As we all know, Facebook is where 1.71 billion people connect globally with each other. In the recent years, the platform has further evolved into many other diversions, one being where more people are seen to be using Facebook to connect in another way: buying and selling with each other.
This activity, which started with Facebook Groups, has further grown substantially and has now evolved into their newly launched product – Marketplace!
In the beginning, it will only be released in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand markets for beta testing on the Facebook app for iPhone and Android users. Marketplace has set the bar at 18 years.
Even though, this is a newly developed feature/tool/hub, users have long been able to buy and sell things through the platform.
Remember Facebook Groups (to buy and sell), where you regularly saw a lot of people create for-sale posts and share them with their friends or inside a group? More than 450 million people visit these groups to buy, sell, trade, and barter each month. These include families in across local neighbourhoods to collectors around the world!
Yeah, well Marketplace now formalizes that process and puts the concept of classifieds in one place!
For now they won’t be adding pages on marketplace, but Facebook potentially does intend to generate ad revenues by letting businesses or people buy News Feed ads or sponsored placement for what they’re selling.
Facebook, with this move is officially entering into the listings space with a few product categories, and is directly attacking all the companies with the likes of eBay / Craiglist-like marketplace model across the world.
Although they aren’t launching their product globally, but once they do, they will also be picking a direct fight with a lot of other (country-specific) market leaders in this space, such as Mercari in Japan and Olx and Quikr in India, and so on as well.
In fact, just with the launch of the product Facebook’s shares jumped marginally higher at $128.39 on Monday in the US, while shares in eBay fell by more than 1% on the NASDAQ.
What is Facebook’s Marketplace?
As the name itself suggests, ‘Marketplace’ is a tab on Facebook app that helps you to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community and outside.
Yes, Facebook in its essence, is a social network that connects people with each other! But what they had noticed in the recent years is that, more people had been using Facebook (more specifically, Groups) to connect in another way i.e. buying and selling with each other!
And to help people make more out of these connections, Facebook essentially decided to introduce Marketplace!
Anyway, it will be replacing the messenger on the navigation row. Clearly, Facebook is betting really big on Marketplace!
The listings you will see on the app would be ranked based on relevancy, which would be collected, with the help of the tags that people add to their listings and Facebook’s text analysis AI (Artificial Intelligence) which would be combined with what Pages you Like and the material you browse on Marketplace.
Additionally, pre-made messages like “Is this item still available? and What condition is this item in?” would further help you to make simpler negotiations.
On the marketplace – users will see photos of items and get to browse through what’s available on this hyperlocal in categories including household, electronics and apparel that people near them have listed for sale. One can also use the search bar to filter results by location, category or price.
But what differentiates this from their old groups is that – there is a sense (or at least the illusion) of being part of a semi-controlled community. Users are often seen to have created closed groups of niche communities on Facebook.
On the whole, these groups are pretty much similar to dating apps like Coffee Meets Bagel, and only match you with someone with whom you share at least one mutual friend on Facebook.
So, Marketplace will most likely appeal to mostly only those who are comfortable in interacting with people who they have some sort of connection with or at the very least, if they are able to get a quick scan of people’s profiles and get a general sense of who they are.
What all can you do on the app?
For starters – you can visit the Marketplace with just a tap on the shop icon on the Facebook app and start exploring.
Facebook Marketplace has two main features:
- Discover –
- The Marketplace opens to the photos of items that people near you have listed for sale – you can search something specific, from the top of the section.
- Additionally, you can also browse from what’s available in a variety of categories such as Household, Electronics and Apparel.
- And when you find something interesting – you can tap on the image to find more details, including – basic seller details, product description, general location, etc too.
- Once you have decided what you want you can send the seller a direct message from Marketplace and from that point onwards, you and the seller can take it ahead.
- Facebook does not facilitate the payment or delivery of items in Marketplace.
