Swapace is a very smart online marketplace, where members can buy, sell, barter and swap goods and services, as well as negotiate and meet. Created in
Australia and subsequent winner of awards for innovation and fast growth, when the CEO first approached us he had a small challenge. He wanted us to
help him take on eBay.
With a competitor the size of eBay, plus Craiglist, TradeMe and MyPlace, the global market was hardly uncontested. Swapace has some key advantages though:
multiple user options on one site, and the ability to swap and negotiate, not just bid and sell. However, the site had very little content at the time,
so there was not much to attract members and member and transaction volumes were quite low. It was a bit early to claim to be 'better then eBay'.
We felt that SwapAce could grow quickly, if it didn't take eBay head on but, instead, focused on gated micro-sites for specific communities, where it could
fulfill unique requirements, enable multiple types of interactions and offer content that was highly relevant to them, not to the whole world. In this
way, each user would have more reason to engage with 'their SwapAce' than with any other trading website.
New look, better functions
At the start, the SwapaAce web site looked somewhat cluttered and 'home-made' and lacked clear branding or positioning. We created the tagline ‘the marketplace
of choice’ to highlight the technical advantages, updated the logo to match, reorganized the structure and functions to be more logical, made the pricing
options more attractive and clear and rewrote the content to focus on key benefits. With so many smart techies on hand, technical issues like slow
speed and no feedback tracking, were easily and quickly fixed.
The first community, a region
The obvious types of community to target were geographical (region) or vertical (industry), where we expected that a 'member only' trading platform would
have immediate appeal. After an initial research, we found an easily accessible pilot: the geographical community of the Southern Highlands in NSW.
We created specific collateral, defined the most accessible decision-makers, made initial cold calls, worked with local industry, charity and youth
groups, engaged local radio, TV and cinema and attended local events, creating a buzz about SwapAce quickly and widely. Within a few weeks, the Southern
Highlands' own online community was operating with multiple business and private users, charities and community groups, together with lots of relevant
local content. The community approach had been proven.
Adding educational communities
We went on to engage with multiple universities, using the same gated community model. We worked through relevant stakeholders and groups, creating unique
collateral to engage them, including telemarketing scripts and resources for them to distribute. For this vertical, there were even more advantages,
with a younger, more active community for social, geographical and commercial interactions. For students, staff and other members, SwapAce was an obvious
Adding business communities
With 2 very different communities proven, we expanded to business, promoting the proven benefits of SwapAce to state and national industry associations.
This was an enormously diverse group, from fishermen to farmers to builders, yet the benefits of a private trading platform for each of them, had even
more relevance and resonance for this group, than for the first two.
A few years later, SwapAce extended its model to the lucrative wedding business, where its clever functionality enabled guests to contribute towards gifts
or trips or purchases for the wedding couple, without the barriers of store-controlled wedding registries. This time, we worked with an established
wedding services provider to build a targeted list of prospects and providers, whom we engaged via phone, web and email. This campaign was also successful.
An established player
SwapAce has continued to grow and diversify, and is now an established online market with over 200,000 members in 150 countries, listing over 80,000 items.
The company has won multiple awards for innovation, fast growth and smart leadership. The initial focus on uncontested space - communities it
could dominate and leverage for expansion into new markets – has proven its worth.