Case Study of a Highly Automated Business: Craigslist

A Brief Look at The Levels of Success, Efficiency, & Productivity that Automation Can Take Your Business To

As discussed in our previous posts, an online business and market should be a crucial part of any existing firm, today. Ignoring and abandonment of your internet presence could be a costly mistake. Craigslist serves as a perfect example of a business that is not only taking full advantage of its automation but one that is completely reliant on it.

  1. The site’s fully automated process allows anyone with an email address to easily and quickly post and edit custom advertisement, most of the time at no cost. You could also browse through your local and/or international Craigslist site to search for anything you may be wanting or needing. Craigslists’ automated capabilities enables users to perform loads of work in minutes and produce high levels of efficiency. The entire process of adding, browsing and editing posts are user-driven, which means a win-win situation for both sides of the equation. This is advantageous for users who can post personalized ads at a low cost. At the same time, this framework is also beneficial for the corporate staff who do not have to worry about anything other than having their company operate on its own while generating highly satisfactory levels of revenue.
  2. Instead of promoting phone calls and/or emails for customer inquiries, the main mechanism for providing feedback and client interaction on Craigslist, is through an online discussion forum which is every so often reviewed by the site’s staff to address the questions and concerns of participants. However, almost always, it is the general public who takes care of most of the responses — helping to reduce the responsibilities of the CL staff while increasing their productivity. There is also an automated help section integrated into the site which is divided into 6 subsections (Classified Postings, Job Classified Postings, FAQs, Paid Housing Posts, General Help, and Legal, Copyright, Harassment), and covers an array of topics and general questions users may come across while using the system.
  3. Rather than micromanaging every one of the millions of posts that come in daily to ensure that no scams are involved and all is legitimate, CL has self-automated that too by incorporating a flagging system which handles abuses, spams, and re-categorization. By doing this, the employees of Craigslist do not have to waste their time administering everything that enters the online community — they just leave it up to the users to take matters in their own hands through flagging these mistrusted and suspicious ads. Authority intervention only occurs when a posting has been flagged numerous times indicating that a higher-power involvement is being required. Ultimately; however, in almost all cases, it is the community who is the primary mechanism for filtering inappropriate/unwanted content.
  4. Unlike eBay and other online classified advertisement sites, Craigslist does not get involved with the actual transactions that occur.  If CL were to supervise every single one of the e-commerce that takes place, there is no way that they’d be able to do it without increasing their current employee count by several orders of magnitude. By depending on users to police content and taking simple measures such as displaying extremely large warnings about what people should watch out for, CL avoids the need to have a large customer service/support staff available 24 X 7 to monitor and address instances of fraud and misdemeanor.

Craigslist stands as a great case study for the potentials and benefits that automation can realize for any business. With the help of automated processes, CL is able to continue its growth and expand across the globe to diverse cities and other places, without having to worry about hiring hundreds of staff in each of those regions.

If you’re planning to launch a new product or service, see if there is any way that your new endeavor can be structured so that it is at least in part, an automated fashion.  For example, creating a feedback form on your website could allow customers to interact with you and one another with minimal supervision required.

Finally, it is worth re-mentioning that Craigslist has been able to expand globally without hiring any new personnel, simply because it operates strictly through automated means. If you opt for automation rather than manual labour, then your business will be much better prepared for its growth over the years to come, which can translate into greater profits for you in the long run.