Facebook has just launched Marketplace, taking pride of place on the app’s main navigation in place of the Messenger button. Marketplace is a classified listings service on Facebook (think eBay, Craig’s list, Gumtree, etc.) rolled into the existing social behemoth.
Whilst Facebook has been down this road (unsuccessfully back in 2007-9), it’s also been quietly building up a 450 million-strong transactional community on Facebook Groups. So there is definitely some established trading behaviour to tap into, plus there’s the huge and frequent audience on Facebook each day looking at their news feeds. This has already driven huge growth in video for Facebook and it’s not unreasonable to expect spontaneous shopping to also get a look in – it’s kind of like having a local Saturday Farmers’ market nestled in your news feed.
So, whilst finding the Marketplace and checking out the goods on offer in your local area is easy, the actual process of transacting is a bit more challenging.
Currently, Facebook is only acting as the ‘introducer’ and is taking no responsibility for fraud, below par goods, returns etc.. Whilst Facebook profiles do offer lots of information on the buyer or seller, there isn’t a ranking system and traders have to sort out their own payment methods. And I’m not sure meeting in a parking garage to buy a pair of headphones for cash is the best idea.
However, it would seem that the negatives are just the teething problems of a new service, which will work themselves out over time. What really interests me is the addition of transactional behaviour to a community that captures such a huge proportion of the UK (and global for that matter) internet population and what that means for ‘frictionless transactions’.
Call me shallow, but this is what the digital economy is all about: the ability to get what I want, where, how and when I want it, easily. Given the amount of time spent on Facebook consuming content, discussing products and services and brands and celebrities, etc., it makes total sense to move from all that engagement straight through to a relevant transaction.
If Marketplace allows for that infrastructure to be tested, refined and embedded into user behavior, then we have a really interesting canvas that brands could begin selling through too. Imagine one-click shopping via your news feed coupled with Amazon Prime styled delivery options, underpinned by a secure shopping infrastructure – very frictionless.
Add in profile data, ad engagement information, and a rapidly growing mobile footprint, and you have a really interesting advertising and commerce platform that gives huge (but relevant) reach and closes the loop. All this and all tied together with a single Facebook ID across platforms and devices.
Of course there are some fairly hefty ‘ifs’ along this journey, and a number of challenges that Facebook could encounter. Firstly, the competitive challenge: Amazon is clearly approaching this from the other direction. The logistical challenge: how would fulfilment be managed? The legislative challenge: there’s always the uncertainty about who will be owning the data and how it will be used (and monetised).
But whatever happens, I think new platforms that offer people the opportunity to do what they want in ways that are easy is always a good thing.