At Marketing Trends we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. In this episode, we talk to Amanda Behre, Head of Marketing at Gumtree Australia. She shares with us the insights gained by being at the forefront of the buying trends during the pandemic, how Gumtree used its platform to better connect people during times of hardship and which principles helped her build a high functioning and engaged team while working remotely.
Amanda's full story here ↓
Career & professional background
Amanda, how did your career in marketing start?
I studied Tourism Management and I've done everything from Hospitality and Tourism to Human Resources before I landed on Marketing. When I started my career, I was fortunate to get a sponsorship to the US as a Sales and Marketing Coordinator. I moved to LA, and was paid $25,000 a year with one-week holiday, but as I was working abroad, I thought I’d hit the jackpot!
It actually was an awesome opportunity, because it allowed me to expand my marketing capabilities and make my way up to more senior positions in the industry.
After a decade abroad, I moved back to Australia and started working in the digital environment at Wotif.com, part of Expedia Group. Over the years, I have gained a breadth of experience: from developing brands from scratch, to building marketing strategies, introducing new technology and building out CRM and marketing automation, as well as managing strategic partnerships and B2B marketing.
Eventually, my experience has led me now to become Head of Marketing at Gumtree Australia.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?
What I like about Marketing is the balance of creativity, strategy and the ability to influence people. I love studying human behaviour, so in another life I might have dived into Psychology.
I would also enjoy being a teacher, which I'm exploring. Part of my job involves mentoring, coaching and guiding my team, and from a leadership standpoint teaching is one of my favourite aspects.
Lastly, I have a passion for travel and tourism, which is why I have been in that category for many years.
Could you tell us about your role as Head of Marketing at Gumtree?
Gumtree is a C2C marketplace where people buy, sell or trade across many different categories: Cars, Home & Garden, Sport & Fitness, Pets, Services, among many others. The platform has more than 7 million customers a month, which means we have a lot of first party data.
I have a really interesting role due to the amount of verticals we manage across a horizontal business. I oversee the marketing team, composed of 20 people, and the entire marketing function, from brand and comms to B2B marketing. Being responsible for Growth, I’m also in charge of paid digital, organic growth, CRM, marketing automation and analytics.
Not too long ago we acquired another business, CarsGuide and Autotrader and it’s now part of my role as well to oversee our marketing team there.
Yet, the core part of my role is being on the leadership team, influencing and setting strategic priorities across the business. For example, ensuring activities are supported across our Product & Technology teams, throughout different stages of the customer journey.
Marketing & Industry Trends
What type of impact has COVID- 19 had on Gumtree?
The pandemic impacted us in different ways. From an industry perspective, Gumtree sits in a unique place. We're very strong in the C2C space, connecting buyers and sellers online. Therefore, being in the digital ecosystem, we saw a huge upsurge in the usage of our platform.
Whilst introductions are made online, many of the transactions are finalised face to face. We had to adapt our business model quickly to promote contactless trading. As we know, the pandemic forced bricks and mortar business closures, created supply chain disruptions, delivery delays, stock issues and many other challenges for companies. Many businesses had to adapt, accelerate their plans and focus on digital transformation. What we found, in the midst of this disruption, consumers who couldn't find things through their normal retailers or available online, looked for them on Gumtree.
Looking into the buying trends during the pandemic is a perfect example of what I mean. During the first stage of lockdown, people started to look into setting up their home offices. This meant a huge upsurge in desks, office equipment and computers. People also wanted to set up home gyms, so we saw a growth in the Sport & Fitness Equipment category. Often, people were looking for these products online, not finding them because they were exhausted across digital platforms, and then coming to Gumtree for them instead.
We later saw people investing in home renovations and buying gardening equipment, mountain bikes and surfboard demand spiked as a result of people wanting to do more outdoors, and consumers enquiring about caravans and camping gear to travel within Australia also grew. Being able to see those peaks in supply and demand and being at the forefront of these trends puts our brand and our team at the epicentre of data and thought leadership during the pandemic.
The pandemic had another type of impact on us. When it started, there were communities who were hurting and we saw plenty of local acts of kindness happening on the platform. People posting ads offering their help to mow lawns, getting groceries, walking pets. Other people asking for help, for example, to set up their video conferencing to stay connected to their families.
