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Why Google Trader could leave other classified platforms in the dirt

Google Trader, the internet giant’s classifieds and trading service, is making waves, especially in emerging markets. The aim of Trader is to make it easier for businesses to post classified-type ads for their services, products and jobs. Listings are accessible from the web, the mobile web and via SMS. The listings also now include price, locations, and short snippets of content based on what is being advertised.

Google expanded its Trader product footprint to Kenya in October and Nigeria in November, following on from successes in Uganda and Ghana. Africa News even went as far as to say that Accra, the capital of Ghana, was brought to a standstill when the service launched there earlier this year.

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At the Ghana Launch, Google Ghana Country Lead, Estelle Akofio-Sowah, went on to say that:

“We are excited about Trader because it’s free, easy to use, and locally relevant. Having a web version, a mobile web version and an SMS option means that Trader is accessible to everyone, no matter where you are.”

The fact that Google has catered for the USSD market is a sign that it realises that smartphones aren’t necessarily the key to conquering Africa yet. In 2009, it launched the SMS suite of products which allows users with feature phones to access information via SMS on a range of topics from health and agriculture tips to news, local weather and sports. The services come in conjunction with partnerships with the Grameen Foundation and mobile communications giant MTN, and will take advantage of the footprint of these organisations when it comes to growing on the African continent.

The battle ground for Africa is hotting up as MIH Internet Africa(owned by emerging markets media and internet giant Naspers)’s site Dealfish has recently undergone a reskin. But is this enough to fend off the salvo from a company that has a huge number of users already? Dealfish has also launched its own mobile app but again, it will find it hard to stack-up against Google. The latter allows posting via SMS, as well as web posting. Having both gives Trader a far greater reach.

Dealfish isn’t the only one who is going to feel the pinch when Trader gets bigger: global classifieds behemoth, Gumtree, spends over US$1-million a day globally on Adwords. Surely it’s going to start wondering whether it’s worth paying its competitor the money it is going to eventually use against them.

Jaco Jonker, CEO of South African online auction site Bid or Buy reckons that platforms like his have less to fear from Trader since they are commerce-based while Trader is centred more towards classifieds. He added that Bid or Buy offers a much more controlled environment and has a dedicated security department that screens sellers before allowing them to trade on the platform. He also said there is a much more sophisticated sales management backend that helps sellers manage sales, communication and ratings.

While Trader is by no means the finished article yet, with the introduction of Google’s other products like Offers and Wallet, Trader can easily become a proper commerce engine, especially as it seemingly has the edge in the mobile department with its current SMS functionality and Android waiting in the wings.

Image: qnr

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