Facebook takes on Craigslist with the launch of Marketplace

Marketplace lets users buy and sell their goods, something the company says 450M users already do

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 3, 2016
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Given how dominant it is, especially compared to other social network, I've been pretty surprised that Facebook hasn't been able to successfully conquer commerce. Millennials especially spend more time on the network that any other, by far, but I haven't ever bought anything on there, have you?

The company has been looking to change that in the last few years, going after retailers. That has meant partnering with Shopify to allow merchants to advertise and sell their products, and launching a dedicated shopping feed, creating a single place where users can more easily discover, share and purchase products.

Now Facebook going after the resale side of the market as well, debuting its own Craiglist competitor called Marketplaces, through which Facebook users can list their own items to sell to people nearby.

Marketplace has already been given its own icon at the bottom of the Facebook app. When a user opens it up, they first see photos of the items that have been listed for sale in the immediate area. Users are also able to narrow down their search by location, category or price, or by category, such as Household, Electronics and Apparel.

Once the user finds something they want to buy, they can tap the image for more details, including a product description and the seller's location. The user then sends a direct message to the seller, to make an offer. 

Items can also be saved for later, and there's also now a "Your Items" section for keeping track of what users have bought and sold, including messages that were sent (which might come in handy in case the deal goes south).

Part of the reason that Facebook decided to launch Marketplaces is that a large chunk of its userbase, over 450 million people, are already doing this on the site, by visiting buy and sell groups each month. The company recognized a use case that it hadn’t anticipated and acted accordingly. 

"Facebook is where people connect, and in recent years more people have been using Facebook to connect in another way: buying and selling with each other. This activity started in Facebook Groups and has grown substantially," the company wrote.

Despite the importance that Facebook is placing on Marketplace, by giving it a coveted spot on its app, pne thing it isn't doing, at least not right now, is monetizing it. There is no advertising on Marketplace at this time, and the company isn't taking a percentage of transactions. Facebook also isn't facilitating transactions in Marketplace; it connects the buyer and seller and they can decide to handle those details in any way they want.

Even though Facebook isn't currently looking to make money off the feature, it certainly seems to be an important step for the company, given how prominently it's displayed on its app, something I doubt it would do for just any old service. It wouldn't be surprising if some of those effort to monetize it spring up in the not too distant future, especially given that such a large portion of its userbase are already primed to use it. 

Those numbers are going to make Facebook an immediate player in the resale space. It's definitely going to have an immediate leg up on one of its biggest competitors, eBay, which had 164 million active buyers in its most recent quarter, a little over a third of the 450 million users that Facebook say will likely use its feature. 

Craiglist, meanwhile, has 60 million users a month in the U.S.

Shares of eBay stock are down 1.82 percent in regular trading on Monday, to $32.30 a share.

Over the next few days, Marketplace will be rolling out to everyone over 18 years old in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand on mobile. The company says it will "continue expanding to additional countries and make Marketplace available on the desktop version of Facebook in the coming months."

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