Kijiji, a Flop in a U.S., Rules Online Classifieds in Canada

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Janet Bannister, a ubiquitous partner during a seed collateral investment fund, was formerly in assign of a facilities in Kijiji, a Canadian chronicle of eBay. Although Kijiji is now used by roughly half of all Canadians, eBay continues to publicize it heavily.

Ryan Enn Hughes for The New York Times

TORONTO — If Kijiji is remembered during all in a United States, it is substantially as one of eBay’s catastrophic attempts to plea Craigslist in online personal ads. But in Canada, Kijiji is now many synonymous with classifieds.

More than 12 million people revisit Kijiji’s site in Canada each month, 3 times a volume drawn to Craigslist in a country. The use is used by 42 percent of Canadians, according to comScore, creation it one of country’s 10 many renouned sites. It has also eclipsed other companies’ online businesses, including Cox Automotive’s once widespread used-car site, AutoTrader.

That success is a distinguished counterexample to a globalization of a web, in that services like Facebook and Google offer a singular product worldwide. It also represents one of a few online brands that fizzled in a United States yet found success elsewhere, as a amicable media colonize Friendster has in a Philippines and Malaysia.

How Kijiji managed to grasp those feats is partly a story of good timing, nearing in Canada before Craigslist unequivocally took off here. The success is also a outcome of a association tailoring itself to a pointed distinctions of a market, catering in sold to a bent of Canadians toward thriftiness.


“I was a user of Kijiji before we came here,” conspicuous Scott Neil, handling executive of Kijiji Canada. “The one thing that astounded me was unequivocally how many people desired a site.”

Ryan Enn Hughes for The New York Times

“Canadians are traditionally penny pinchers, that manifests itself in consumer shopping differences,” conspicuous Warren Shiau, consulting executive of customer function investigate during a marketplace research organisation IDC Canada. “Kijiji has no fees for anything outward of a few specific big-ticket categories, that appeals to a penny pinchers in us.”

These days, Kijiji has 6.7 million listings on a site. The operation has stretched to a indicate that a offices stretch by dual 19th-century former factories in downtown Toronto. While eBay does not alone divulge Kijiji’s financial formula or a formula for eBay Canada, a classifieds site is eBay’s largest operation in Canada. Variations of Kijiji now run in 32 other countries. And eBay Classifieds succeeded Kijiji in a United States.

But Kijiji’s success in Canada was distant from certain — and it arose reduction from any master devise by eBay than from a enterprise by an eBay official, Janet Bannister, and her father to pierce behind to their local Canada in 2004.

Four years earlier, Ms. Bannister assimilated eBay in California and became executive of difficulty development, operative to enhance a online auction site over a strange niche of collectible trinkets. When she returned to Canada, as executive of product, she was put in assign of a facilities in a Canadian chronicle of eBay.

She shortly found that a operation had a poignant problem.

“EBay Canada was doing a unequivocally good pursuit of removing people in Canada to a website, yet we were doing a terrible pursuit indeed removing them to covenant on a website,” conspicuous Ms. Bannister, who is now a ubiquitous partner during Real Ventures, a seed collateral investment fund. “We did some things on a website to try to residence it, yet it didn’t unequivocally tighten a gap.”

A elemental problem for eBay in Canada, Mr. Shiau said, is that Canadians generally do not like auction-based pricing. On tip of that, Ms. Bannister found that since Canada’s immeasurable embankment and low race firmness make shipping costs high and smoothness times long, buyers of secondhand products elite to make deals in person.

To Ms. Bannister, a answer for eBay seemed to be online personal ads. At a conduct office, however, a suspicion did not seem to be utterly so obvious. At a time, about 10 percent of Canadians used Craigslist, a turn many eBay executives suspicion meant that it was entirely entrenched. Nevertheless, they gave Ms. Bannister some classifieds site program being grown for Europe along with a tiny volume of income to adjust a site and marketplace a result.

The usually thing a conduct bureau of eBay in California imposed was a name, Kijiji — conspicuous Ka-jee-jee — that is Swahili for village. Ms. Bannister was horrified.

“I was in a discussion room and we wrote it down,” Ms. Bannister conspicuous of holding a call from a conduct bureau about a name. “I couldn’t even review it with all a i’s and a j’s. we said, ‘I don’t caring what it means. You’ve got to have a name people can pronounce and people can spell.’ ”

There was no budging from domicile on a name, though, so Ms. Bannister changed forward. At first, she avoided severe Craigslist directly. Research showed that Craigslist was used in Canada especially by immature group looking for accommodations or to place personal ads, so Kijiji incited to immature families and their fast changing needs. Kijiji also was expelled in Montreal and Quebec City, mostly French-speaking communities where Craigslist was afterwards accessible usually in English.

Listings quickly grew. Making money, however, was a some-more light process. Among other things, a site did not even deliver ensign promotion until it had turn entirely established.

Today, Kijiji has a contingent of income sources. In further to ensign ads, a site sells some-more distinguished positions within formula and some-more elaborate displays for ads like print galleries.

Also, automobile dealers and housing let companies compensate subscription fees for their listings. Despite those fees, a autos territory is hugely popular, with 4.6 million vehicles listed final year, conspicuous Scott Neil, handling executive of Kijiji in Canada.

This month, Kijiji captivated about 160 automobile dealers to an annual sales discussion in Toronto. And in one magnitude of Kijiji’s success, Postmedia Network, a widespread journal publisher in many vast Canadian cities, now uses a use to yield a used-car listings on a automotive websites.

The growth, though, has come with criticism. The site’s pet listings led to protests from animal rights groups that it had turn a breakwater for puppy mills, that led to process changes. And there are a rather predicted schemes. Earlier this year, a 25-year-old male was arrested and charged with rascal for reportedly regulating Kijiji to lease and collect deposits on a summer lodge he did not own.

Mr. Neil conspicuous that a association had about 60 employees who searched listings for rascal and that it also used program to dwindle controversial listings or those taboo on a site possibly by laws or association policies.

Although Kijiji is now used by roughly half of all Canadians, eBay continues to publicize it heavily, fixation ads on buses and on radio during a stream hockey playoffs. While he declined to offer specifics, Mr. Neil conspicuous a association was operative on new ways to enhance a already outsize presence.

Johnna Hoff, a mouthpiece for eBay, conspicuous a classifieds site fit into a company’s broader goal of joining people in their communities.

“Canada is a splendid spot,” she said, “where business have helped us build a fun, easy, protected place to buy, sell, trade, hunt and some-more by Kijiji.”

As use of a site becomes some-more widespread, it could risk losing a clarity of village built during a early days. But Mr. Neil conspicuous there was only something inherently Canadian about a service.

“I was a user of Kijiji before we came here,” Mr. Neil said. “The one thing that astounded me was unequivocally how many people desired a site. Maybe we sound like I’m overemphasizing that, yet we couldn’t trust how many it unequivocally resonated with Canadians.”