In terms of reach and transactions, the OLX Group is deemed the world’s fastest-growing marketplace network. Through their global platforms in over 35 countries, they serve more than 350 million people every month. When they set up in Lebanon in 2015, the concept of classified ads was available only offline. However, they identified a market opportunity and became one of the first players to offer this service exclusively online.
Lebanon offered a very agile market, with Lebanese people being highly adaptable, highly literate, and early adopters in general. The population reacted very positively to this change and quickly adopted the concept. For this reason, OLX Lebanon became the fastest growing market among the 35+ countries that OLX operates in, and a real ‘poster boy’ for the Group.
Today, OLX Lebanon has 1.1 Million unique users every month and a wide base of buyers and sellers across 13 categories including Properties, Vehicles, Goods, and Jobs and Services
Due to their local success, the company decided to invest further in Lebanon, and moved offices to BDD in 2017. The BDD team sat with the minds behind OLX to talk innovation, growth, and challenges.
BDD: What are the notable milestones since OLX in Lebanon was founded? And what features have gained traction on the site?
OLX: The platform was launched as a 100% free website and application. In February 2017, we introduced ‘Featured Ads’, as the first value-added service on OLX. Featured Ads allow users to distinguish their ad from the other ads posted for free, for a specified period (3 days, 7 days, or 14 days). When featured, ads appear on top of the page and get on average 10 times more views than regular ads which helps sell faster as the supply of ads on the platform is sizeable. Today, Featured Ads are a very popular OLX product with more than 3000 featured ads every month
BDD: How have you innovated?
OLX: We continuously seek to improve our offering, for a seamless marketplace experience. Since we opened the office in 2017, we implemented many changes and improvements, as well as a few introductions to the site. They include:
- OLX for Businesses: We established a dedicated Business Development team to focus on serving our business clients in the Real Estate and Vehicle industries
- Greater trust and safety: More security features were added on the platform, whereby users now need to login and verify their phone number before posting an ad on OLX
- Convenient payments: Convenient methods of payment for people who do not like using their credit cards online were introduced. You can now pay in cash for OLX products at any of the 600 BOB Finance branches across Lebanon
- New and Certified Pre-Owned Cars: The range of products in the car section expanded to now include New (0 Km) and Certified Pre-owned cars
- Paid features: Another addition is the ‘Paid Limits’ on the Vehicle and Property categories. Each user can now post 1 free ad every month. This new measure was introduced as part of our strategic focus on enhancing the quality of ads and improving the user experience on OLX
There is always more to come, as we are on a mission to enhance the platform. Soon, we will have a live chat function powered by our Customer Support team, a revamped section of the category tree to better serve our buyers, and new login options.
BDD: How do you foresee the online marketplace growing?
OLX: The classified ads marketplace industry in Lebanon is a pretty scattered one that includes both vertical players focusing on specific categories and horizontal players. OLX is a dominant player in this industry but we always thrive to maintain our competitive position.
With this in mind, our focus for this year revolves around 4 key areas:
- Easy and Liquid: To constantly ensure a flawless classified ad core experience
- Smart and Personalized: To improve the individual experience via intelligent technology
- Safe and Trustworthy: To set the industry standard for safety
- Convenient: To step into the transaction whenever possible to offer a convenient user experience for both the seller and the buyer
BDD: With such a fast growing marketplace, there are surely challenges. What has impacted your business?
OLX: Today, there are 2 main areas that we are trying to better address in the Lebanese market:
- The Slowdown of the Real Estate Market: As we all know, the real estate market has been suffering over the past 2 years as a result of regulatory and financing changes. The market is currently readapting to the new rules of the game. Our role as OLX is to continue helping the supply find the demand and offer sellers more ways of marketing their assets.
- Going Beyond Addressable Market: The addressable market for OLX today is a very large one whereby we have 1.1 million unique users every month. However, the question is always: how do we grow our market further? How can we reach less accessible groups of the population across Lebanon, including less tech savvy individuals?
What guides us despite these challenges? Our vision ‘to be for everyone’ and upgrade as many lives as possible.