Facebook launched Marketplace – a platform for peer-to-peer sales, that now is available on Android and iPhone mobile apps for 18+ citizens of UK, United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The new feature has been already named as a geo-located Craigslist. The platform is only peer-to-peer now, but the things could change anytime if Facebook offered some business options.
“Platforms are the offices/factories of the future”.
Ernesto Spruyt, Mobbr.com
Facebook launched his own marketplace, and you’ve probably heard about this piece of news.
The biggest social network in the world continues to expand its functions, and now shopping on it is also available. There is nothing new that people frequently use Facebook groups to buy and sell some things, furthermore, according to the Facebook statistics, there are 450 million active users who do that each month.
Now Facebook adds a new, more powerful feature that can potentially shake up classified platforms market. But unfortunately, big and middle-sized e-commerce businesses have nothing to catch on this peer-to-peer party yet.
The new Facebook feature is not a facilitator, but a venue, and all sales details like price, shipping or meeting point are between the seller and the buyer. And, yes, both parts are absolutely free from paying a “rent”.
Read on to know more about Facebook Marketplace and what it means for the future of your e-commerce business.
According to the Facebook statistics, there are about 450 million active users who visit “buy and sell” groups each month.
Facebook Marketplace current functionality
If you are 18+, have a Facebook app on iPhone or Android and live in one of these 4 countries: UK, United States, Australia or New Zealand – congratulations, you have a chance to try new app’s option. But if not, anyway, Facebook promised to expand their country shortlist in a few month and create a desktop version in the nearest future.
What user can do:
- Search by location (spanning 100 miles away) or browse by a category. If you find something you want, you’ll see the seller’s approximate location, but not their exact address unless they tell you
- View items for sale (including basic seller’s profile information)
- Make an offer (haggling is also available)
- Message a seller (for a meet-up arrangement or payment details as Facebook Marketplace doesn’t provide any payment or delivery options)
- Save searches or specific items
How to sell on Facebook Marketplace:
- Take photos of your item or add them from your camera roll
- Enter a product name, description and price
- Confirm your location and select a category
- Post it
Facebook Marketplace is simple as scandinavian design: it is not overloaded with options and details. Just after his launch, the Internet society named the new Facebook feature a geo-located version of Craigslist: it lets you sell to anyone within 100 miles of you, rather than limiting you to friends or group members.
Users may put up product pictures of everything from clothing to housing. And all that they need is just to tap the new little icon on the navigation bar, see all the latest stuff for sale nearby and create their own ad. As an offer is tied to the account, a user can find out in a click who the person is and easily identify fly-by-night sellers.
Evolution of Facebook Marketplace
We can name Facebook Marketplace is a version 2.0, as the previous one got on the road on 2007, but it didn’t catch on. Facebook is clearly sure it will do now. And replacing the Messenger icon (one of the most used buttons on the app) to Marketplace is a strong argument that they are not kidding.
Like Nicola Tesla, company’s management looked ahead in the long term so that the society wasn’t prepared: the culture of online/mobile shopping wasn’t so integral with our life as now.
Facebook struggled for almost a decade to create a buying-selling feature on their social network. And the guys were very productive, by the way. Last year, for example, Facebook did another move, adding a special “For Sale” post option to groups.
In October 2015, Facebook began testing a “Local Market” feature that would have evolved into the today’s Marketplace. In July 2016, some users mentioned a new item, that was “placed predominantly at the bottom of the Facebook App”. As it wasn’t available for everyone, we can guess that it was a pilot version of what we have today.
What is Oodle?
In a nutshell, Oodle improves buying and selling experience in online classifieds. It aggregates over 500 thousand new listings per day from over 80 thousand different sites. Also, Oodle collects listings, published by local sellers, from hundreds of websites in its partner network.
Being the second largest service for online classifieds in the United States, Oodle attracts over 6 million unique visitors monthly. Its partner network powers classifieds for over 200 leading brands like Cox Broadcasting, MySpace and Walmart. Oodle provides media, online communities and portals with a proven business model and great usability solutions for local classifieds.
Oodle was chosen to power Marketplace on Facebook because of its innovation achievements for online classifieds. As mentioned above, they developed an upgraded Marketplace version in 2009.
Facebook figured out that they need an external developer, who must be an expert in classified market development if they would like to add practical functionality and broad the application’s capabilities.
Ethan Beard, the Director of Business Development at Facebook said: “Turning the development and management of Marketplace over to an innovator in online classifieds will give users more advanced ways to create and share listings on Facebook. We’re excited by the potential of the Oodle powered Marketplace application to offer an engaging classifieds experience on Facebook.”
