Facebook Marketplace: Then, Now and Tomorrow

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It’s the move that took everyone by surprise: Facebook went from social to shopping. For many who have no other means of trading their products locally, this is wonderful news. But how will this change the online social and shopping experience of 1.71 billion active monthly users? And what about businesses? Will it undermine content marketing efforts and push Facebook users to undertake more convenient transactions locally?

The Evolution of the Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace, an online platform for people buying and selling locally, was launched this month in Australia, New Zealand, UK and the USA. Currently available on the mobile app, the platform is due to become available on the desktop version within weeks. A shopping-specific app will also be launched in the next few days.

The official announcement, released on Oct. 3, 2016 claims that it’s trying to tap into a new customer base. That’s the 450 million people who use buy and sell groups every month. Yet Facebook Marketplace had been available to users since May 2007. Two years later, a new version powered by Oodle was featured in the Applications tab. It enabled users to create classified ads that could be seen by people they knew from their Facebook Groups.

Filling that Void

So, why is the social media platform making this bold move, and re-branding itself in the process? Seemingly because peer-to-peer shopping platforms always seem to lack one thing. In the case of eBay, it’s real-time communication. In the case of Craigslist, it’s sociability.

More convenient than an e-commerce platform like eBay, Facebook Messenger enables users to chat in real time with the sellers prior to making their offer. Alternatively, they can send their initial offer and haggle right away, if the sellers are online.

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So, instead of frantically trying to outbid other eBay users and hoping that they have the best bid after days of waiting, buyers can reach an agreement within seconds. Of course, some eBay listings feature a bid button that works in much the same way, except the seller is notified of the offer by email.

Secondly, far more child-friendly than Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace does not feature personal ads. It also enables buyers to connect with the sellers, to communicate, and to even see the sellers and the products at work in real-time via messenger. The transparency, the safety and the friendliness that a simple messenger can facilitate are obvious. And their value in a transaction are not to be underestimated.

The Drawbacks Described

Unlike eBay, this marketplace doesn’t allow seller and buyer to rate each other’s input in the transaction. Also, the listing process is rushed and amateurish, making the platform a breeding ground for listing inaccuracies. This, in turn, is bound to affect customer satisfaction. But since there’s no way for buyers to review products, that may not be so terrible for Facebook just yet.

Project Partners

Within weeks of the launch, Paypal announced that it will soon be rolling out its payment option for Facebook Marketplace users in the USA. At the moment, Marketplace doesn’t feature native payment, but it accepts debit card payments.

Users will be able to link their Paypal and Facebook accounts at the checkout, receiving instant notifications in Messenger as well. With Uber and Braintree teaming up with Facebook recently to allow users to book and pay their cab fares via messenger, this rounds off a very nice package.

Effect on Business

Unfortunately for businesses currently marketing their products on Facebook or selling them outright on eBay, Facebook Marketplace poses a serious threat. But let’s not underestimate their power to adapt. There’s virtually nothing stopping them from adapting their content marketing strategies in this context.

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One option for them would be to sell returned, refurbished and reconditioned items on Facebook Marketplace rather than dispose of them. Another would be to use Facebook Marketplace as a means of attracting reviews on other websites that accept the opinions of those who bought elsewhere, such as Amazon.

The possibilities are endless, and it’s hard to estimate the long-term impact of Facebook Marketplace. One thing is certain, though: it gives buyers more options in terms of where to source and sell their goods, so that virtually everyone over the age of 18 can become an entrepreneur. And that opens up a Pandora’s box for large businesses that aren’t flexible enough to adapt.

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Melissa has written over 1,200 articles in the past year. Translations are her passion, but she considers herself to be an outstanding writer, as well. She is extremely dependable. She always meets her deadlines, and she is very dedicated to her work.

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