For years, Craigslist has dominated the classified ads sector in the United States. The website has continuously dictated the classified ads in the country, and has expanded globally. It is no secret that AirBnB used Craigslist to grow, and for years the website has been unmatched in what it does. However, Craigslist may have not developed its classified ads enough in the past few years. There are a number of things that are missing or could be improved upon.
Scams often are still a huge problem on the site. Craigslist has a guide on how to avoid scammers, but that is not really enough. Internet-savvy people know how to avoid scams, but people new to Craigslist may be susceptible to scams. Although Craigslist is of course trying to fight scammers, it still happens.
Bots and spam posting does not really happen so much on the classifieds, so it is not an issue for the classified sector. However, since Craigslist is also a community, spam and bots lower the quality of the user experience.
Probably the biggest issue. Craigslist has not moved toward mobile yet, which is quite strange. There are apps for Craigslist out there, but they’re not made by Craigslist. With the current mobile craze (which is here to stay), it is quite strange that Craigslist is not available for Android or iOS.
While in the US most areas are very well covered, in other parts of the world Craigslist is only active in the largest cities of the country – meaning smaller cities cannot use Craigslist for classified ads. It certainly makes sense to start out where there is a large supply and demand for second-hand products, but by only being available in the largest cities, other towns and areas will have to find an alternative to Craigslist.
Also, Craigslist’s locations are not fluid – if you want to sell something in a 50 mile radius, you will have to post in multiple locations. This is an issue for sparsely populated regions, where it is hard to find a buyer for your item.
Enter the Competition
A number of competitors have seized this opportunity to gain a foothold in the classifieds market. While on desktop Craigslist is still unchallenged, there are a number of mobile apps competing for market share in the mobile classified ads niche.
The largest three are currently letgo, Close5 and OfferUp. All of them also have a desktop presence, but their main focus lies on mobile. Close5, a subsidiary of eBay, has seen a massive growth spurt over the last year, with now over 7 million downloads, up from 250,000 just in June of 2015. It is worth noting that letgo and OfferUp are still much larger than Close5 as well. The market definitely is there, and the mobile classifieds industry is growing exponentially.
A non-trivial factor which sets them apart from Craigslist even more, is the design. Craigslist has not really changed its design over the years. However, the mobile classifieds apps are optimizing for user experience and working on the user interface as well. It is definitely not too late for Craigslist to develop its own app, but it may need a design overhaul to compete with the incumbents in the mobile niche, which would require a change of the whole platform.
A second improvement is that mobile devices use GPS and enable location information to apps. Posting your item is not limited to cities anymore, but can be easily set to a radius from your location. At the same time, the potential buyer can immediately see how far away the item is, and immediately check how to get to the location where the transaction will take place.
Uploading pictures of the item you are trying to sell is now much easier too – simply take a picture on your phone, and upload it directly through the app. What may be less convenient is writing a proper description of your item – typing on the phone takes much longer. But with many pictures, the description is not really necessary anyway.