This made us think, how can Gumtree be that brand that is a beacon to the community? How do we use our platform to better connect people that need help to people that want to help? We actually launched a few initiatives over that period to encourage people to use our platform for that purpose.
In relation to this, we also tried to do the right thing for our customers by banning certain transactions during the pandemic. Many of the products that were hoarded in the first stages of lockdown, such as toilet paper, masks and hand sanitiser, ended up on Gumtree. People were listing toilet paper for hundreds of dollars, and we did not want to encourage that bad behaviour, it was not aligned with our values, so we decided to ban that from our platform.
What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?
Developing anticipatory analytics and the right data models to respond to customers in real time is an interesting trend. At Gumtree, we are accelerating the building and adoption of these models. For example, when we see search trends on the platform in local areas where there is not enough inventory available, we have built automation into campaigns to encourage people to start listing that particular product, because there's a demand for it.
Another interesting trend is the rise of brands that have a positive impact in the world. We are seeing Australians across all generations choose brands that are aligned with their values. People are now much more conscious and involved in understanding the supply chain story behind a company.
Woolworths, Coles, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Nestlé are good examples of companies making a commitment to sustainability by eliminating unnecessary plastics. Ikea is another great example with plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. It's amazing to see large brands investing in reducing their environmental impact on the world.
In our case, we partnered with Planet Ark, a trusted environmental organisation in Australia, that shares our passion to encourage Aussies to reuse and upcycle. We believe it’s important to show that we are environmentally conscious and raise awareness of the benefits of adopting a circular economy. For over 10 years, Gumtree has produced a report about the benefits of trading pre-loved, unwanted or unused items, and we try to educate people on different ways they can earn money from it, while reducing a considerable amount of products that go to landfill.
We strongly believe in the benefits of reuse and repair. We love sharing great stories that show the financial and environmental benefits of trading in the circular economy, like people that found furniture on the street, repaired it and sold it on Gumtree. Recently, a lady told us she lost her job due to COVID, bought two horse floats on our platform, restyled them and started her own business. She is renting them as pop-up bars for events and it's doing great!
How have you built a high functioning and engaged team while working remotely?
This was certainly challenging! Yet, there are a few principles that I've followed as a leader that helped me achieve high functionality.
First of all, I believe in creating genuinely diverse teams. And I'm not only talking about culture and gender diversity. I'm also referring to including creative, analytic, extroverted and introverted personalities in the same team. Diversity creates the necessary balance that’s needed to ensure high functionality.
Second, maintaining certain rituals in the team. One of the rituals I follow is what I call the 3Ds: Debate, Discuss and Decide. The idea is to encourage people to have a voice, allow introverts to contribute and achieve a rich debate that can lead to a successful decision-making process. This process is guided by what does success look like? Can we scale it? What do Now, Next and Longer look like for us?
Another practice I follow is making sure that I take time for recognition. Especially, during WFH, when communication is mostly conducted via Zoom. Telling people they've done a good job or sending them an e-card, whatever big or small the recognition might be, it makes all the difference.
Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration
What brands do you take inspiration from?
For me, it's less about specific brands and more about people, initiatives and purpose. I could say brands like Aldi, who does a good job tackling perception issues head on.
But I prefer to look at startups and companies that have found a need within the world and tried to build a business off the back of that. Companies like Airtasker or Mable and people like Melanie Perkins, who started Canva.
Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?
I’d say either Slack for communication or Tableau for efficiency and data visualisation.
Which resources would you recommend for anyone working in your field?
- WorkLife Podcast. This series by Adam Grant, the organisational psychologist, centred around extraordinary people at work, gives excellent insights on team cohesion and behaviours.
- Brené Brown is also a great source of inspiration regarding leadership and has very useful team building exercises.
- Taking the time to build a Brain Trust Network. During my career, I’ve found it useful to have a network I can rely on, and not only having one mentor. If I have a certain problem, a business challenge or an idea I just want to bounce off someone, I have a network of people that I call my Brains Trust. Taking the time to nurture this network of reliable people is one of the most valuable resources I could recommend.