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Facebook Takes on E-Commerce with Marketplace

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On Monday, social media giant Facebook Inc. has launched what it calls Marketplace, a way for users to buy, sell, and discover items in their local community.

Marketplace will be rolled out to Facebook users 18 and older in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand in the coming days. To access it, users will need to open the Facebook app and tap the shop icon at the bottom; it opens up with pictures of items that people near your location have listed for sale. You can also search to find something specific, and results can be filtered by price, location, and category.

If you’re a seller, the process is quite simple: take a photo of the item you are trying to sell, enter a product name, price, and description, confirm your location, select a category, and post.

If you’re a customer, and end up finding something you would like to buy, the purchase process is also easy: you simply have to send the seller a direct message from Marketplace and make an offer. From there, any further details are worked out between you and the seller. Facebook’s director of product management Mary Ku said in a news release the company will not “facilitate the payment or delivery of items in Marketplace.”

As TechCrunch pointed out, Facebook has been trying to enter the commerce market for a while now, and Marketplace is a sort of evolution of its past efforts, including users' ability to use Messenger to send payments. Because of its huge user base—it recently reached over 1.5 billion users—Facebook’s Marketplace has the opportunity to surpass e-commerce stalwarts like eBay Inc. (EBAY - Free Report) and Craigslist.

There’s also an element of trust with Marketplace that is absent from a platform like Craigslist, as your Facebook profile can be viewed by potential buyers. It will be much more difficult for scammers to be successful on Marketplace than on Craigslist. It’s also a convenient way to shop. Instead of exiting the Facebook app and opening another shopping app, users can browse through a wide range of products after they scroll through their News Feed.

Image via: Facebook

“We found that the vast majority of people just like to browse. They don’t have a specific item in mind. They are just…scrolling through the feed and seeing if there’s anything that might interest them,” said Marketplace product manager Bowen Pan to TechCrunch.

“It mimics some of the offline shopping behavior of going to a Sunday market or to the mall. You might not know the items you want, but you’re open to seeing them,” Pan continued. And this is true. With Marketplace, Facebook has the opportunity to capitalize on shoppers’ browsing habits online as well as in brick-and-mortar stores.

If Marketplace proves successful in the four initial countries, Facebook expects to continue to expand the service to additional countries via its iOS and Android apps over the next few months.

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