In a strong sign that Pakistani consumers – usually slow to adopt new technologies – have increased the use of internet for selling and purchasing of goods, free classifieds websites are increasing and growing manifolds in the country.
Global leaders craigslist and olx – known for selling and purchasing used items through listings – have not only revolutionised the classifieds industry of the West, but also financial impacted the US print media industry.
These sites have created a free platform where buyers meet sellers, a formula that has swelled traffic and become an advertising paradise.
The trend – free online advertising of used items – is clicking well in Pakistan thanks to a growing middle-class and its sophisticated consumption habits. Both local and international classifieds sites, operating from Pakistan, have increased their traffic manifold along with user listings.
In May alone, there were 100,000 new postings on olx, CEO Fabrice Grinda said in an email – the numbers represent postings by consumers and not spam. In Pakistan, the total number of unique visitors on the world’s second largest free classifieds site jumped 63% to 3.1 million in May 2012 from 1.9 million in December 2011.
Unique visitors are a common measurement for the popularity of a website. It counts the number of computers, through their IP addresses, that access a particular page and records multiple visits by the same visitor as one.
Olx, a dominant player in Pakistan, is betting heavily on the potential of the Pakistani classified market and has been running its own advertisements on leading television channels for several months now. On the other hand, local classifieds sites, including startups, are also benefiting from this emerging trend.
More than 60,000 daily visits are recorded by pakwheels.com, a famous classifieds site for selling and buying of used automobiles, according to visualizetraffic.com – an online platform that gives a close count of the number of visitors of a website.
Another example, endorsing the growth of the online classifieds sites is dekho.com.pk. Over 100,000 postings have been made on this site during the last six months, according to Nils Hammar, the Swedish CEO of the website that went online in November 2011.
“We’ve gone from 0 to over 500,000 unique visitors per month in just six months time,” Hammar said in an email to The Express Tribune. Of the 36,000 websites, visited by both local and overseas Pakistanis, he added, dekho.com.pk is the 135th most visited website at the moment.
The startup, as per claim of the company officials, is the only classifieds site in Pakistan catering to English and Urdu reading and writing audiences. “The site can easily be accessed on any mobile phone,” said Bilal Qureshi, Market Developer at Dekho.com.pk.
In Pakistan there is already a huge second-hand market, be it in bazaars on the weekends or between people who know each other, Qureshi said. “Every day we have several hundred second-hand products advertised by users on our page, and its growing. We know that an average car ad gets several answers within the same day,” he added.
Despite witnessing impressive growth, classifieds sites are yet to challenge the print media’s dominance in the country.
Free classifieds websites have increased their traffic manifold but given only around 17% of the country’s population, 20 million, is online the scope is limited.
“Although online classifieds forums have attracted many people but we have not seen any major changes in the classifieds ads industry,” said an official from a leading advertising agency, adding their clients still prefer newspapers. However, he said some clients also upload their classified ads on multiple forums because they are for free and very often get a response.
Underserved at the moment, the regional market including Pakistan will grow overtime, according to experts.
“The market in South East Asia is still in its infancy and will become a sizable market in the next 5 to 10 years,” olx CEO Fabrice Grinda Grinda said.
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