Facebook is having another go at letting users buy and sell things on the platform. It tried to launch a desktop marketplace service in 2007, but eventually shut it down due to lack of uptake. Instead, in recent years Facebook users have been able to use buying and selling groups on the platform for the purpose. This time around it’s starting with a mobile-only service, and it’s only available in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand for now, but you Facebook is already planning to expand it to new markets and bring it to the desktop… and existing players best be scared.
Why? Because Facebook doesn’t facilitate payments or otherwise take a cut from sales — making it more appealing than services like eBay and BidorBuy that do — and because the social network will make it easy for people to sell in their existing networks or extended networks of contacts, and that could make the service very popular indeed, especially with the sorts of South African consumers who’ve traditionally avoided using online classifieds because the prospect of dealing with strangers leaves them sweaty palmed.
The blue giant of social media is so committed to this play that its made the Marketplace icon one of the main ones in its mobile app in supported regions. Tap the icon and you’re presented with photos of items for sale in your general vicinity. Users can of course search for specific items and, particularly useful for those obsessive souls we politely refer to as “collectors”, you can change the location in which you’d like to search, too.
If you spot something you like you can send the seller an offer, or a message. Once you’ve settled on a price its up to you and the seller to sort out payment and delivery or collection. Selling an item is similarly straight forward. Take a few pics of it, pick a category and location, add some text and how much you want for it and post it to Marketplace.
So why should Facebook Marketplace succeed this time when it didn’t almost a decade ago? Because now there are more than 1.5 billion users on the platform, and those users are far more internet savvy and confident online than they were in 2007. Gumtree, OLX, BidorBuy and the like are going to have to up their game, if nothing else because most of their customers (and potential customers) are already Facebook users, and that’s a massive advantage for Facebook.