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Updated 29 Sep 2020

Staying relevant in a changing market

Junk Mail started out as a classifieds newspaper in a garage 21 years ago. Today it’s still a leading classifieds business because it consistently stays ahead of the curve.

20 May 2013  Share  0 comments  Print

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Felix Erken, MD of Junk Mail Publishing Group is the first to say that as a print-based business Junk Mail should have been dead a long time ago.

And yet it’s not only a flourishing business, but considered one of the most innovative in its industry globally, having recently won the 2013 top innovator worldwide award in the International Classifieds Media Association (ICMA) Innovation Awards for its Junk Mail X platform on the mobile social media and instant messaging app, Mxit.

“Our competitors tend to be disruptive new companies run by tech-savvy youth,” says Erken. “They aren’t bound by ‘the way things have always been done’, and that attitude leads to great new ideas. I welcome the competition. It keeps us on our toes. We have to keep pushing the envelope, and that keeps us relevant too.”

Tapping into advanced tech

According to Erken, Junk Mail started experimenting with mobile platforms in 1999 with a basic mobile ‘wapp’ site.

“It was incredibly basic compared to what’s available today, but we had it,” he says. “Everyone’s been saying mobile is the future for years, but very few have shown this in their actions.

Mobile tech today is incredibly advanced – you can do anything. But companies still ask themselves, why do we need a mobile platform?

What will we do with it? And because they can’t answer these questions, they don’t do anything. My philosophy has always been, I don’t know, so let’s do it. It’s kept us ahead of the curve.”

Different folks, different platforms

Erken could have seen the rise of digital classifieds like Gumtree and OLX as a threat. Instead, he recognized that at its core, Junk Mail brings buyers and sellers together.

“Once we realised that, the medium we used to deliver on our value proposition was immaterial.  Whether we use print, online or mobile platforms is irrelevant, as long as we are giving our customers the best tools to connect with each other,” he explains.

“Each medium has a different business model as well. For smses, the revenue model is the upsell. For .mobi sites it’s a different model. What’s important is that we know who our customers are, how they access information, and which are the best platforms (and revenue models) for each group. That’s what’s allowed us to keep growing and stay relevant. We haven’t been locked into one particular view of who we are and what products we offer. We’ve focused on our overall value proposition and on never being scared of new things instead.”

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