by Jennifer O'Brien

Gumtree CTO on the digital innovations behind the rebrand

Jul 17, 2017
Digital Transformation

Gumtree Australia’s first female CTO says the company’s biggest customer-driven shake-up in 10 years has triggered major improvements to its website and technology capabilities.

Gumtree has embarked on a rebrand to coincide with its 10-year anniversary this year. The marketplace connects buyers and sellers in the local community, and is visited on average by more than seven million Australians each month via desktop and mobile sites, as well as iPhone and Android apps.

According to recently appointed CTO, Roisin Parkes, a core element of improving the brand offering has been overhauling website functionality to provide both buyers and sellers with a better digital experience.

Parkes came on-board in May as Gumtree’s first female CTO, and took a leading role in the site overhaul.

“All of the changes reflect the level of innovation and development that we’ve been doing behind the scenes,” she said.

Among the list of features in the new-look website are enhanced interface speeds and a simplified processes for buyers and sellers, 24/7 support, and a new payment option. There’s also improved search functionality and speed, including make, model, colour attribute selection in cars; clothing and shoe size attributions; smart category redirects for certain keywords; and a photo attachment capability on My Messages.

“For the buyer side, we’ve made it much easier to find an item,” Parkes continued. “We’ve enhanced the attributes in cars that allows you to find an item based on make and model of a car, for example. And within clothing, you can actually find by size now, which is very handy. And we’ve got some smart category redirects.”

Gumtree has also launched a dedicated jobs app, plus a new option to pay with cash or via peer-to-peer payments with PayPal. Customer support, meanwhile, has been beefed up with the introduction of 24/7 live chat and greater visibility of the customer community support offering onsite.

As previously reported by CIO Australia, Parkes was hired to be the “voice of the technology team” and drive the next phase of growth. Her remit includes leading a team in building and deploying scalable tech and product solutions.

Parkes said she’s been busy building the tech team, growing headcount from 30 to 40 staff over the past four months with a view to hiring more. She added she’s proud to be a leader in one of the most gender diverse tech companies in Australia, with 50 per cent of the board being women.

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The latest rebranding and redesign involves what Parkes said is a “modern and vibrant new look” tested with the Gumtree Australia community. Overall, the goal of the new website functionality was to move to more seamless transactions, Parkes said.

“It has been a huge positive experience for me to work in a company where we design and build the actual product itself here for the local Australian market,” she said.

Gumtree is one of the top 20 digital destinations and one of the top shopping apps in Australia, but Parkes has “ambitious plans” to crack into the Top Ten list.

“With my role as CTO, I’m on the lookout for new talent to attract to our team and new technologies that we could innovate with,” she said.

Parkes highlighted augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) space, as well as machine learning, as emerging technologies of interest. She revealed Gumtree has also been experimenting with its own Facebook Bot, GumBot. The chatbot allows users to interact with the GumBot and is already available in FaceBook Messenger.

“There’s a lot of work happening – a lot of exciting stuff happening – in that space right now,” she said.

An exciting use case for these kinds of emerging technologies involves when a seller wants to sell a car and is able to take a 360 photo, both inside and outside the car.

“For buyers, it’s a real immersive experience to be able to put on the VR headset and see what it would feel like to be inside a car,” Parkes said.

“So watch this space.”