What is so special in Facebook Marketplace?
Why peer-to-peer selling through Facebook has so many chances to grow, leaving Craigslist or even eBay behind? Here are some reasons.
The system is transparent and clear
“Marketplace adds immense transparency and credibility,” says Rachael Powell, Senior Director of Social Media at the Elasticity digital marketing agency. In comparison with Craigslist, where sellers are anonymous in general, here a user can check a profile of a seller. You can also see common friends if you have them, and seller’s location. Therefore, easy access to the Facebook account makes Marketplace one of the most trustworthy shopping platforms.
Simplicity and speed of the selling/buying workflow
With no doubt, it’s much easier to tap on a single icon and browse inside Facebook, where we spent about 50 minutes per day in general. It’s much easier to communicate in real time via Messenger than to use e-mails or make calls. You can haggle on foot and ask questions to the seller if you need to clarify something. Moreover, Facebook’s text analysis AI checks the categories of items you browse through and ranks them according to the relevancy.
Usually, we turn to the classified advertisements websites like Craigslist in cases we are looking for something specific. But what concerns social network shopping, it’s more likely to have accidental nature. Facebook turns to account that a lot of users are addicted to their smartphones. And if they have a habit of scrolling down all the time their news feed just because of boredom, why don’t they do the same with shopping feed? People quickly get hooked to the life’s little pleasures, and with no doubt, simple and fast shopping is one of them.
“We found that the vast majority of people just like to browse. They don’t have a specific item in mind. They are just…scrolling through the feed and seeing if there’s anything that might interest them”, said Bowen Pan, product manager of Facebook Marketplace. “It mimics some of the offline shopping behavior of going to a Sunday market or to the mall. You might not know the items you want, but you’re open to seeing them.”
We found that the vast majority of people just like to browse. They don’t have a specific item in mind. They are just…scrolling through the feed and seeing if there’s anything that might interest them.
Bowen Pan, Facebook
The dark side of the Marketplace
In the morning of October, 3rd the company introduced Marketplace to the world, and by the evening the world paid them back by flooding it with a drillion of illegal issues. Children, dogs, guns, drugs, “grilled socks” – it seems like users found the new feature too handy and easy to use it seriously. While some people started using Facebook as a black market, others checked their local offers just for fun, without a serious intention to buy something.
Mary Ku, the Director of Product Management at Facebook apologized for the situation with drugs and weapon: “As we expanded Marketplace access, we encountered a technical issue that prevented our reviewing system from identifying some posts that violated our Commerce Policies and Community Standards. As a result, certain posts with content that violated our policies were made visible to people visiting Marketplace. We have addressed the technical issue that caused this problem and are closely monitoring our systems to ensure violations are properly identified and removed as we gradually expand access to Marketplace.”
If the corporation didn’t find the right technological way out to save their pet project from turning to the black market, these non-ethic moments can play a low-down trick on Facebook.
Love how serious people are taking the new Facebook Marketplace. Also, that is a beautiful brick if I'm honest pic.twitter.com/JL7B10Z83F
— David Cogen (@theunlockr) October 4, 2016
As we expanded Marketplace access, we encountered a technical issue that prevented our reviewing system from identifying some posts that violated our Commerce Policiesand Community Standards.
Mary Ku, Facebook
Lack of the rating system
In pursuit of simplicity of things Facebook didn’t add the ability to rate seller and buyers.
Bazaarvoice reported that 54% of online buyers read reviews before purchasing. About 90% of individuals who read reviews are influenced by positive information, while 86% are influenced by negative information, according to Dimensional Research.
But we can only suppose that the things work differently when we are talking about peer-to-peer sales. The results of the latest Edelman Trust Barometer shows that trust in institutions (government, business, media and non-governmental organizations) remains at an all-time low. We often trust our peers more than we trust institutions, even if the person is unknown to us.
No payment system, no fast shopping
On the one hand, the lack of the payment tool exempts Facebook from liability to regulate deals somehow. But the idea of spontaneous shopping requires fast and easy payment, otherwise, we can’t name the purchase “impulsive” as the buyer could recall his order anytime. “We see our role as just connecting buyers and sellers” Pan explains.
We see our role as just connecting buyers and sellers.
Bowen Pan, Facebook
The problem could be solved with chatbots in the future. In September, the social network launched Messenger Platform v1.2, which uses bots to let users communicate with commercial retailers and complete purchases without leaving Facebook’s chat platform. Thus, the company already has an alternative solution to create a fast and handy payment option for Marketplace.
Why does Facebook venture a shopping platform?
