trust really increase revenue? Yes, it’s the motivation to turn a user into a customer and influence KPIs like growth rate which controls transactions between buyers and sellers. With growth comes higher liquidity, and that is the ultimate goal of all online marketplaces. Most of the time it starts with giving customers the opportunity to participate in the social environment created by e-commerce, feedback may be the most important tool they have in their belt.

There is an entire economic principle behind it.

The economics of reputation is legitimate and was touched on by “Luis M B Cabral, Professor of Economics at New York University, in his study, “The Economics of Trust and Reputation.” Cabral’s theory explores the benefits of investing in reputation, claiming that the better a brand’s reputation, the less they have to invest in building it. “According to Cabral, therefore, high trust and reputation can together help companies earn higher profits. Not only can a company increase the price of its products and services, but it can also decrease its expenses (the amount of money invested in reputation management),” writes Clear Logic.

The future of feedback

Feedback’s future looks more SMS based, a response to the growing impatience of tech-dexterous customers. Following up service with an SMS feedback survey is more rapid and proven to increase customer click-through rate, “The average open rate of a text message sits at about 99%, while email ranges from 28-33%. Next, to this, the click-through rates are vastly different. Include a link in your text message, and you will observe a CTR of about 36%. For email marketing, the CTR usually sits between 6-7%,” according to Business 2 Community.

Feedback aggregation is also on the table for upcoming developments, such as meta-platforms, which establish a culminative reputation score for a customer based on their interactions across e-commerce. There are companies out there currently attempting this idea by creating platforms to moderate reviews, so the marketplace doesn’t have to.

The art of reviewing has been around a long time; now the digital space has made it even easier to interact with each other, communication is only going to get more comfortable. As Tadelis notes, “It is apparent that the design of feedback and reputation systems will continue to play an important role in the broader area of market design as it applies to online marketplaces.”
Via: Econsultancy, Steven Tadelis, Business 2 Community, Clear Logic, WC Marketplace. 

A Conversation With Carl Holmquist, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer

carl holmquist

You’ve already made a considerable impact on how brands engage with their customers, what’s next for Freespee?

CH: We’re at a stage of international growth at Freespee – which can expose the team to significant challenges. That being said, the addition of scale-up experts like Anne de Kerckhove and Dominic Ely to the executive team – is a step towards contributing positive change to the multi-billion heavy communication tech stack.

Personally, I’m now able to do what I love and focus on the product more, especially regarding solutions to our customer’s problems two to three years in the future. Conversational user interfaces, like messaging apps, are growing quicker than social media interfaces. The impact is already considerable in private communication (friends and family) but has hardly started in B2C communication threads.

In 2017 we began to see some early trials on new ways to interact with businesses. Facebook wants their users to communicate with their bank through Messenger; Amazon took the chance to introduce voice-controlled shopping through Alexa for basic in-app purchases. Eventually, it means that the big three – Facebook, Amazon, and Google are investing in a future where consumers use their voice more frequently to interact with both machines and humans. This process is referred to as “conversational commerce.”

I believe Freespee is ahead of the curve, and we will accelerate our investments with the goal of embedding AI and machine learning into B2C communication.

How do you see the problem of connecting with customers, as compared to when you began Freespee?

CH: When we started Freespee, the first use case on our open communication platform that gained traction was our call analytics application. The perception in the market at the time was that consumers don’t want to talk to brands anymore, but that has changed with data-driven marketing. With the visibility that data tools introduced to marketers, they realised that digital consumers are more communication-intensive than in-store shoppers. The internet isn’t a tactile forum, so the number of questions you have before deciding to purchase is even higher than for in-store shopping.

But we’ve also got this paradox where, as consumers, we’re becoming less loyal to brands; the internet is influencing and enlightening us. A decade ago, my influencer was a friend, a family member. Now, influencers are more prolific. With less loyalty, the expectations from consumers increase. We’re never more than a click away from buying from someone else.

We need to help brands respond to that behavioural change by offering communication experiences that match the expectations of consumers tomorrow, not yesterday.

What is the most important lesson you learned through the years bringing Freespee to life?

CH: I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that success comes from focus and obsession. If you’re obsessed with customer satisfaction and building a great product that solves their problem, you will develop a great company. If you have an obsession with your core offering, and you build a team with the same passion, then you can endure pretty much anything the world throws at you.

Which Freespee breakthroughs are you most proud of?

CH: I’m most proud of our amazing team. Our offices have grown throughout Europe: London, Paris, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, and Uppsala. It’s this team that global brands choose to trust. Our customer roster is unbelievable, for being a 70-people collective.

What do you think the future of customer communication looks like?

CH: I think the future is going to be increasingly consumer-centric, rather than brand-centric. It’s up to the consumer to decide how they want to speak to the brand; if I want to chat, talk or message. Brands are increasingly going to suffer if they are not available in the channel that the customer wants to speak in. You hear all the time that consumer expectations have changed and it’s no different in the communication space.

The enterprise communication software needs to be built like a consumer product – there’s two in the conversation, the consumer and the brand. Legacy contact centre platforms are built for the brand, not the consumer. This will change, and it will be a wake-up call for the tech industry.

Press Release: Freespee Appoints New CEO And CFO

Freespee, the leading customer communication platform has announced two new major appointments within the company, each of which will serve to support the on-going development and expansion of the business.

Anne de Kerckhove will take the position of CEO for the customer communication platform, which is currently the only technology available supporting businesses and their website visitors or app users to talk in real-time via any interface, typed or spoken.

