image credit – Facebook
Facebook has taken a clearer aim at the online classifieds market with the launch of a new service called Marketplace which provides users with a destination for identifying buyers or sellers of items.
This service, which will be available through the Facebook app is building on the traction that online C2C (customer to customer) classifieds have generated through the Facebook Groups feature.
According to Facebook, more than 450 million people have been accessing buy and sell groups every month. Marketplace is harnessing this momentum to bring all this activity under one umbrella.
How does it work?
Marketplace lists items for sale that are available near you with each item accompanied by a picture. You can use the search feature to locate specific items and filter results by location, category or price.
Items are also placed in various categories like Household, Electronics and Apparel and a search can also be refined through a location tool that will help pick a specific region for a particular search.
Tapping on a preferred item’s image will provide additional info such as its description, the name and profile photo of the seller, plus their location.
If you want to buy it you can then send the seller a direct message (via Marketplace) to express interest, make an offer and top thrash out details.
Posting an item – which is free – involves taking a photo of the item or selecting one; entering details like the product name, description and price; confirming your location; select a category and posting.
A seller can also opt to post to Marketplace and a specific buy and sell group at the same time.
Should Zimbabwean classifieds be worried?
As much as Facebook has noted the massive traffic from Groups globally, it’s not launching Marketplace worldwide just yet.
For now, it will be introduced to people 18 years old and above in just 4 countries – United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. This will be on the Android and iOS Facebook app.
It will be expanded to other countries and with a desktop version as well in the next few months, postponing its entry and the likely disruption of classifieds markets around the world.
So, how much of a threat will Marketplace be in Zimbabwe? Is it going to be a new threat at all?
There has already been extensive use of Facebook Groups as classifieds platform and this has been aided not only by Facebook’s popularity but also by mobile network operator sponsored Facebook bundles which offer unlimited Facebook access for up to $6 a month.
The current crop of dominant (in terms of popularity and investment, at least) person to person classifieds like classifieds.co.zw and Econet’s Ownai have always dealt with these popular but fragmented Facebook Groups as competition so perhaps this will turn out to be just their existing rivals that have been refashioned under one banner.
However, it’s hard to not consider a singular Facebook service that’s kitted out with features like location specific searches and results that bring buyers and sellers closer as a huge threat if not the biggest for online classifieds.
There’a also the fact that Facebook Groups have already managed to close in on some of the competitive advantages held by these incumbent C2C classifieds.
The scale that classifieds.co.zw enjoys could well have been undercut by collective Facebook Groups user totals and Ownai’s zero-rated edge is clipped by the Facebook Bundles.
In any case, all of this will be put to the test in the next few months when Marketplace goes live in Zimbabwe.