Trade Me watches its back as mobile surges

The shift to mobile presents opportunities for competitors as well as for New Zealand online marketplace Trade Me, according to its chief executive.
Written by Rob O'Neill, Contributor

Jon Macdonald, chief executive of New Zealand online marketplace Trade Me, has said that over 40 percent of visits to the country's dominant trading website now come on mobile phones and tablets, and that strong growth is expected to continue.

But the shift means that Trade Me has to keep an eye on new mobile disruptors that are trying to eat the company's lunch.

"The migration of online activity to mobile devices is both an opportunity and a threat to us," he said in Trade Me's annual report (PDF), released yesterday.

"It's an opportunity in that it opens up new business models and prospects, and increases the amount of time people spend online. And it's a threat in that the transition to mobile also provides openings to our competitors, and puts pressure on some of our revenue base."

That pressure is falling on display advertising in particular, where advertisers won't pay as much for mobile placements, he said.

Macdonald said that over the course of the year, Trade Me has taken a number of steps to extend its presence across platforms. It has released an iPad app focused on "couch commerce" and delivering a better buying experience, and launched dedicated iPhone and iPad apps for Trade Me Property.

That includes tailoring the Trade Me Property iPad app to deliver what he called a "more luxurious, magazine-style experience" that Macdonald said is impossible on a desktop or laptop computer.

Trade Me has also delivered apps for Samsung and Panasonic smart TVs, substantial upgrades to its Android apps, and extended its smartphone-optimised website.

"Over the coming year, we will further build out our suite of mobile products to capitalise on the opportunities we see, and defend against threats from competitors," Macdonald said.

Trade Me grew net profit after tax by 4 percent year on year for the year ended June 30, 2013, to NZ$78.6 million. Revenue was up 15 percent year on year and NZ$164.1 million.

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