This year saw more visitors to Gumtree platforms than ever before. Users are tapping the platforms for community support and for economic opportunity in the pandemic.

At the same time the platform is beefing up its advertising offering, letting brands take advantage of millions of customers and thousands of data points and buying signals.

With the online advertising industry transitioning away from third party cookies, Gumtree tells Which-50 it plans to transition to “people based identifiers” – an industry solution for matching users with data profiles based on first party data.

The company says it is confident in its data privacy and security, as well as consumers’ awareness of the bargain they strike when using free online services like Gumtree, although it concedes publishers everywhere could do a better job in educating consumers about the trade offs.

Cookies crumbling

It is a turbulent time for those involved in online advertising. With Google planning to phase out third party cookies in the coming years and Apple using privacy as a product feature, many of the solutions advertisers have relied on will be of little use soon.

Add to that an unexpected plunge in digital adspend in 2020 and incoming data law reforms, and the industry is understandably concerned about the future.

Gumtree’s Head of Advertising, Shannon Fitzpatrick. Image: Supplied.

Gumtree’s plan is to leverage its own first party data and move away from cookies to “people based identifiers”.

Gumtree’s Head of Advertising, Shannon Fitzpatrick tells Which-50, “With the tightening of regulation and privacy, browsers are predominantly cracking down on 3rd party cookies – so those tracking identifiers which are set by external vendors. At Gumtree we set 1st party cookies for visitors that come to our site.

“Our plan is to start working with our partners to transition to ‘people based identifiers’ – who then match this data to authenticated profiles on Gumtree – effectively setting their own 1st party cookie.

“By working closer with our advertising partners and encouraging them to use these identity solutions to match their audiences on our network, we can mitigate the risks of the upcoming changes while still bringing real life insights to our clients.”

Fitzpatrick argues a closer relationship between publishers and their clients the better the advertising experience.

“With greater insight into our client’s existing customer database, we can serve more relevant and impactful messaging, which is a big improvement on the generic ad experience.”

Platform boom

Fitzpatrick says 2020 included a significant traffic uplift on Gumtree’s platforms, and, by extension, advertisers.“We have seen uplifts in growing verticals of retail and finance,” Fitzpatrick tells Which-50.

“With this year’s digital acceleration due to the pandemic, our clients have been able to tap into the changing shift of consumerism within the second hand economy.”

Gumtree – the largest second hand platform in Australia – is a strong indicator of those changes and the adjustments many Australians made in 2020.

There was a 218 per cent jump in people searching for desks in the first three weeks of COVID in Australia, for example. In the following three weeks, as the realities of retail closures and hard borders set in, there were big jumps in people browsing bicycles, home and garden products and books and games.

By October the most popular searches were for recreational goods like boats, bikes, surfboards and kayaks.

“These changes in vibrancy throughout 2020,” Fitzpatrick says, “help Gumtree Media build native partnerships based on real time insights to drive more personalised, targeted and discoverable solutions for our users and commercial partners.”

Gumtree’s adtech and privacy

Gumtree, which allows over seven million users to list and sell items without cost, last month said it is on a mission to become “Australia’s best native and audience advertising offering” and appointed a senior manager of adtech and data.

Asked about the value exchange between consumers and platform services like Gumtree, Fitzpatrick said the company “continues to educate its users on this value exchange through stringent its data privacy policies as available on site”.

“Gumtree utilises data and audience insights to sell programmatic advertising to businesses. With strategic brand solutions powered by strong consumer insights from buyers and sellers and our year on year tracking it gives us a true 360 view into our users behaviour and intent to ensure advertisers reach their targeted audiences.”

Fitzpatrick says users are made aware of this bargain through GumTree’s Privacy Policy, a 3,500 word document that, research suggests, most users will never read.

He acknowledges publishers “need to do a better job reminding consumers of the positive value exchange we can offer around advertising, specifically around free content and the use of services”.

The model means Gumtree doesn’t need to charge users directly for the platform but they will typically surrender some information about themselves which the company uses to sell advertising.

It keeps upfront costs down for users, and, Fitzpatrick says, there is also value for consumers in the native advertising  they see, which is based on their browsing habits.

According to Fitzpatrick, Gumtree and its famous parent have introduced additional privacy measures and “adopt best practice data security approaches”.

“Our stringent data privacy policies are spearheaded by our global parent company, eBay. For more than 20 years, eBay has been committed to protecting the privacy and data of the hundreds of millions of global customers who use our trusted platforms.”

As for ad fraud, the multi billion dollar problem that persists in online advertising, Fitzpatrick says Gumtree is committed to doing its due diligence and to “mitigate risk of any fraudulent activity or adverts placed by third parties on site”.

“The Gumtree Media team adhere to advertising standards that ensure illicit activity can be automatically filtered out where possible,” Fitzpatrick said. “Gumtree partners with third parties such as Google Adverts and we rely on third party monitoring and policy enforcement for filtering site adverts.”

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