Facebook Launches ‘The Marketplace’: Entry into Local Commerce?

Facebook has formally relaunched its peer to peer local marketplace for used goods, setting up a strong challenge to Craigslist, cutting into new marketplaces from NextDoor and others, and potentially cutting in on eBay’s turf as well.

The app carries a tagline of “Discover it. Buy It. Sell It.” In a news release, Facebook described the feature as “a convenient destination to discover, buy and sell items with people in your community.” Items may be searched by location, category or price.

The Marketplace – which we covered in March 2016 when it began extensive testing — is now available on iOS and Android in the U.S., UK, Australia, and New Zealand. More countries – and a desktop version – are expected to launch soon.

How serious is Facebook in pushing it? As a menu item on Facebook’s app, The Marketplace is getting tens of millions of dollars of valuable real estate. It also leverages Facebook’s integrated photo and messaging technology. It grabs pictures from a user’s camera roll – a neat, newer feature — and uses Facebook messenger to contact (and haggle) with sellers. As we noted in our prior coverage, the listings are free and mostly oriented around used goods.

In the near-term, listings won’t go into the paid areas that provide the bulk of Craigslist’s revenue: apartments, cars, jobs and “personal services.” But if Facebook decides to provide a greater emphasis on classifieds, it could conceivably move into transactions (and commissions). It could also open the service up beyond its groups to have more of a geo-orientation.

The classifieds project is the latest transaction-oriented effort from Facebook, which may want to diversify its revenue beyond advertising. Facebook has been experimenting with various transaction models for several years, including tests with virtual gift cards, deals and virtual currencies. Facebook has also developed an Amazon-like capability to enable transactions on other sites by collecting credit card information on its profiles.

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