Money Small Business Online buyers flock to website that sells nothing
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Online buyers flock to website that sells nothing

Money talks, at least on this website.
Money talks, at least on this website. Photo: Getty
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A website that sells nothing is reportedly fast overtaking other Australian online retailers by feeding the appetite for bargains among its readers.

OzBargain.com.au is the fastest growing shopping-related website in the nation, having “eclipsed” many other online rivals, according to recent Roy Morgan research.

Almost a million (948,000) Australians aged 14+ visited OzBargain’s website in an average four-week period between June 2015 and June 2016, Roy Morgan estimated.

OzBargain founder Scott Yang, who created the website in November 2006 as a part-time hobby, told The New Daily it is growing steadily because Australians love what he called “collaborative bargain hunting”.

“People come to OzBargain to share the bargains they have found, or to discover the bargains other people have found. Through voting and discussion comments, the community members can work out whether something advertised by retailers are actually bargains.”

How does it work?

OzBargain functions much like a Wikipedia page for bargains. Across its website and social media accounts, it promotes discount codes, giveaways and cheap deals on everything from supermarkets to mobile phone plans to credit cards.

Scott Yang started the site for a very simple reason: "I like cheap stuff".
Scott Yang started the site for a very simple reason: “I like cheap stuff.”

Its content is largely created by members. It’s not a competitor to eBay, Amazon or any other retailer because it sells nothing. Instead, its users and moderators suggest and dissect deals found on these websites.

“I like cheap stuff, and I can’t stand people paying more than they should or getting ripped off by the retailers,” Mr Yang said.

“It started with a blog of my own bargain hunting adventure, but as people started sending me the deals they found, I created a community website instead so people can help each other.”

Mr Yang said OzBargain is best compared to forums like Reddit and Whirlpool. The staff is tiny. His five employees work from home in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland. It wasn’t until 2011 that OzBargain became Mr Yang’s full-time job.

Paul Greenberg, chairman of the National Online Retailers Association (NORA), told The New Daily the website is pulling “the biggest lever in commerce today”: people power.

There are parallels between OzBargain and the “collaborative consumption” of the sharing economy, which has given rise to crowdfunding, ride sharing, peer-to-peer lending, and more, Mr Greenberg said.

Services like OzBargain, Uber and Airbnb are all powered by collaboration, industry expert says.
Services like OzBargain, Uber and Airbnb are all powered by collaboration, industry expert says.

“It’s the element of collaborative consumption, where customers trust other customers, and where quality is maintained by the community and by feedback and reviews. I think there is an element of the sharing economy right there.”

The counterview

There was some skepticism about the reliability of Roy Morgan’s research.

NORA’s Mr Greenberg said the list failed to include many popular retailers like ASOS and The Iconic.

Mr Yang shared this concern. He was also doubtful of the raw numbers. He said rather than being the fastest growing, OzBargain’s growth has been stable. The reason for its inclusion is probably that the website “has never been on the radar of major media outlets”.

Another potential concern is that OzBargain can be gamed, in much the same way as Reddit and Wikipedia. For example, retailers might instruct their employees to create accounts on the website in order to push their products. Mr Greenberg argued that the forum’s members would probably “arc up quite quickly” and “knock back” illegitimate posts.

Also, the website derives some revenue from what it calls “affiliate commissions”. These are ads sponsored by retailers. But these are only displayed to visitors who are not logged in to the website, and they are clearly marked as paid advertisements.

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