Gumtree is the top-ranked classified advertising site in the U.K., with sister platforms in countries such as Australia and South Africa.
Owned by eBay since 2005 and a leading player within the eBay Classifieds Group, Gumtree reports 14 to 19 million unique visitors a month and is a go-to resource for everything from iPhones to cars, and jobs to housing.
To measure and drive its key communications objectives, Gumtree and its media relations, public affairs, and social agencies worked with Cision Insights and Cision’s third-party agencies to build a robust earned media measurement framework.
“It isn’t always clear who we are or what we do, because we do so much for so many different audiences,” said Fergus Campbell, Gumtree’s comms lead. And, from a purely business standpoint, “we need to continue to grow usage across our different services and keep growing our user base.”
To address these challenges, Gumtree identified the following comms objectives: Improve trust in its services; build knowledge and awareness of its diverse offerings; improve proactive reputation management; and grow web traffic.
The first two were a particular concern to the comms team. Consumers often confuse Gumtree’s classifieds service with marketplace sites such as eBay. Additionally, Gumtree doesn’t offer transaction services on its site, so customers must handle them offline, either in person or through a third-party site, resulting in safety concerns.
“We wanted to know if it was a real problem, how big it was, and if there was a communications opportunity,” explained Campbell.
As regards web traffic, Gumtree wanted to address seasonal fluctuations in site traffic, such as when shoppers move away from classified websites to online retailer sites to buy Christmas presents.
A measurement framework
An integrated measurement plan was developed and implemented by Gumtree and Cision using multiple data sets, including media analysis, market research, and web analytics.
An ongoing reputation tracking study, targeting its key consumer and business-to-business audiences, was built. Results showed that the top three qualities these audiences looked for in an online retailer were value, ease of use, and trustworthiness. Research also showed that Gumtree performed well against value and ease of use, but performed less well on trust, confirming the fears of the comms team.
Media analysis conducted alongside the study showed there was a relatively large proportion of negative coverage, with a number of stories that discussed fraudulent or poor-quality items.
This analysis was then used to inform a series of actions aimed at improving sentiment and building trust, including:
Developing an outreach program that identifies key journalists and other influencers.
Creating an early warning process on specific stories. For instance, when a mother was scammed on the Gumtree site when purchasing Ed Sheeran tickets, Gumtree’s safety team responded within the day, highlighted its concerns and directed people to their website to find out more information about how to protect themselves online.
Development and launch of a proactive Trust and Safety campaign. This helped build mutually beneficial relationships cybercrime organizations and the police.
Spreading the word about its diverse offerings.
On the latter, Gumtree addressed the need to build awareness with a set of PR campaigns: the Economy of Relationships, the Economy of Parenthood, and the Economy of Adulthood. These campaigns focused on how Gumtree helps people during key life stages. Gumtree market research helped to gain deeper awareness of the brand’s impact within key audience segments. It began with a study of target audiences (such as millennials and parents) to discover what they considered to be ‘key life stages,’ and how prepared they are for these events.
Gumtree used this information to create content, including media pitches and press releases.
This effort was coupled with a deep look at the media consumption of these audiences. Results from a survey of 10,000 U.K. consumers were used to build targeted media lists and evaluate Gumtree’s previous success in sharing messages through coverage from relevant media outlets.
Improve proactive reputation management
Media analysis was used to manage its reputation throughout the year, focusing on flexible tracking of themes and issues, which included PR-generated coverage and coverage from influencers, journalists, and third-party spokespeople.
Additionally, Gumtree was able to link its website usage data to media analysis to understand how media coverage was driving usage on the site, particularly around key points in the year.
Knowing the volume of coverage is important, but the analysis has also given us the ability to gauge sentiment, which is key to delivering campaign results to our senior leadership
Fergus Campbell, Gumtree
After 12 months with this measurement framework in place, Gumtree saw significant gains in awareness, reputation, and website traffic.
The reputation tracking survey highlighted that trust and safety were a concern, while media analysis showed that negative coverage relating to fraudulent items increased in the first few months of last year.
Using analysis to manage proactive campaigns, identify and develop relationships with key journalists, and react to emerging stories, the team was able to reduce negative coverage. By year-end, the proportion of coverage mentioning fraudulent items had fallen by 35%.
“Knowing the volume of coverage is important, but the analysis has also given us the ability to gauge sentiment, which is key to delivering campaign results to our senior leadership,” said Campbell. “As a result of these initiatives, we have started to improve our reputation and show that we can positively affect business outcomes.”
Proactive reputation management
The focus on proactive campaign activity had significant effects on quantity and quality of the resulting media coverage.
Coverage from proactive activity tripled over four financial quarters; the proportion of positive articles increased 30%; and 71% of coverage in Q4 was from target media.
Reputation tracking research highlighted that the proportion of people who think Gumtree is safe doubled from January to October. The proportion of people who think Gumtree is trustworthy also doubled from January to October.
There have been significant increases in the proportion of people who think Gumtree is good value and easy to use.
Campbell and his team hope to expand their measurement framework to incorporate business impacts. “Through PR, we want to answer questions such as can we drive site traffic in specific categories, and at specific times?”