What started out as two guys building a website out of a villa in Jumeirah has, a decade later, turned into a well-known, major homegrown brand in MENA: dubizzle. Recording over 270 million page views per month, dubizzle is the 6th most visited website in the UAE and has become one of the leading classifieds platforms to buy and sell everything from houses to wedding dresses.

When the company launched in 2005, classified transactions were 100 percent offline, and just over 200 ads were placed on dubizzle. This jumped to 16.6 million ten years later in 2015. This averages out to roughly two posts per UAE resident in 2015.

CMO Interviews introduces Nadia Zehni, dubizzle’s Director of Marketing to give us the inside track on how dubizzle became one of the most recognizable brands in the region.

Q: What were the most important digital strategies that dubizzle used to secure success over the last decade?

A: dubizzle grew mostly organically and through word of mouth in its early years in the UAE as the site really filled a gap in the market. However, as competition has intensified over the last years, we’ve started using a combination of content marketing to build positive awareness of the brand, as well as performance media to reach our business KPIs.

On the performance side, we’ve matched our efforts across our different business units with targeted, vertical specific campaigns. We’ve built on our retargeting campaigns and ramped up our mobile app download and re-engagement campaigns as more of our users move to mobile. On the branding side have continued to experiment with YouTube as a replacement for TV and to reach highly engaged users.

Q: Any challenges or failures that you learned from?

A: The main challenge for us with both content and performance media has been the shift in audience consumption of media in their own time and in bite-sized / breaking news format - a captive audience is a thing of the past.

Another challenge has been around measuring the long term impact of our marketing activities, mainly across devices. In other words, multi-channel and attribution analysis - web vs app tracking. In order to overcome this, we’re looking into building our business intelligence platform in a way which tracks users across devices through unique IDs rather than cookies or device ID.

Q: What has changed the most in the last decade in the industry?

A: The growth in mobile usage has been a complete game changer. The subsequent fragmentation across multiple platforms and user behavior has had an impact - for example, we find that users browse heavily on mobile, but still place ads on desktop or via the app.

We’ve also been testing out programmatic on the display side through dynamic remarketing, mainly for the property and motors vertical with promising results. Next steps will be looking at how programmatic can help us run multi-channel remarketing campaigns across social display and search.

Zero In on Results

Q: When and why did dubizzle start using mobile ads?

A: We started using mobile ads in 2012 and remarketing in 2014. More and more of our visits were coming from mobile, especially UAE and the GCC where smartphone penetration is very high. Currently, nearly 60% of our traffic comes through our mobile site and apps, with 35 percent of dubizzle’s marketing budget going towards search/mobile search/display.

Q: What is the most profitable channel for you?

A: Depends on the KPI. In terms of revenue, desktop is still the most profitable. Users are slowly starting to use their devices more often for payments. Mobile is the preferred channel for browsing as users can search on the go. In terms of advertising channels, search performs better on desktop and we have had great results using YouTube and Admob.

Q: Can you tell us about a successful online campaign?

A: We have used YouTube successfully in the UAE as a TV replacement. We found that the broadcast media landscape is very fragmented, so YouTube gave us the opportunity to target our users more effectively by interest, intent and demographic. Through geolocalization capabilities on YouTube, we were able to do a campaign that specifically targeted an Abu Dhabi audience, as opposed to a pan-Arab TV commercial that is broad. The campaign received 24 million impressions and 5 million interactions with our TVC in in-stream.

We have used YouTube successfully in the UAE as a TV replacement. We found that the broadcast media landscape is very fragmented, so YouTube gave us the opportunity to target our users more effectively by interest, intent and demographic.

Looking Ahead

Q: There are now several verticals in the market - how do you plan to stay ahead?

A: We have built a strong brand name in the market and a strong loyal user base across all verticals. We plan on capitalizing on that. Another way will be through cross vertical marketing strategies e.g. pushing property buyers to ‘Items of sale’ vertical.

Q: What’s next for dubizzle?

A: We’ve evolved our product offering to include mobile web and app to account for the shift from e-commerce ‘desktop’ to ‘m-commerce’ mobile purchasing.

To better understand user behavior, we’ll carry on investing heavily in our Business Intelligence and tailor our marketing accordingly. Moving forward we’re focused on personalization, relevance, timing and, above all, providing the best value to the user.