Online classifieds websites have replaced printed ads in many ways. They help find a job, a place to live, a car, and other things we can’t do without in our everyday life. In addition, people actively use these platforms to buy or sell second-hand items.
You have probably heard of Craigslist - this classifieds medium is among the 20 most visited websites in the US.
In this article, you will learn how to create a website like Craigslist. We will analyze how classifieds websites work, discuss revenue models that help reap profits from this type of online platforms, and functionality they should have. Finally, you will take notice of the issues you may face when building a classifieds website.
What is a classifieds platform?
In layman’s terms, a classifieds website is designed for publishing ads for goods and services. Some companies also place job openings on such platforms looking for new staff.
Individuals are provided with both free and paid listings on these promotional platforms.
Advertisements form categories or classes - that’s how classifieds got their name. The most common sections are real estate, services, vehicles, for sale, and jobs.
Classifieds ad marketplaces fall into two groups: horizontal and vertical.
Overview of Online Classifieds Ad Platform market
TechNavio, a technology advisory and research company, predicts steady growth of global online classified ad platform market at a CAGR of 8.12% during 2016-2020. Cost-effectiveness of online ads combined with the decrease of print advertising can be defined as the major driving factor of this trend.
At the same time, a comparatively short life of online classifieds ads prevents online classifieds ad platform market from more active growth.
Speaking about online classifieds segment, we cannot but mention its biggest players. The most successful platforms are Classified Ads, Craigslist, Oodle, Locanto, and Gumtree. All of them are noted for their high Alexa rating and commonly used by entrepreneurs for solving their business needs.
Why users like Craigslist?
Craigslist is the world’s biggest classifieds website. AIM Group estimated that its revenue exceeded $1 billion in 2018.
However, a great profit is not the only achievement of Craigslist. This website gets 30 billion page views and 60 million web traffic every month. These are impressive results, right?
So, what made it more popular than Netflix or Pinterest?
Intuitive and simple interface
Craigslist reminds of a good old newspaper. The website loads fast due to text-driven pages. It does not have banner advertisements that could confuse visitors. You can quickly find the required items and post ads even without creating an account.
Free or cheap ads
Let’s compare costs. For example, a recruiter from San Francisco needs to post a new job opening. They would have to spend $75 to publish a 45-day job-posting ad on Craigslist. The cost of a similar vacancy on other career-related websites can cost between $365 and $419 for 30 days.
Craigslist is a medium where anyone can buy or sell anything. 60 million ads published every month is a clear example of such versatility.
How to build a website like Craigslist?
Choosing your niche
When you are starting to create an online marketplace similar to Craigslist, first of all, find a specific niche. Modern vertical online marketplaces better meet customers' demands.
The following business ideas can be a good help.
Classifieds for automobile
Did you know that 86% of automobile shoppers make online research before purchasing a product or service? This is why the launch of a classifieds website for automobile is such a tempting idea.
Customers can find listings of new and used vehicles on these online marketplaces. They can choose the desired car based on such criteria as color, model, year, and even more.
For example, Autotrader can boast of very extensive search options.
Some online marketplaces allow a very detailed description of a car. They know that potential customers feel more confident when car listings are full.
Classifieds for fashion products and services
The fashion world is constantly changing. New trends come and go, and some of them become a part of our daily lives. The rise of online marketplaces offering beauty products and services is one of such tendencies.
This type of classified websites will be a real catch for people following the latest fashion and beauty trends. They will easily find clothes, shoes, beauty services and products nearby.
Classifieds for real estate
Real estate is another industry that has moved online. Classifieds for property are in high demand these days.
It takes a couple of minutes to list an estate there. Sellers fill in the required information and upload several photos. In a few hours, their ad will appear on the website.
Classifieds for jobs
Every company wants to hire qualified staff. At the same time, employees want to find the perfect job that matches their skills. Job classifieds bring these two sides together.
These websites collect vacancies from job sites, career organizations, and other Internet resources. Moreover, they keep track of industry trends and release salary reports. Thus, Glassdoor allows viewing average salaries for specific job titles anonymously. This information helps companies offer candidates competitive wages.
All in one classifieds
If you haven’t found a favored niche, it would be a good idea to create a classifieds website covering multiple niches. Horizontal classifieds websites are always a safe bet. They quickly attract users searching for any kind of products or services. Therefore, a niche classifieds website stays relevant and useful over the upcoming years.
The functionality required for a classifieds website
So, you have chosen a specific niche or decided to start an online marketplace with several ad categories. Now you need to define what functionality will assist visitors in finding the required goods and services.
The basic functionality of a website like Craigslist includes the following features.
Sign-up and verification. Allow users to register an account or sign in via Facebook and Google. Verify new users by email or phone number to reduce spam and detect a false identity.
Easy ad posting form. Create simple templates for placing ads. Add extra columns that users may need to provide additional details about their products and services.
Geolocation feature. People tend to buy or sell products nearby rather than travel somewhere. That’s why product listings should be categorized based on their location.
Integrated messenger or chat. Tools for instant communication between buyers and sellers become essential these days.
Simple navigation. Intuitive navigation will guide your users through all steps of the buyer's journey and facilitate the seamless customer experience.
Search with autocomplete. This option will give buyers a helping hand in building their search query.
Straightforward checkout process. The checkout process as the final stage of the user journey deserves your special attention. Make sure that it is plain and simple.
Visible search box. The search bar is a key feature of classifieds. It should be big and properly placed.
Search engine optimization. Each advertisement on your platform should have correct metadata and keywords. Then Google will index them easily.
Cross-platform functionality. Responsive design is a must. Your website should work across multiple devices regardless of their operating system.
