Facebook has finally entered the world of e-commerce launching its discover, buy and sell service ‘Marketplace’. Marketplace aims to reinvent the customer-run e-commerce community by offering a more organised and community-driven service.
Think of a traditional marketplace busy and bustling with people trying to sell all different goods and services, this is the kind of environment that buy, swap and sell pages were born out of, an environment that Marketplace hopes to refine and capitalise on. Researchers at Facebook noticed that over 4.5 million users were visiting buy, swap and sell pages each year and with Australian’s alone spending an average of 12.5 hours on Facebook it’s a no-brainer Facebook chose to act on this interest.
Marketplace challenges the traditional idea of e-commerce by allowing you to interact with other customers like never before, it’s more than getting rid of items collecting cobwebs in the back garage and goes beyond the basic exchange of product for value.
“Marketplace is a single destination where people can discover, buy and sell things in their neighbourhood and community,” says Mary Ku, Director of Product Management at Facebook.
Continuing on with their mobile- friendly focus Facebook developers chose to trial the service on mobile only during the roll-out. Developer Bowen Pan says he wants Marketplace to feel like a mobile-first initiative. There is no desktop feature as of now, however, it’s in the works. By focusing on smartphones at the onset the developers will assist the selling and browsing process to feel more natural on a mobile app.
Is there a market for it? Well, yes I think there is
In the world of classified ads there are some huge competitors! Facebook is coming up against the likes of eBay, who has over 25 million active sellers and local notice board Gumtree, which launched in Australia in 2007 and was later bought out by eBay. But let’s think about it this way, Facebook has over 1.7 billion users, eBay 164 million. All Facebook needs to do is encourage a small portion of its 1.7 billion users to be active on Marketplace and BINGO! They will be well on their way to taking over the current e-commerce giant.
The platforms have one thing in common in the fact they’re highly reliant on the customer. Customers bring the inventory, customers create the listings and customers buy the items. And although customer control can be the greatest strength of a business as it doesn’t demand high involvement, it can be also their greatest weakness. Being completely at the mercy of customers means that you have limited control over their customer experience. But hey if it can work for eBay, why not Facebook?!
How will they make their money?
Well, at the moment the service is free for both buyer and seller. As it gains traction and the product develops they will continue to build new options and features to make the product more user-friendly. Developers have hinted that they will eventually go down the same road as eBay charging the seller a small amount of the sale price to create a listing.
“After we’re confident we’ve built out a great product experience for people, we’ll look into introducing businesses if it makes sense, and after that we’ll look at how we could potentially monetize the surface,” said Marketplace developer Bowen Pan in an interview with TechCrunch.
What can Facebook Marketplace offer that eBay doesn’t already?
eBay has always taken a very impersonal approach to selling. Now don’t confuse this for me dissing eBay, I actually really like eBay, but I do see room improvement. eBay gives you many options when it comes to selling, they allow to you to auction off an item of sell it instantly, free postage and even allows you to arrange a local pick up. However, one of the upsides to Marketplace and the main reason that buy, swap and sell pages are so popular, are that they create a sense of community. Members can easily ask questions, enquire about product specifications and even create ‘looking to buy’ posts in an environment that encourages organic conversation. There is also far less anonymity compared to eBay as users can view aspects of the buyer or sellers Facebook profile.
You can do everything from selling off that gym equipment that you only ever used once, promoting your services or skills to gain new customers, even outlining the prerequisites for potential housemates. One obvious downside to Marketplace’s features is that face that the money exchange is still entirely in the hands of the buyer and seller, which may be seen as a deterant for some users who want more security.
What does this mean for small-business retailers?
A service like Marketplace goes a long way to close the digital gap between social media, a strong and effective marketing channel, and the actual purchase point of a product. There are many possibilities this could offer for retailers in the present and near-future!
- Sell off excess stock
- Avoid discounting by putting overstocked products on Marketplace
- Offer exclusive products to users who are on Facebook and increase social engagement
- Avoid the cost of setting up and managing a online store
- Offer a more streamlined and convenient shopping experience
It’s time to get right into your spring cleaning and finally get rid of that treadmill you purchased with all intentions of using it regularly or that kitchen gadget you bought from a breakfast show infomercial that is totally great, but let’s be honest, you don’t need it. Facebook Marketplace further connects us within our own online community and now we can even make a little money from it!