More and more people are buying products online, but more than that, an increasing number of people are using mobile devices, specifically, to browse and make purchases. Goldman Sachs has predicted that consumer spending via mobile will jump from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion by 2018. That's a huge consumer shift, and one that social platforms - Pinterest in particular - are moving to capitalize on. And given their ambition to be the one-stop destination for all things online, Facebook too has been working to tap into this rising trend and capitalize on consumer interest.
A year ago, we wrote about how Facebook was laying the foundations of their new eCommerce push, with a range of brand options aimed at helping facilitate buying and selling, with a particular emphasis on Facebook's mobile ubiquity.
"On Facebook we've seen that people are coming to our platform not only to connect with friends and family but also with products and brands. In fact, a survey suggested that nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, with a majority of them discovering new products in News Feed, Pages, and Groups."
And now, Facebook's looking to extend that process - but instead of focusing on businesses and brands, The Social Network is pushing a new form of online marketplace, along the lines of Craigslist, to facilitate community buying and selling.
So why the focus on community buying?
"More than 450 million people visit buy and sell groups each month."
That's more than 26% of all of Facebook's 1.71 billion monthly active users utilizing these groups. Pretty hard to ignore activity on that scale.
As you can see in the above image, Facebook's new marketplace option, which is being rolled out to users in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand from today, will get high visibility, with placement right in the middle of the bottom function bar, where Messenger used to be (which is now up in the top left).
Tap on the marketplace icon and you'll get a welcome message for your local marketplace, above a listing of items for sale in your area.
The listings are displayed based on your location and noted interests.
"To find something specific, search at the top and filter your results by location, category or price. You can also browse what's available in a variety of categories such as Household, Electronics and Apparel. Use the built-in location tool to adjust the region you're looking in, or switch to a different city altogether."
Tap on a product and you'll get a dedicated info page, with details about the product, the name and profile of the seller and their general location.
If you see something you want to buy, there's a one-tap option to make an offer, or you can send a message to the seller to express your interest. And worth noting here - Facebook doesn't get involved in the actual transactional elements. The buyer and seller arrange details as to where to meet or pick-up times, etc. Facebook doesn't facilitate payment or delivery, and can't be held responsible for things that may go wrong in the process.
As noted by TechCrunch, this does raise some concerns, particularly as you have to arrange to meet in person, but the added context and information provided by having access to the seller's Facebook profile should act as something of a deterrent for fraudsters.
"It's tough for scammers with fake accounts to build up big numbers of friends, so if someone has plenty, along with a filled-out profile, you can be pretty sure of who they are. Plus there's more accountability and people behave better if they think you could give their name to the police, track them down at work, or shame them on social media."
Ease of use is paramount in Facebook's new marketplace. If you want to sell something, you simply click on the camera icon from the main page and you'll be prompted to take a photo of your item.
Once you've taken a photo (or photos - you can add up to 10 for each item), you can add filters to make it look its best. You then put in a title and description of your item, a price, then list your location and item category, and you're away.
When browsing products for sale near you, you can check out the main feed listing, or you can search by category - the category listings in the search field are also displayed based on your interests.
And the last element of Marketplace is "Your items" - here, you can track all the products you have listed and have expressed an interest in, while the updates tab will keep you abreast of any changes to items you've tagged and messages you've received.
It's a simple, functional buying and selling eco-system, and given the aforementioned interest in such groups already on Facebook, Marketplace will no doubt prove popular. And really, that's where Facebook stands to win out - more than a billion people log onto Facebook every day, giving the platform massive reach potential to buyers and sellers right within the app they're already using. If you were thinking of buying or selling something, now it's as simple as tapping to a new tab - and it's a safe bet that a lot of people will do just that.
And in future, if Marketplace works out, it could provide Facebook with a whole new revenue stream. Even if Facebook doesn't charge advertisers to sell on Marketplace directly, it could offer sponsored placement to boost the exposure of your product, or News Feed ads for your item direct from the Marketplace stream. On this front, Marketplace will follow Facebook's general product development process.
- Build a product that people love
- Facilitate organic business behavior on the app (free of charge)
- Prove additional avenues for businesses who are seeking to expand their reach and presence
Given the already present interest, those options could come fairly soon.
Marketplace is rolling out to all users in the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand over the next few days, with further expansion - including a desktop version - set to be delivered in the coming months.