Photo Credit: wikipedia
There’s a lot to like about the newest offering from Facebook, known as Facebook Marketplace. It’s essentially a giant yard sale that Facebook is hosting right on your mobile device, and it’s easily accessible by a new, unobtrusive tab that you can hit up as soon as you open the Facebook app.
If you’re already using Facebook to manage every aspect of your social life, this new offering makes a lot of sense. The whole yard sale experience is a social one, so why not combine that offline social element with an online social element? Plus, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out, Facebook was just responding to user behaviors anyway, since lots of users (as in 450 million users!) already created Facebook groups to host yard sales anyway. If you’ve ever sold old furniture or clothing, you know how much easier it is if there is one central place to manage all the bids, counter-bids and answers to buyer questions.
From what we know so far, it sounds like this is essentially a Craigslist or eBay experience for your phone. You can filter results by location, category and price, just as you might on Craigslist or eBay. And you can message buyers with Facebook Messenger, meaning that you can use Facebook for every step of the transaction.
So your first reaction probably is: “Got it. So Facebook is going to take a massive cut of every item sold, right?” Or maybe: “Oh, OK, so Facebook is going to charge massive listing fees, right?”
And that’s the strange part, at least if you’re a stone cold e-commerce fan. Facebook doesn’t plan to monetize these transactions directly. It won’t facilitate payments or conversations for items – once an item has been posted to Facebook Marketplace, it’s up to you to figure out how to close the deal. Presumably, since this is a mobile-first experience (at least at first, although it’s coming to desktop later), it will be easy to snap a photo of an item, upload details about that item, and then message buyers or sellers.
There is one way, though, that Facebook could monetize Marketplace, though, and it has to do with your data. Think about how Facebook makes money – it’s advertising. So the more that Facebook knows about you and your buying patterns, the more it can sell better ads to users. You may “like” Nike on Facebook, but if you’re actually buying and selling Adidas or Puma, guess which data is more valuable?
Ultimately, Facebook may be able to tell a lot more about you than just what you like to buy and sell. Remember that Target story from 2012, when Target knew that a teenage girl was pregnant before her parents did by the types of items she was buying online? Imagine what Facebook would know about you if you start searching out items like “used cribs” or “used baby clothes” via Marketplace. Jackpot!
For years, the major social media platforms have talked up the future of e-commerce conducted solely within social networks. While there have been some early successes, there really haven’t been any big wins, and eBay is still a giant. Facebook Marketplace, if it ever achieves enough scale, might be a positive step in the right direction for fans of social media e-commerce and m-commerce.