Freespee

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: https://lnkd.in/eeNiZZ8 

The Quiet Swedish Company Whose Software You Probably Already Use

This is a translation of an interview with Carl Holmquist, Freespee co-founder & CEO, published by Mimi Dilling from DI Digital on 1st January, 2017
http://digital.di.se/
“We got off to a false start at the beginning”, Carl Holmquist, CEO and co-founder of Freespee
When Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren founded communications platform Freespee six years ago they initially met with considerable resistance. Now the company is attracting venture capital and major customers.
An ‘old’ approach to web-based customer communications saw online customers managing their own buying process with little interaction with the vendor. Freespee founders Carl Holmquist and Tobias Lindgren saw an opportunity to make it easier for brands and consumers to communicate and drive superlative customer experience.
“We were hitting our heads against a brick wall when we started talking about this six years ago,” says Freespee’s CEO Carl Holmquist. “Back then, everyone thought the Internet was self-service, but that’s simply not true. Customers are just as loyal to online stores as they are to physical stores; the only difference is that if companies are unable to provide a good customer experience online, it’s very easy for the customer to take their business elsewhere.”
Freespee has flown somewhat under the radar so far and has even been described as an obscure Swedish company . Few people know who the founders are, despite the fact they have acquired a huge sum of SEK 143 million in venture capital. This means it is more than likely that online shoppers will have encountered their software.
Freespee’s technology sits on top of the sales systems and customer systems of client companies, handling communication between them and their customers. One of its functions is to help companies answer their customers’ queries through platforms such as live chat, email and over the phone.
Read this article (in Swedish only) for more information: Swedish Freespee brings in SEK 90 million – “We are anonymous” 
“It’s like when you’re waiting for the train and it turns out to be running late,” says Holmquist. If the train operator doesn’t let you know, you get really irritated. The train might arrive at any time, which means you can’t leave the platform. But if you’re told that it’ll be leaving in half an hour, you can go and buy a coffee or something while you’re waiting,” says Carl Holmquist.
Last autumn, the Uppsala based company obtained a total of SEK 90 million from French venture capital firm Ventech and from their current owners SunstoneCapital (NTL) and Inventure (NTL). It also landed a host of major customers, such as JLLeBayBNP ParibasLloydsBank, the Marriott hotel chain and car giant FiatChrysler.
“And whether you’re a customer waiting for a train, sitting in a telephone queue or waiting for a response to a live chat, the communication about what to expect is pivotal to a customer’s experience,” continues Carl Holmquist.
“It’s like when you decide to call up a company. Rather than the website telling you that there’s a seven minute wait, you call them and make your way through the voice prompts before being told how long you have to wait. Why didn’t they just say so straight away, you can’t help wondering. This is something that could ruin a customer’s experience.”
“The problem here is not that the company doesn’t want to talk to you. They love talking to customers. As long as they’re talking to you, they’ve won because they’ve created a customer relationship.”
According to Carl Holmquist, 98% of visitors to a company’s website leave without buying anything. This is a problem that companies are only just realising exists and want to address; assistance from Freespee is just one of the ways they are trying to deal with the issue. Thanks to this trend, the company has grown so much that it now employs 40 staff and has offices in London, Barcelona, Paris and Cologne. But Freespee was not an obvious success from the outset.
“We got off to a bit of a false start at the beginning. We thought we could solve all the problems associated with communication between our customers and their online visitors. But such problems can vary hugely from organisation to organisation, and that’s where we dropped the ball. Fortunately, we were able to remedy this when our investor Sunstone came on board in 2012.”
Aided by this autumn’s capital injection, the company will continue to develop its software by exploring artificial intelligence-based features. Freespee is also considering expanding into the United States to get closer to US customers who are already using the company’s service on the European market.
“We now know exactly what we are doing and things are really starting to take off. We’re at the heart of the ecosystem for enabling new consumer behaviours,”declares Carl Holmquist.
The original article in Swedish can be found here: http://digital.di.se/artikel/freespees-grundare-vi-trampade-snett-i-borjan

Topics: Customer Experienceinterviewceo