Multiple payment options. Online shopping can be stressful for some people. They might be afraid that something will go wrong with their payment and they will lose their money. It often happens when they have to use a new payment option. So, the ability to choose a preferred method of payment makes the buying process easier and more pleasant.
Security features. Email or IP blocking, login history, and limited login attempts will help you protect your service.
Rating and review system. Don’t lose the chance to enhance the credibility of your platform and help customers make the weighted decision.
Filtering and sorting features. Allow visitors to sort through thousands of products or services to find the desired item. This option will drive more conversions to e-commerce websites.
You may also like: How to Build a Website Like Airbnb: Step-by-Step Guide
How to develop an MVP for a website like Craigslist?
Before you dig into the online marketplace development process, it would not hurt to check the true value of your business idea. Developing a minimum viable product will help you with that. This approach will save you a lot of time. Besides, the MVP development cost will be significantly lower than the price for the launch of a full-fledged online marketplace.
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a website with limited functionality designed to satisfy the early adopters and receive feedback from potential investors (if any). You will grasp the basic needs of your target audience and add new features to satisfy their demands.
Further reading: How to Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Are you wondering how to build a minimum viable product of your classifieds platform? We would recommend taking the precise look at the functionality offering the biggest value to the early adopters or fixing one of their pain points.
When it comes to an MVP of a website like Craigslist, the following features deserve your special attention.
Sign up. It allows users to create an account where they can manage personal data and track the transactions.
Search filters. They help visitors find relevant ads.
Ads moderation. It enables users to ban inappropriate or offensive ads.
Cross-platform functionality. It will be a good idea to add an online chat for immediate interaction between users.
Design of a classifieds website
In the context of the design of a classifieds website, simple and straightforward functionality comes to the fore. However, understanding of the core UX design principles will help evoke positive feelings and emotions from interacting with your website.
There are several design rules you should bear in mind to offer the excellent user experience.
- Make navigation easy. Let visitors quickly discover items of interest. They will reward you with repeat purchases.
- Avoid overloading customers with extra information. Concentrate on product photos rather than on ads.
- Create a Customer Journey Map. It will identify the challenges your target audience may face and show their buying preferences.
- Never underestimate the importance of the typeface and its size on your website.
- Use spaces wisely to improve readability.
Related reading: How UX Designs Solves Online Marketplace Issues
How to monetize a classifieds website
We all know that Craigslist is a non-profit platform. It doesn't charge everyday sellers anything. It makes money only from the specific ad types such as job openings, apartments, and cars from automotive dealers.
However, charges for particular advertisements are not the only way to monetize your online marketplace.
Below you can find 5 winning business models that will help you make a profit.
It is a common revenue model for classifieds websites. Users get the chance to highlight their listings to promote products or services. Featured ads are placed above the regular ones or have a specific badge. These distinctions help advertisers increase brand visibility.
When adopting the subscription model, you charge customers a monthly fee for using your website. Bear in mind, that people are usually hesitant to pay if they can’t understand how your platform works or what it can do for them. A trial period will help them decide whether your service is worth their money or not.
This is another popular revenue model. It supposes selling space on your platform to other businesses for displaying ads. You get full control over the advertising that will be shown to your visitors. The good thing about this model is that it does not require you to share revenue with intermediaries.
We have already discussed the option of charging fees for using your services. However, some online marketplaces go beyond the subscription model and offer premium membership. It gives customers access to some extra features, such as viewing profiles of people interested in their offerings.
Premium Label will help advertisers to differentiate their ads.
For example, let’s see what benefits users will get upgrading their Locanto account.
Pay to post
There are dozens of free classifieds websites on the Internet. Therefore, the idea of charging a fee for a post seems to be extremely doubtful. However, you will be surprised to know that in some cases this tactic shows great results.
Implement the pay to post model when you already have a steady stream of customers who regularly visit your website. It is also effective when you have a specific niche or a category with great benefits to your customers.
Check this free detailed guide on kickstarting online marketplace business from our experts.
The biggest challenges owners of classifieds websites may face
The launch of an online ad marketplace can be associated with particular challenges.
It can be a tall order for a classified website like Craigslist to attract and retain customers. Your platform should offer real value. Make sure it fixes the pain points of your audience. Thus, you will gain new visitors who may become loyal customers later.
If your classified online marketplace does not have ads moderation, illegal products and services including weapons, prescription drugs, alcohol or tobacco, and stolen property can be sold there. Besides, the cases of identity theft, trojan ads, and multiple ads publication are pretty common on classifieds websites. To prevent illegal activity on the platform, Craigslist set its own terms and conditions. Now users can flag ads that are against the website’s policy.
There are several techniques for ad moderation. You can create a policy agreement that all users have to accept. Another option is to set manual checks and scripts to check all ads automatically. This approach works best for platforms with low or medium traffic.
Usually, new classifieds have few staff. For example, Craigslist had only 28 employees at the very beginning. They did not have enough human resources to offer customer support.
However, it may cause serious troubles for users.
Suppose, unfair competitors ban your advertisements. How can you deal with that if there is no person responsible for handling such issues? There is not much you can do but to post your ad again.
When it comes to delivering customer support, owners of classifieds have several options.
- The easiest and the most obvious solution is to hire staff for handling customers’ requests and complaints.
- Another good idea is implementing a rating and comment system that shows the reliability of the advertiser, be it a seller or a landlord.
- Finally, you can hire outsourced staff. This option costs less money, but, in some cases, the quality of support can be less than perfect.
Further reading: Building an Online Marketplace - 5 Ways to Keep Costs Down
The final thoughts
It is not an easy task to create a classified website like Craigslist. So many things deserve your attention. You need to find your specific niche, choose the functionality, and take care of the design. Besides, let’s not forget about minimum viable product and monetization strategies.
Everything is much simpler when you partner with a trusted company offering custom software development services.