While looking for a new car to buy – without much success – I looked further afield than the usual carsales.com.au and gumtree.com.au and found myself at tradingpost.com.au.
I last remember Trading Post being owned by Telstra/Sensis and was surprised to no longer see any references to them.
I wasn’t surprised that the quality of car ads was just as bad as I recall, mostly just dealer ads, 99% of which probably get put up automatically for free by their dealership management software.
I was curious who now owned Trading Post and scrolled to the footer where I noticed that they were now a Pte Ltd indicating they were no longer an Australian company. They were also indicating that they were tradingpost.com, which suggested that maybe there was an international Trading Post that they were part of.
Strangely tradingpost.com did not actually go to a website, just an error page, which seems a waste of a domain name, and it is also strange that you would call yourself tradingpost.com if tradingpost.com is not actually a website.
A little Google-ing revealed that Trading Post was sold for an amount believed to be less than $10M (Telstra paid $636M in 2004) around 2015 to a group of entrepreneurs including Geoff Holmes, formerly of Carsales, DealerAds (to do with eBay Motors) and a company called Unique Websites.
Unique Websites were mentioned as having been operating Trading Post for Telstra since 2013.
Trading Post were apparently attempting to raise $15M in 2017 and I guess were successful as they purchased Service Central.
A little digging on LinkedIn reveals that Trading Post and Unique Websites appear to be one group based out of Singapore or Malaysia.
Strangely the ACCC prevented a sale of Trading Post to carsales.com.au in 2012, but no one prevented it from going overseas.
Which brings me to the point of this post. How can a company raise tens of millions of dollars and produce such a crap product?
Why crap? Firstly, the marketing of Trading Post appears to be poor and there doesn’t seem to be any innovation. You are going to have to come up with something better than just free ads if you are going to take on Gumtree, etc.
Then there’s the aforementioned issue of calling themselves tradingpost.com in quite a few places but not actually having a website at that address. People, just have tradingpost.com as an alias of tradingpost.com.au – surely you have someone there who can do that?
They have an amazing 25,500 people following them on Facebook yet in the “About” section they list their website as tradingshoes.com! They don’t even appear to own that domain name as it goes to one of those generic domain placeholder websites and they are not listed as the owner in whois. Very strange.
And then we get to Unique Websites
. Here’s a website that looks like it was made a decade or more ago and has remained completely unchanged since then. The CSS file is dated 2010 which gives an idea of when it might have last had any work done.
It’s not mobile-friendly, their phone number is only partly visible in the header, there is a missing image in the footer, their support documents refer to versions of Outlook from ten years ago, and their client login goes to an error page.
It doesn't use SSL and there isn't even a favicon.
I was tempted to call the number (if I could figure out the missing digits) and just check they were still around and how shocked they might sound if they actually got a call.
I wonder how long it’s going to take to get back those tens of millions of dollars with just Google Ads?