- Sell Your Stuff– Rather than having to set up a new profile, you can easily sell an item in Marketplace. Simply:
- Take a photo of your item, or add it from your camera roll
- Enter a product name, description and asking price
- Confirm your location and select a category
How is it different than its closest competitors Craigslist or eBay?
Quite honestly, it is different in so many ways!!
For starters – unlike all other such marketplaces, people don’t need to download a new app here to get involved.
At most marketplaces, you don’t really know the anything about the buyer or seller beyond what they say in their listing and your direct communication. But it’s different with Facebook, their profiles tell you tons! It will be easy to point out the scammers and avoid the risk of meeting such people in person. Additionally, there’s more accountability and people behave better if they think you could give their details to the police, track them down, or shame them on social media.
People usually visit a marketplace when they want something specific, but with Facebook it’s the opposite. People already spend around 50 minutes per day on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. And Marketplace is being intelligently placed on the navigation tab, being just one tap away inside Facebook, rather than getting buried in the More tab like many features; giving users all the more reasons to keep visiting it. Users might just stroll through the Marketplace simply because they’re bored.
Due to the popularity of the Messenger, buyers and sellers don’t have to risk out their contact details beforehand and can easily chat without phone numbers. But funnily, a competing platform still might have to rely on Facebook for communication.
Other marketplaces are too inclined on forcing tons of text listings onto a page, plus without having the knowledge of behaviour and interest of the users. But, Marketplace on the other hand, is built-mobile first with a primary focus on photos, and the browsing too, is made efficient and gratifying by keeping in mind the relevancy. These only further boost random browsing, in hopes to stumble upon massive discounts, making Marketplace something like a treasure hunt.
The past of Facebook’s Marketplace…!
It all dates back to 2007!
Facebook has been trying to win local commerce for almost a decade. It had first tried out a “Marketplace” (using the same name) for classified listings about things for sale, housing, jobs, and so on, in 2007.
When it had first launched, Marketplace’s main competitor was Craigslist, when Facebook had just a petty 50 million active monthly active users.
The Marketplace, for several reasons was not able to gain mass appeal and this iteration met with a lukewarm (or nonexistent) response. After running it for about a year and a half, in 2009, Facebook decided to revamp it and transferred the control to Oodle, the commerce platform that powered it to further expand the functionality and breadth of the application.
But this time it was different! They now had a whopping 1.71 billion monthly active users (with 1.57 billion monthly active users on mobile itself), and the breadth and scale to give it another go-round.
In 2014, after this version eventually vanished from the site, because it couldn’t gain enough traction; this Marketplace concept was transformed by Facebook to “For Sale Groups”, that allowed individuals to create groups to buy and sell items online.
This further extended to Facebook testing a “Local Market” feature in October 2015!
A number of Facebook users had reported seeing a new feature called “Local Market” that had appeared briefly on their Facebook app, sometimes in place of the “Messenger” button.
Those who dug in further, even found this new section also included both – Buy and Sell interface, along with a way to search across the marketplace using keywords. They also saw items available for sale would be categorized and would include photos and prices.
And eventually, for-sale groups grew into the testing of “Marketplace”, and this testing evolved into the Marketplace that got launched.
Having said that – it is also important to note that Facebook is not the only one that wants to defeat Craigslist!
Many have come, and many have gone!
The biggest name between countless start-ups includes the giant of all – Google! Almost 10 years ago, Google had tried to combine classified ads with other crowd-sourced content in a website called Google Base, but the service never took off, and it now redirects to a site soliciting retailers to list on Google’s shopping search engine.
Many investors, entrepreneurs, guru’s, experts, etc will tell you how important it is to have a user-friendly product with smooth design that’s built with smartphones in mind.
But proving all of them wrong, Craigslist on the contrary, arguably being one of the ugliest sites on the Internet, has managed to not only survive, but has also remained undefeated! Seriously, nothing has changed in 10 years.
Hence, it would be really interesting to see Facebook tackles this one!!!