Will Facebook Marketplace overthrow their E-Commerce competitors?

by Claire Polansky

I just noticed the little Marketplace house with a canopy icon centered just above my home button last week. However, one of the fastest growing new Facebook innovations has been around for a little while and it is challenging the e-commerce front.

On October 3, 2016, Facebook introduced Marketplace as “a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.”

Since more than 450 Million people were already buying and selling on Facebook groups, they sought to streamline the process by building one place for people to sell to community members and beyond.

A little over 6-months into its release, 18 million new items were posted for sale — mostly furniture, babies/kids items, and women’s clothing according to Adweek.

You can sell anything from your handmade pottery that you made in the workshop up the street to luxury furniture to your grandma’s famous Borscht all from the convenience of your smartphone — and any other device that connects to the internet for that matter.

And now they are Beta testing partnerships with car dealerships and real estate brokers.

So should Craigslist and eBay start packing up their bags? Let’s do a little brief review and you decide if it’s what you need for your business.

5 Reasons You Should Sell on Marketplace?

At first glance, Facebook’s marketplace appears to be a digital flea market, so what’s with the hype of it taking down its e-commerce competitors?

1. It’s Free — at least for now.

You don’t have to tap your savings account to become a seller. Facebook lets you sell your stuff to users in the community without charging you a fee for your transactions. Sure, Craigslist does not charge either. But who sits on Craigslist all day? And Craiglist looks outdated and overwhelming with just a bunch of text links on the homepage.

2. It’s super convenient and easy.

Many people use Facebook like a village. It’s the go-to place for communicating with your friends, getting advice, playing games, marketing your products or services, standing on your political soapbox, sharing jokes, etc. So why not have a little market right in the middle of your digital town square? In a matter of minutes, you can choose a category to post your item, write a little description and a price, upload a picture, and publish the ad. You can still share the item with local groups as well. And since this is a social media platform, you can share posts with your friends for free advertising.

3. You can protect your privacy.

That’s right. There is no need to share your phone number or email. You can send a message directly to the seller directly through Facebook. So if you have tight privacy settings, no one will have your personal contact info. But it does not mean that you can get away with anything. Facebook has a reporting system for bad sellers. Just because the users don’t have your data does not mean that Facebook doesn’t. So you need to play by the rules.

4. You can check out the sellers.

Are you worried about a fake seller taking you for a ride? And I don’t mean a drive around the block in a car you want to purchase. Unlike eBay and Craigslist, you can dig a little deeper into a seller’s profile before you make a purchase. When you click on the seller’s profile, you can get a preview of the things you have in common, items the seller has posted, where he/she lives, and the date he/she joined facebook. And if that is not enough, you can click on the seller’s name and go to his/her profile page for a deeper inquiry. If something does not seem right — say he/she has 3 friends and lives far, far away; back away slowly and put down your phone. And if all looks good on the homefront, go get ’em tiger. You never know. You may even make a new friend in the process.

5. You can see where the item is on a map.

A map appears in the post, so you can see approximately where the item is. If you click on it, you can zoom in for more accuracy. You can also set the search filter to show items anywhere from 2km to 100km away if you are looking for items nearby.

5 Drawbacks of Marketplace?

1. It appears a little clunky and cheap.

Facebook’s marketplace has the appearance of a flea market or clutter thrift store at first glance, which I might add is a great place to find hidden gems. However, if you are looking to sell high-end merchandise, I would not choose marketplace as your primary source. Even if you snapped high-quality, professional photos; your neighbors and competitors might not have. While eBay also features used items by novices, their display boxes feature wide white padding and margins around the text and image that give even low-quality photos a professional appearance. That being said, Marketplace is still more aesthetically appealing than Craigslist.

2. Important information is hard to find.

Whenever a company rolls out a new product or service, they usually offer a user guide or FAQ’s. But they are not easy to find on Marketplace. I found a partnerships page, but only after randomly clicking. And nothing was written about fees or benefits of becoming a partner. Maybe it is free now, but users would not necessarily know that.

3. The real estate option is not available in all regions.

This is the one thing I was excited about as a renter in a large city. I would rather use the filters in the marketplace rather than going through group after group of irrelevant posts in groups and realtor listings in the classifieds.

4. There is no real liability.

One of the biggest dangers of buying items online is the lack of regulation. Users can sell their items for whatever they want, change prices at the last minute, or suddenly decide they are not going to sell/ship and item. And don’t even get us started on fraud. We’ve seen it all — from questionable origins of high-priced items to copycat websites and cases of stolen identity. You can report a bad seller and they will get a bad review, but that’s about it. Don’t expect to recover your time or money. So be smart and ask questions first. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Their categories are not completely intuitive.

Most of the categories are pretty straightforward, but not all. I mean, I lovingly refer to my dogs as my children, but I still would not think to look for pet items under “family.”

What Does the Future Hold for Marketplace?

While Facebook struggled with eCommerce in the past from failed “buy buttons” to a largely ignored gifts service, the Marketplace has the potential to disrupt the e-commerce industry.

Facebook capitalizes on the cultural shift from face to face interactions to social media communication. Thus, the community component of eCommerce is inevitable. And with the growing popularity of smartphone purchases on eCommerce sites, it will be a likely must for businesses.

*Featured image courtesy of Bruce Mars from Pexels.

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Author: Claire Polansky

I am a Jill-of-all-trades marcom specialist and high tech autodidact. I stay upstream with the rapidly moving high tech scene by excessively reading anything and everything. When I am not reading or writing, you can find me with my dogs on the beach basking in the Mediterranean sun.

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