You may have noticed the mysterious house style icon that has been appearing at the top of your news feed just left of the notifications button. This surprising new addition to the world of Facebook might have passed your notice – indeed there has been little fanfare in the run up to its release – but it’s there and there to be used. So what is it? The Facebook Marketplace is a new feature which looks to encourage the selling of goods amongst a user’s community i.e their current friendship base. With many individuals having a large friends lists, and with the ability to share posts, these so called “communities” that we all have are actually quite sizeable. Previously you could sell on Facebook via specific groups that facilitated this. Now the social media giants want to rival Gumtree and Craig’s List as a platform to buy and sell goods.
So how do you use it?
Like all things Facebook, it’s fairly straightforward. It goes by location services, so the marketplace will show you what’s on sale in your area. You can search categories of items, go straight to the selling function, or search what you have previously put up for sale, or bid on. A bonus is how vast the categories section is. Facebook wants to make everything from bike saddles to classic board games available to you. There are quite a few odd items, like obscure memorabilia – evidence of how vast the categories section is. Selling is easy and takes minutes. You simply post your image, add a description and include your location. It is the same process that you undergo for adding an image. You can view how many people have viewed your item, which is always helpful, as you may want to adjust the category you posted it in if there are low numbers of views.
Buying – or at least bidding on something – is just as easy. Search an item, click on the seller’s location to find out where they are and then get in touch via messenger to figure out prices and negotiate pick up. There is no involvement from Facebook about how you pay or collect the items, so it’s all down to you to organise.
Will it get used?
Well, its main challenge is finding a way past the lack of secure payment options on offer. This not only deters customers because of the concerns they might have about online safety, but it can lead to just, well, laziness. Where is the incentive to follow through with payment, when payment doesn’t involve simple on the spot transactions, but rather negotiations. Payment abandonment is hugely frustrating for sellers who will have to re-list items and look again for a buyer. It would not be surprising if many of these individuals chose instead to sell through eBay and the like.
There is also no review system and reviews are crucial when it comes to getting anything sold online. They are your testimonials, they are what encourages consumers to buy from each other online. They are tiny digital insurance policies which can be the difference between a sell and cart abandonment. Users can currently only see what a person is selling, not how reliable or successful they are as sellers. These are two significant black marks against Facebook Marketplace’s name.
In conclusion, the lack of inbuilt secure payments and review options make Facebook Marketplace a tough sell. However, the real-time element and the fact that you are able to search for goods in your immediate area are definitely huge bonuses. Facebook has incredibly high numbers of users and offering any new function inside this constantly consulted app has the potential to yield at least a little bit of uptake, which, for other digital marketplaces, could spell the end of their high hit rate.