Facebook’s Buy & Sell Program Tests Local Awareness
In addition to closing the loop around the social network’s omnichannel relevance to SMB marketers, this latest move also represents a possible challenge to eBay.
Facebook’s new marketplace option, “Buy & Sell,” for new and used products between users, seems similar to eBay — but unlike the online auction operator, the social network is allowing users to see who is marketing specific items in their local areas.
Facebook’s newest offering suggests a deepening role in local commerce, one that goes beyond helping SMBs and enterprises advertise their services or present a direct line of communication between businesspeople and their customers. In a larger sense, this is about Facebook carving out a more defined position in the local omnichannel landscape.
The tests are being run right now in New Zealand and Australia and are expected to be expanded to other countries soon. Users can see all vendors and buyers within a certain area, whether that be city or larger municipality. Items are organized by category — Clothing, Beauty & Health, etc. — and will be searchable by keyword, location, and category.
While users can currently sell products through an option on Facebook Groups, that function lacks an ability to search for items. It also makes no consideration of location when organizing buyers or sellers. The new Buy & Sell is more specialized, and therefore more usable for interested Facebook merchants.
This is the latest step Facebook has taken in increasing local awareness of sales near its individual users, whether online or in-store. Up to now, the focus has primarily been about connecting Facebook members with a place of business, and that has shown signs of resonating, as a G/O digital survey taken last August showed 58 percent of respondents saying they engage with small business’ Facebook ads at least once a week before heading in-store to make a purchase.
Additionally, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for learning about and sharing local events and 84 percent of respondents to G/O’s survey said they believe local deals/offers on Facebook are important in their decision to purchase an item in-store. All this adds up to a company that is doing quite a lot to make location a larger part of the retail process.
But as businesses look to balance the e-commerce, m-commerce, and traditional sales models, Facebook believes it can respond with a complete set of tools to drive omnichannel presence and sales.
“The new communication tools could accelerate adoption of storefronts on Pages, an initiative Facebook is testing which allows businesses to have an e-commerce presence on the site,” said Stephen Stabler, senior analyst for Wells Fargo, though it also suggests Facebook becoming a broader omnichannel tool for businesses as well.
“Following on the heels of the launch of Facebook Messenger for Business (in March), Facebook is further improving the ability for businesses to increase productivity of brand pages. Private messaging between users and businesses positions Facebook closer to Twitter, where we’ve seen broad adoption by businesses of Twitter as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform,” said Stabler.
Facebook already has a huge built-in user base with almost 1.5 billion people active on the site. That’s a huge potential customer base to present Buy & Sell to and far outweighs the total users of eBay and Amazon. With that kind of potential and Facebook’s proven pedigree in local awareness, Buy & Sell could be a considerably popular platform for local trading.