You’re only as big as you feel: a business lesson from Gumtree

When thinking of small businesses, Gumtree probably isn’t the first company that springs to mind. However, when it comes to business, size is a matter of perspective. Over the last 12 months, the global classifieds site has been addressing various aspects of its business in order to become an even bigger entity.

Despite reaching millions of daily visitors in Australia alone, Gumtree isn’t content to rest on its laurels and simply trundle along “doing well.” Adopting the mindset of a small start-up looking to break into the public’s consciousness, Gumtree has unveiled a raft of changes in recent months and, according to the latest reports, they are starting to pay dividends in 2016.

Never Undervalue the Overhaul.
Image1One of the most important lessons any small business owner can take from major brands such as Gumtree is the willingness to change. Despite working hard to build up a brand identity, you should never restrict yourself to your original concept.

Gumtree recently embraced this concept and completely overhauled its main logo on the main UK website. For 15 years, the iconic Australian gumtree was used to define the company’s brand. However, like all saplings, Gumtree has grown-up and, thanks to its presence in multiple countries across the world, it felt as though a change was needed.

Spurred on by a desire to surpass Google’s (46 million) and Facebook’s (40 million) monthly visits in the UK, Gumtree enlisted the help of design agency Koto to create a new logo that was simultaneously true to its core ideals but fresh and compatible with a “digital” generation.

The end result was a simple yet modern feeling logo, that stayed true to the brand’s tree concept, but works well in a mobile setting. According to Gumtree’s head of marketing, Hannah Wilson, 80% of the company’s traffic now comes from mobile users and it was important to rebrand the site with this in mind.

This ability to analyse your key demographics and rebrand your business according to new market conditions, is a crucial lesson every start-up needs to learn. Indeed, something that worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future. So, it’s important to maintain a degree of flexibility and never be afraid of changing things up.

Freemium to Premium


When it comes to monetising free-to-use apps, there are few industries that have executed it as perfectly as mobile gaming companies. From pioneers such as Angry Bird’s creator Rovio Entertainment and Zynga, to modern freemium fanatics such as Glu Mobile and GREE, mobile gaming companies have perfected the free-to-play model.

Understanding that mobile users are used to receiving the majority of their content for free, these gaming companies are prepared to giveaway the bulk of their content without any charge. Using that as a hook, they then lace each game with a selection of items that can be purchased in order to enhance or extend the experience.

Gumtree Australia has adopted a similar model for its car selling pages. Seen as the premium section of the site, the Gumtree car market charges each commercial seller, as well as those listing more than one car. It’s a small fee to access millions of daily visitors. Essentially, Gumtree Australia is using the popularity of its free listings service to create a database. That then becomes a valuable asset for users wanting to sell high value items such as cars.

Indeed, according to recent reports, Gumtree Australia now has almost 200,000 live car listings and daily visits have peaked at a record three million daily visits at the start of 2016.

Partly thanks to the “buy, sell, win” marketing campaign launched in 2015, the surge in activity is a testament to the power of the freemium-to-premium model that many modern businesses are now using. Something all new start-ups should consider as part of their overall strategy.

A Dose of Humanity


The final lesson all aspiring business owners can learn from the recent revival of Gumtree is its reconnection with real people. It’s all too easy to become disconnected with the people who actually use your product, when you become a large entity. This is something Gumtree has been keen to address with its recent marketing campaign in Australia.

Telling the stories of buyers and sellers across the site as well as its social media channels has reintroduced the human touch. Subsequently, this has made Gumtree a more appealing option for consumers.

As your business grows from a start-up to a mature company, it’s important to maintain this connection to your target audience and not become a faceless corporate entity. In fact, if Gumtree’s recent moves have shown us anything, it’s that size shouldn’t hinder change. Despite being the 12th largest site in Australia according to Alexa, Gumtree has adopted the mindset of a small business. It has implemented a number of crucial changes in order to become a much more successful entity heading into 2016. There’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same.