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All grown up: A look into Trade Me's DNA

Trade Me is one of New Zealand’s largest online classified and auction sites that generates an enormous amount of data as a business.

Founded in 1999, you can no longer really say Trade Me is that young. However, it holds a distinct advantage over any longer standing competitors - it was born in the era of data which is in its very DNA.

To make use of this advantage, a specialised business intelligence (BI) team within the company has created Trade Me’s very own data culture.

Philip Seamark, Senior Business Intelligence Architect at Trade Me, says the data available can help improve all facets of the business, making it a better experience for all.

“Our journey to build a world class Business Intelligence platform began just over 3 years ago. This was necessary to cope with Trade Me growing quickly into the organisation it is today,” he explains.

“It certainly helped that Trade Me leveraged the Microsoft stack of B.I. products (SQL Server, SSAS, SSRS, SSAS and SharePoint) to provide the end to end solution meaning few, if any, integration issues along the way,” says Seamark.

“Since then we have been able to grow and evolve the platform constantly over this time to now, where we have something we are really proud of. Data has always been part of the culture at Trade Me.”

And, although the technology isn't actually used by every employee, that doesn't mean they don't know how. 

“While we employ plenty of smart people, not all of them are trained in how to analyse large datasets - nor should they be,” Seamark explains.

“For business leaders and marketers, they need to understand how wider trends are impacting the business. For our communications team, they need to understand things like what Kiwis are searching for around Christmas time, or what iPhone models are the most popular,” he says.

“They need data for all of this, so it’s essential to have good sources they trust and understand.”

Seamark also highlights the fact that the data is all anonymised, and that Trade Me takes security and privacy of its members very seriously.

“We’re not cowboys with the way we access the information and we have a strong sense of responsibility when accessing and analysing data to do with our members and their activity on Trade Me,” says Seamark.

“One of our core values is “care about our community” and we aim to use the information in a responsible, reasonable and transparent way. Another of our values is “don’t be a dick” and we apply this liberally in everything we do, especially when it comes to the protection of our members’ privacy,” he explains.

Since the data culture adoption, Seamark says that overall, the business makes better and more informed decisions.

“We have more conversations about what the data means, and fewer conversations about which data is correct. Having teams collectively looking at the same data in a number of different ways drives robust conversation and ultimately better choices,” he says.

“It’s a fun time to be involved in Business Intelligence at the moment, not just at Trade Me but across all industries with lots of exciting tools coming thick and fast,” he adds.

“Working with big data, algorithms and machine learning used to be the domain of only a few - but far more people are enjoying this kind of work now the tools are making it easier to get amongst it.”