The worldwide retail eCommerce sales are estimated to grow from $1.915 trillion to $4.058 trillion by 2020.
In the announcement of the Facebook Marketplace, Mary Ku wrote: “In recent years more people have been using Facebook to connect in another way: buying and selling with each other. This activity started in Facebook Groups and has grown substantially”. Remember the fact that Facebook selling groups visit 450 million every month, it seems evident that the social network needed something specific. The worldwide retail e-commerce sales are estimated to grow from $1.915 trillion to $4.058 trillion by 2020. It’s the high time since offline sales lose to online sales.
Being one of the most leading corporations in the world, Facebook couldn’t ignore trends anymore.
Amazon is Google for products, but we have no Facebook for products.
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) July 6, 2016
The first trend is the significant growth of e-commerce. According to the U.S. Census bureau, it’s for just 8.4% of all retail and continues to grow. The beginning of this trend in 2006 might have pushed Facebook to launch the first Marketplace version.
The second trend is about the frequency of mobile using, especially among the millennials generation, who, for the most part, are addicted to their smartphones and social networks. The director of e-commerce for Mondelez International has suggested that the habitual use of smartphones by millennials is a driving trend and it’s not “all about the convenience”.
By the way, around 47% (3.43 billion) of the world’s population are currently using the Internet. Out of this, only 1.61 billion people make online purchases. The other 2 billion sooner or later will try online shopping, that opens the opportunity for businesses to “catch them”.
The third trend related to the e-commerce traffic from smartphones: in the USA it accounts for 49%, against 44% for desktops and 7% for tablets. Spontaneous and mobile-based shopping is the logical consequence of this trend and is the future of e-commerce.
The Battle of titans
Facebook is making a step to be a smarter and safer Craigslist of the 21st century. Craigslist thrived in the United States despite its lack of features: buyers and sellers both returning back to it as it aggregates the most supply and demand. It was pointless to compete with it, but now Facebook has all chances to do that and succeed, as it already knows everything about the user: interests, friends, even gender preferences. “This Marketplace is a perfect opportunity to build audiences you can sell to advertisers,” says Jason Goldberg, the Vice President of Commerce and Content at digital agency Razorfish. And above all, Facebook doesn’t need to force new users for capitalization.
Comparable sales of eBay’s auctions marketplace have fallen consistently in double-digits since the start of this year.
If the social network giant succeeds in its new venture, it will definitely cheer up e-commerce platforms market. Actually, we can say that it has already happened. After the launch, Facebook shares went marginally higher while the shares of eBay fell by more than 1%. According to the Forbes, it hasn’t been able to turn around its marketplace sales in the last couple of years and comparable sales of its auctions marketplace have fallen consistently in double-digits since the start of this year.
But the company doesn’t want to give up so easily, so they set a goal to focus on the niche, unique products and boutique brands attraction. eBay’s Chief Executive Officer steer to the new markets and millennials as well.
Now eBay is working on several initiatives to make the platform more user-friendly. Considering the hitch to attract millennials and users in emerging economies, the total active users on its platform are expected to increase steadily from 165 million in 2016 to around 213 million by 2023.
And one more thing. When we get to any large shopping platform like eBay or Alibaba we automatically get to the global ocean of whatnot in the world. Being the most used social network, Facebook changes the common logic of product surfing by adding the ability to browse local offers first. Do you remember the quote “Think global, act local” by Patrick Geddes? This idea perfectly suites Facebook Marketplace.
What businesses should expect?
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.
Bowen Pan, Facebook
So, now it’s pointless for middle and big businesses to participate in peer-to-peer “party”. The platform could be suitable for small businesses and entrepreneurs like domestic craft soap or piano lessons courses. But it’s still hard to say with confidence what Facebook cares about more: potential profit or positive social reaction. We can only refer to Bowen Pan’s comment: “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.”
Therefore, e-commerce people should keep an eye on the Marketplace and wait for the updates for businesses. “Down the road, Facebook may open up the Marketplace to retailers, and small-business artisans might be able to post items for sale there right now, but in general, the Marketplace works currently as a peer-to-peer rather than a B2C site,” said Tom Caporaso, CEO of Clarus Commerce.
It also can be a useful marketing research tool for small and middle size businesses. “Small retails might also want to make a point of regularly browsing items in their categories and in related ones to see the range of prices their products command on the second-hand market; how frequently (and in what condition) they’re put up for sale; how quickly they sell; and how people describe their products“, Caporaso concluded.
Well, we’ll continue following up changes on this platform and its influence on e-commerce local markets. And, do you think Facebook Marketplace will be a new shopping trend or it’ll fizzle out after a couple of months?