The prodigy of the French internet economy
Leboncoin is a classifieds site. Nothing could seem less innovative, but with its 22 million unique visitors each month, Leboncoin is now one of the most popular keywords on Google and one of the most visited sites in France. The idea came from Sweden, but it did not become a real phenomenon until it arrived in France. The site, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, has 180 million in total sales and sites operating in 20 countries. Here we take a look back at an unlikely success story.
Leboncoin: close, free and easy
When Olivier Aizac graduated Essec, one of the country’s most prestigious business schools, he did not choose the job security that could have been his. He was a daring young man, so he took a chance and dove headfirst into an adventure in the new economy. In 2006, he went to work for the Norwegian company Schibsted, which owns the Swedish ad site Blockset.se. He was hired to develop a French version of this successful Scandinavian site. That is when Olivier Aizac articulated an unusual business model that consists of three words: close, free and easy. Its success exceeded all expectations.
The company that started with 4 employees now has a staff of 300 working in Paris, Kalamazoo and – since October 2015 – Reims.
Leboncoin is predicated on the idea that good deals are right around the block and that everyone should be able to find them without any hassle. When you look at it, the home page is fairly dull. There is a map of France against an off-white background. Users click on their region on the map and are led to an ultra-minimalist search engine that opens the door to an online garage sale. Leboncoin positions itself as a site for the masses. There is something for everyone: penniless students looking for living room furniture or a plumber, collectors of vintage televisions or old Jaguars, moms searching for an apartment to rent on the French Riviera or a luxury handbag.
Leboncoin abroad: a social phenomenon
With its old-fashioned design, Leboncoin has the feel of a neighborhood bistro: a convivial place that inspires trust. The little French site that could is now trumping the American titan eBay, along with all the other sites specializing in real estate, car and job listings. In a sluggish economy, Leboncoin is paving the way toward new consumption habits and a kind of sustainable, social economy based on the idea that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. It empowers users to save money and fight waste. Plus, by recreating human contact and giving a second life to unwanted items, Leboncoin is good for the soul.
In 2016, 73% of the French population has already browsed Leboncoin. It is a boon for advertisers who see it as the showcase of choice. Advertising is the company’s top source of income and even prompted it to form its own advertising sales network. A few months ago, Olivier Aizac left Paris for Sao Paulo to export his expertise and develop the site in Latin America. His successor, Antoine Jouteau, has stepped in with a few innovative projects to mark the site’s 10th anniversary, including mobile apps, an updated look and fresher logo, geolocation, internal messaging – just enough to make the site more functional and attractive. The last thing he wants is to morph into an online selling platform monopolized by professionals. Leboncoin intends to keep its DNA intact and remain the gold standard for peer-to-peer sales.