Most recently CEO at Iron Group and Iron Capital, Anne has a proven record in scale ups and global growth acceleration in digital media, entertainment and e-commerce. She successfully led several innovation companies to hyper growth internationally including Inspired Gaming Group and Videology.
Anne has succeeded Carl Holmquist, Co-Founder of Freespee, who will retain his role as Chief Strategy Officer. Carl comments, “We are no longer a start-up from Sweden. We are a growth company with 5 international offices, headquartered in London. These new appointments are going to really help us grow and expand globally as a business and we are very excited about the year ahead.”

Anne who is also an angel investor in over 25 companies and a mentor to entrepreneurs and sits on the board of 7digital and said, “I am delighted to join the talented Freespee team. The company is already experiencing double digit profitable growth and I look forward to accelerating our deployment even more broadly across Europe and North America. “Our clients are at the centre of everything we do and we will continue to invest heavily in Freespee’s innovative product suite to continuously drive greater value for our brands and their customers.”

Freespee has also announced the appointment of Dominic Ely as CFO. Dom has spent 20 years in private equity, investing in growth companies across a range of sectors, including software and media.  He became CFO/COO of Zinc Ahead, a pharmaceutical compliance SaaS business, which grew rapidly before its sale to Veeva Systems in 2015.  In the last two years he has invested in and worked with a number of early stage SMEs and is a Non-Executive Director of Kudos Innovations.

Dom comments, “I am thrilled to be joining Freespee at this exciting time in its evolution. We’ll be building on the great achievements of its founders and am looking forward to working with Anne, a world class tech CEO.”

Carl Holmquist summarised the developments; “Building on our successes so far, Anne and Dominic will lead Freespee to pursue our mission: to give brands the tools to make every customer conversation impactful. These appointments put me back in my sweet spot – looking into the future and working out how we can build what our world leading customers need in the years to come.”

Contact Information:

For more information contact:
Pamela Badham – / 07825567808
Henrietta Lawrence –

• About Anne de Kerckhove:

• About Dominic Ely:

• About Carl Holmquist:

About Freespee:

Freespee is the only customer communication platform that allows businesses and their website visitors or app users to talk in real-time via any interface, typed or spoken.

Freespee’s customer communication platform is designed to turn more web visitors and app users into customers, driving more sales.

The customer communication platform enables online businesses to see their website visitors and app users, see the conversations being had with those customers and use them to trigger specific and relevant actions to help tailor the customer experience and drive conversion.

Freespee is trusted by some of the world’s leading businesses including Axa, eBay, Schibsted, Fiat, and Peugeot to enable millions of customer conversations every month.

The company, which has raised a total of $17.25m to date, was founded by Swedish software engineers in 2009 and is headquartered in London with offices in Uppsala, Paris, Düsseldorf and Barcelona.

Hackathon: The Popularity And Impact Of This Community Builder

Freespee recently held an internal hackathon in the spirit of collaborative computer programming, the event took place in Uppsala, Sweden and was a resounding success. In that vein, we wanted to delve further into the growing popularity of hackathons and their impact on our digital world.

What is a Hackathon?

Hackathons or codefests are collectives where experts and students in technology and business development cooperate to solve a problem in multiple ways, all while working with developers from around the world or within their own company. The event has become so popular that even the Vatican held their own 36-hour hackathon this year. Called VHacks, the goal was to bring together 120 students from 30 countries to “address issues of social inclusion, interfaith dialogue and the challenges facing migrants and refugees,” according to Vatican News.
While the term “hack” has negative connotations due to its association with breaching security systems, in the hackathon world, it comes with no malicious intent and merely means to reprogram a system for more useful endeavours cleverly. It’s about exploring within legal parameters — not trespassing.
The benefits of hackathon are multitudinous; it creates an opportunity for developers to build technology over a set period while absorbing multiple perspectives. It also helps build a bridge to the developer community. According to Hackworks, “For companies whose competencies lie in providing technology solutions, hackathons help establish two-way conversations between those that develop the technology (APIs, APKs, data sets, etc.) and the people that use them.”
They are also great indicators of where the industry is focusing their energy the most, right now one of the most popular topics in the hackathon sphere is Artificial Intelligence. One upcoming hackathon taking place in Vancouver this month is looking at prototyping technology for use on a “new earth.”

Freespee’s Hackathon

At Freespee, “we split into three teams of 6 – each composed of Front End, Back End, Ops, Product, and Design – we set out to solve a real-world problem on the blockchain,” said Freespee Senior Product Manager and Hackathon organiser Heather Baden.
The teams each developed highly effective programs, apps and more to alleviate problems with temperature, workplace morale and missing keys – all using Bitcoins lauded inventory system, the blockchain.

The successful team received prizes and created a program that could make daily life a whole lot easier.

Famous Hackathon Creations

Hackathons have been in existence for nearly 20 years, starting in 1999 when the term was first coined at an OpenBSD event in California. Since then, these tech community bonding get-togethers have produced some well-known products and apps that we all know and use frequently. Pedram Keyani, former director of engineering at Facebook wrote in a blog post in 2012 that many Facebook features came from hackathons. “Some of our most-loved products started at hackathons, got props at prototype forum, and made it to your computers and phones, including Video, the Like button, Chat, Hip-hop for PHP, and even Timeline,” he stated.

Hackathon events are only growing in number each year, with thousands taking place in countries like the United States, the UK, and Australia. All with the aim of enhancing and accelerating the systems we use every day.
Via: Vatican News, Hackworks, Facebook.