OfferUp, like a lot of businesses, started out as an attempt to solve the problem of its founder, Nick Huzar; namely a room full of stuff in his house that had to go because he had a baby on the way and needed both the space and cash. It was a straight-forward problem that evolved into a marketplace that made it easy for local buyers and sellers to meet up digitally and transact seamlessly.
While that core goal has remained in place, OfferUp is about to embark on a new phase as former Booking.com Managing Director Todd Dunlap begins his new role as the firm’s new CEO, while Huzar will continue as the president, chairman and chief product officer. Both joined Karen Webster on the eve of the transition to talk about OfferUp’s future in a rapidly changing commerce ecosystem and the company’s place within it.
OfferUp is not only competing against Craigslist and eBay, but giants like Facebook and its large and growing Marketplace product, too. While that’s something OfferUp has to think about, given Facebook’s size and scale, Huzar said the reality is Facebook is running 20 different strategic initiatives at any given moment while OfferUp, on the other hand, has just one.
“We want to be the platform of choice for local commerce, and that is all we are focusing on,” he said. “I have found in my career, a company that has a singular focus tends to be a pretty significant player long term.”
Expanding From Resale to Local Commerce
As much as the pandemic created a massive digital-use tailwind for users looking to buy, sell or swap pre-owned goods online, OfferUp has also become a destination for new goods, such as cars and furniture, as local merchants and dealers turned to the platform to advertise and sell their inventory while their physical locations were shut down.
Today, some 12 percent of all dealerships have signed on with OfferUp because the company can help them accelerate their sales, and it’s a trend the company is starting to observe across verticals in local business. Huzar noted the example of a Seattle area furniture store that put its inventory onto OfferUp as a means to head off the crisis and went on to see its business quadruple as a result of digital listings. Local businesses are evolving to the idea that OfferUp provides them a simple and potentially lucrative digital development channel.
“I think it’s something that we’re kind of in the early days of doing,” Huzar noted of OfferUp’s expansion from resale into the world of local business. “I think in many cases we’re going to do this with other verticals over time, where we can find new ways to leverage technology to go deeper.”
It’s a thought Dunlap roundly agreed with, noting that the “more is more” attitude is what powers marketplaces forward, provided the “more” doesn’t become overwhelming. And the application of technology, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), makes continually adding onto an offering manageable and scalable over time. That, in turn, makes it easier to connect the consumer to what they want when they want it, whether it is resale or new goods.
“I think there’s always going to be both marketplaces,” Dunlap explained. “People like new things, and people like to sell things and get used things. And I don’t see the used marketplace going away from the commerce marketplace. I only see it continuing to expand and grow.”
Navigating the Shift
Dunlap noted that although the future is still taking shape in terms of what the specific consumer shopping patterns will be in a post-pandemic world, the shift in consumer preferences regarding shopping locally and digitally is undeniable. It’s a reality that is reflected in the activity the OfferUp platform has seen for over a year, and it’s reflected in PYMNTS research that indicates consumers strongly want to shop locally. There is a massive global opportunity in constructing rewards schemes around that emerging desire.
Dunlap said that’s why when his tenure at OfferUp formally begins, he isn’t going to attempt to remake the company in the image of Booking.com. His first 100 days are mostly going to be a listening tour, and he will develop a plan with Huzar to tackle the remaining 265 days of the year. But there is an essential similarity around what Booking.com and OfferUp do, which is construct a marketplace meeting point that delivers value more efficiently to both buyers and sellers.
“As a buyer, I have intent, and I want to find value,” he said. “And if you offer me that value and you fulfill that value and you convert what I’m trying to do, that’s good for the seller. It’s good for the buyer. That over time starts to build loyalty. And there’s a lot of things in that behavior loop that are similar no matter what you’re buying.”