Dr. Natasha Zharinova
Head of Strategy and Finance, Marktplaats.nl
Marktplaats.nl capitalizes on market and customer insights
In the Netherlands, fashionistas looking for the perfect pair of snakeskin pumps, collectors searching for hard-to-find items, and people just looking for a good deal go online to Marktplaats.nl, the Dutch arm of eBay.
Over the past 13 years Marktplaats.nl ("marketplace" in Dutch) has grown from a simple, brilliant idea to the leading online commerce platform for goods and services in the Netherlands.
So it seemed a natural fit when the Amsterdam-based company was acquired by eBay in 2004. Now the site has more than 6.5 million unique visitors per month and is the third largest European business of eBay Marketplaces.
Every day, more than 300,000 new listings are posted on the site for new and second-hand goods, by and for private and business users. In line with the mission of eBay Inc., Marktplaats.nl lets consumers buy anything, anywhere, and helps all kinds of sellers compete in today's online commerce.
With an incredibly diverse range of offerings – from clothing and collectibles to cars and services – and loads of data on the buying and selling patterns of 70 percent of Dutch Internet users, the company applies analytics to help its customers buy and sell their goods. Since analytics is deeply ingrained in the company's DNA, its leaders use predictive analytics to make swift and agile decisions throughout the organization.
With minimal effort, we have access to graphical and visual reports, plus answers to ad hoc questions and specific what-if questions.
Dr. Natasha Zharinova
Analyzing data on 6 million monthly visitors
In 1999, Marktplaats.nl was one of the first websites in the Netherlands to focus exclusively on classified ads. To fulfill the company mission "to connect buyers and sellers," the site relies on sound data management, accessible analysis and reliable forecasts of its six million monthly visitors' buying and selling behavior.
"SAS® helps us gain insight and target our customers. It helps us stay customer-focused so we can offer the best possible service and experience," says Dr. Natasha Zharinova, Finance Director at Marktplaats.
People choose Marktplaats.nl because it is highly accessible and allows ads to be placed in 36 different product groups. Increasingly, new products (nearly 30 percent of total goods offered) are being advertised on the site. The social aspects of the platform, combined with the heavy traffic, make Markplaats.nl attractive for service providers as well.
"Our visitors and customers are critical to our success," emphasizes Zharinova. "Our relationship with them is truly based on what we can offer to one another. User experience is at the heart of everything we do. There has to be real value for our users in each new feature and tool."
Deep insights into customer behavior
The site's simple navigation and ease of use are possible because of advanced monitoring and analysis of visitors' surfing, browsing, buying and selling behavior. Through targeting techniques, Marktplaats.nl uses the data it collects to deliver the right ads to the right people at the right time, through the proper channels – including mobile devices and social media, such as Facebook.
"With SAS, we unlock vast amounts of structured and unstructured data from both internal and external environments for statistical analysis, reporting and forecasting," says Zharinova.
"Because we are able to drill down through multiple levels of data, we can actually increase our understanding of our visitors' behavior and respond to it. We look at both buying and selling patterns. For example, we can group customers searching for products in categories with children's clothing in the segment 'parents.' Based on the clothing sizes they seek, we estimate their child's age. With this information, we can create a better fit with the customer's needs by offering advertising based on their interests."
"A nice example is our Marktplaats Junior program, where we provide our users with relevant content and advertising, from pregnancy until the child is five years old. First we offer convenient baby products, then the ability to sell these products – while also providing an overview of children's clothing advertisements in the next suitable size range.
"This proactive targeting greatly enhances customer satisfaction," notes Zharinova. "The insights also help us to decide the direction in which we would like to grow and how we can further improve our services to our customers and advertisers."
Helping small businesses succeed
To address the needs of business customers, the company uses a customer lifecycle management program. Admarkt is Marktplaats' self-service, performance-based advertising product for small and medium enterprises (SME). It was launched in 2007 and has grown into a solid component of the company's B2C offering.
"We have focused on data-driven programs that empower our SME customers to run a successful business through Marktplaats.nl," says Zharinova. "We use SAS to define customer segments with varying needs and to implement an automated customer lifecycle program that supports customers through various points of their operations – from getting started, to improving performance and visibility, to reactivating customers whose usage has been declining.
"We also put our customers in the spotlight during the annual Admarkt Success Stories award. Last year's winner was a children's furniture shop – Zomerzoen – that doubled its revenues in one year by using our products. Ninety percent of its showroom visitors come via Marktplaats.nl, and 40 percent of the total revenues are attributable to Marktplaats.nl ads, meaning we've obtained our most important goal – happy and successful customers."
One version of the truth
According to Zharinova, Marktplaats finds SAS really valuable for its ability to make the information gathered from huge amounts of data and data sources more accessible and useful.
"We hardly lose any time collecting data, which allows us more time to focus on making the best possible use of valuable insights and customer data," says Zharinova. "With minimal effort, we have access to graphical and visual reports, plus answers to ad hoc questions and specific what-if questions."
The reports are available instantly to the different departments – and they are easy to use and distribute in any format, including PowerPoint, Excel and Word. As a result, Marktplaats.nl has a uniform companywide view of its current business so that all decisions are based on facts.
"This new view has leveled the playing field when it comes to agile and fact-based decision-making throughout the organization, empowering our employees, and creating a great place to work that has an impact on business and society," says Zharinova.
With SAS, Marktplaats.nl is able to predict revenue streams in detail and immediately respond to any changes in customer behavior. "We know how trade is affected by things like the time and date of purchase, school holidays, and even weather conditions; we can make accurate predictions based on this information," says Zharinova. "A major advantage is also the ability to trace data sources. If something doesn't go as expected, we dive into the data to find a detailed explanation."
Due to continuous efforts to optimize visitor experience, Marktplaats.nl has held on to its No. 1 position in a highly competitive industry for more than 12 years.
"Our knowledge of the market and the visitors, and our adherence to the principle of constant improvement helps us remain No. 1," says Zharinova. "We use the analytical power of SAS to answer complex questions – which form the basis for segmentation and customer lifecycle programs – and to enhance our marketing campaigns. We are also better able to predict the effects of changes to the site, as well as new products and services we introduce.
"Our ultimate challenge is to instantly offer visitors exactly the information and products they seek," she says. "With SAS, we have insight into customer data and trading behavior, and we are able to see connections that help us target our users with the right actions, at the right time – which contributes to a positive customer experience."
Marktplaats.nl needs to maximize customer satisfaction by proactively enhancing customer experience and offering customers the best possible service.
Provide different departments with an in-depth understanding of trade flows, enabling them to quickly respond to customer behavior. These insights are based on large volumes of customer data that are recorded and analyzed, so Marktplaats.nl can accurately track and predict trading.
Highly satisfied customers. Thanks to the thorough understanding of current and future trade and income flows, at different levels of detail, Marktplaats.nl can evaluate and improve every aspect of the user experience.