A bold ch ange to meet our users needs

A bold change to meet our users needs

Schibsted Nordic Marketplaces is starting a journey to meet the need for more specialised services. At the heart of the change is the ambition to be a force for positive change – for both society and the planet. Christian Printzell Halvorsen is leading this journey, knowing that the greatest risk is not daring to change.

I joined Schibsted in 2007, mostly because of the people. I loved the engagement and energy you get when you bring together journalists, engineers, product and salespeople.

I was also inspired by the bold decisions that Schibsted’s management dared to take. After all, our history is one of bold moves, often in difficult times. Just think about it: We set up FINN in 2000 to compete against our own newspapers. We bought Blocket a few years later and rolled it out across the globe, to 36 countries, knowing most would fail, but betting that some, like Le Bon Coin in France, would become incredible successes. Sometimes, you must dare to fail in order to succeed.

A bold ch ange to meet our users needs

Today, we know that this fearlessness paid off. In 2019, we spun off our international marketplaces, creating the company Adevinta – which in 2020, bought eBay Classifieds, concluding the transformation from a newspaper company to the world’s largest online classifieds operator.

Now we’re taking a similarly bold step for our Nordic marketplaces, setting up for the next decade while daring to challenge our success formula for the last 20+ years. We are setting the verticals free and using the combined strength of our Nordic organisations in a whole new way – all to provide our users with the best possible service in each category.

Users are demanding more

Things were relatively easy for us in the “classifieds days”, when marketplaces were all about ads and an ad was an ad regardless of what you were selling.

Now users and customers are demanding more and more sophisticated solutions. This gives rise to the specialists, the companies that create beautiful user experiences by investing deeply into solving a very specific problem and then scale the solution across countries.

Marketplaces are also changing and moving towards so-called “next-generation models” which solve more of the users’ needs, like payments, shipping, insurance and financing. As we move in this direction, Schibsted’s marketplaces must also become specialists. The way you sell a t-shirt is very different from the way you sell a house, and obviously this requires very different solutions. But the way you sell a t-shirt is not that different country-to-country.

We must set our verticals free

In essence, our different categories or what we call verticals, i.e., Mobility, Real Estate, Jobs and Recommerce, are becoming more important dimensions. So, we asked ourselves: If we worked together across the Nordics, what could we achieve within each vertical that any one country alone couldn’t? What if we dedicated four times the resources to each initiative instead of duplicating our effort four times across countries?

The conclusion is clear. We must set our verticals free and let each of them evolve more freely on their own terms to reach their full potential. By taking a Nordic perspective, we can think bigger and be bolder in how we solve users’ and customers’ problems.

We also want to be a force for positive change in society and for our planet. We call it our burning ambition. It defines our purpose and what we want to achieve in the long-term. It is our joint mission for all our marketplaces, built on Schibsted’s common strategic platform: Schibsted Future State.

We will make the sustainable alternative the obvious choice.

Because every action we take today impacts whether our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to live in a sustainable world.

By doing so, we will increase our positive impact on society and the planet by more than ten times before 2035. We mean “sustainable” in the broader sense of the word. We will obviously contribute to the green transition by driving towards circular consumption, but we also strive to create equal opportunities and a more diverse society.

Empowering smart choices

Imagine a world where it’s so easy to make the right choice that you don’t even think about it. A world where it’s second nature for users and customers to make sustainable choices. We truly believe that we can make a difference by empowering people to make smart choices for themselves and future generations.

By offering people services that help them improve their lives and create financial opportunities, while being good for society, so that they will be able to take future-proof actions.
Because every action we take today impacts whether our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity to live in a sustainable world.

Having been in this business for a long time, I sometimes joke and say I have dedicated my life to ads for t-shirts and used cars, but we are so much more than that. As a salesperson working in one of our marketplaces, you may think you’re simply selling advertising solutions. As an engineer, you may think your job is to write code. And if you work in customer service, you may think your purpose is to solve problems. But whatever your role in Schibsted Nordic Marketplaces is, you are part of our shared mission to make the sustainable alternative the obvious choice.

We need to operate differently

Knowing what we can achieve is one thing. Actually doing it is something else. We have realised that we have to operate very differently to achieve this new, great ambition. To set our verticals free to evolve more independently, we must think differently around both technology and organisation.

For the last 20+ years, our success formula has been local brands with local organisations and local technology platforms, where the solutions for the different verticals have been highly intertwined.

To let each vertical develop independently, we would have to break the dependencies between them. A person working in real estate shouldn’t have to rely on or coordinate with someone in mobility. And that means the technology solutions for each vertical must be separate.

A cross-Nordic view

At the same time, if how you sell a t-shirt is similar across countries, we should be able to use that same technology solution across countries. And similarly for mobility, real estate and jobs. That, however, requires us to have a cross-Nordic view within each vertical to decide which common solutions and business models to deploy.

Finally, while we want as much vertical independence as possible, we share certain assets across verticals, like the valuable and loved FINN, Blocket, Tori, Oikotie, DBA and Bilbasen brands. We also need to create strong areas of expertise to attract, develop and retain talent in sales, tech and marketing, for example.

In conclusion, we have decided to move to a matrix organisation with cross-Nordic verticals as the driving force, supported by functions. Similarly, we are moving towards a technology platform where we separate the solutions for each vertical, but where we use the same solution across countries.

Being aware of and learning from our history has made one thing extremely clear. Our people are our most important competitive advantage.

This is a fundamental change from how we have successfully operated for more than 20 years.┬áIt’s a massive change project with inherent risks both technically and with regards to people and market positions. A natural question to ask is: “are the risks too high?” We have taken the opposite view. Staying the same while the world around us is changing is perhaps even riskier.
Most importantly, a successful transformation will set us up for the next decade, enabling us to deliver better solutions to consumers and professional customers – and to society.

Our people the most important advantage

Being aware of and learning from our history has made one thing extremely clear. Our people are our most important competitive advantage – well over 1,000 people across the Nordics with exceptional knowledge about marketplaces and deep insight into our markets. To succeed we must create an even more attractive future for them, one where they can succeed and have more
impact than today. If we are able to engage our people in finding the best solutions, the other risks will be manageable. That’s why we have put people at the front and centre of the transformation.

We have just started this journey, so the outcome is not guaranteed. But we do think our approach is reinforcing everything that we are proud of today – our people and cultures, our brands, our financial results, and more than ever, our impact on society.

Author Christian Printzell Halvorsen

Christian Printzell Halvorsen
EVP Nordic Marketplaces, Distribution and eCommerce
Years in Schibsted: 15