Why Facebook's New Marketplace is Not a Craigslist Killer

Today, Facebook announced they have rolled out a new product "Marketplace" with the tagline of "Buy and Sell With Your Local Community".

This isn't an entirely new thing, as Wired wrote:

As many as 450 million people already use Facebook Groups as a community bazaar. Last year, Facebook even rolled out specific features to enable features like listing prices, marking items as available or sold, and easily viewing a catalog of previously sold items. - Wired

But this is a distinctly separate product with prominent display on the home screen of the world's most popular app.

I personally think this is a going to be bad product experience.

Here's why:

Reason #1: I like the anonymity craigslist offers

The number one reason I don’t want to buy things from strangers on Facebook, is I don’t want the person I'm buying a toaster oven from to have access to my facebook profile.

Perhaps this makes me a conservative old man.

Or it could be that it's legit weird to allow a perfect stranger to look at ALL your photos and most recent timeline posts.

I don't want them to have the opportunity to message me. I don't want them to know my middle name is Hubert. [1]

To sum up, I DONT WANT WEIRD STRANGERS TO HAVE ACCESS TO MY FACEBOOK PROFILE!

I just want to buy stuff cheap and get rid of my surfboard I never use.

Reason #2: They didn't make it a massively better experience

We already talked about what Facebook Marketplace DOES do (creeper alert), but let's talk for second about what it doesn't do:

  • It doesn’t facilitate payments
  • It doesn’t facilitate delivery
  • There’s no two-way rating system to encourage quality
  • They didn’t pre-fill with high quality sellers
  • It’s not algorithmically selecting the best items I might want to buy based upon available items and my profile or recent activity
  • It’s not allowing me to select items from ONLY my friends (which, if it did, I’d be way more inclined to at least try it!)

Tell me again why I should use it, Marky Mark?

Oh yeah, it's safer...

Reason #3: It is NOT a safer solution than Craigslist

In fact I think it opens the door up for MORE trolling and online creepers. Just play around with the app for a few minutes and you'll see - every seller can click straight through to their Facebook page.

And the argument that a scammer would have a hard time building up a personal profile on Facebook - well I just don’t buy it. And in reality, most consumers have become pretty savvy to know when there is a fishy scam afoot on the Craigslist.

Facebook, Craigslist, and no platform for that matter will get rid of the annoying, haggling strangers who don’t show up and then those that actually do show up and try and re-negotiate the already agreed upon price.

Those pesky low-ballers.

Reason #4: People like crappy designs they're used too

Facebook is for sure a much “prettier” product with mobile optimization.

But people are familiar and comfortable using Craigslist. It’s where the community goes to buy stuff, sell stuff and yes, do other stuff too but the core utility by the broader audience is a marketplace to find and sell stuff.

I think Facebook has to 10x the value of Marketplace to beat Craigslist at its own game.

So why is Facebook doing this?

Ummmm, ze advertizers.

Yes, that's right, you don't pay for Facebook - but advertisers do.

I have a hard time believing the whole Facebook user base was clamoring for this product.

As Wired magazine put it:

“If Facebook can transform itself into the place where people come to buy stuff—in addition to all the other things people come to Facebook for—well, that’s a great sell to Facebook advertisers."

A product for the customer (one who pays for the right to access the social graph), and not the user (one who uses the social graph).

What would it take for me to use marketplace?

For one, better stuff. :)

Also, if they addressed some of the product enhancements referenced in reason #2 above then I might consider it.

But let me ask you, have you ever had a "wow" experience buying or selling anything on Craigslist?

Like, a "this was so seamless and amazing" type of experience.

Asked another way, do you look forward to going onto Craigslist?

If you're like me you answered an emphatic NO to both those questions.

Why is that?

Because Craigslist is transactional - you're there to get something done: buy, sell, hire, etc.

As long as that's where the community goes to satisfy those needs, it will be hard for anybody to unseat the king.

Even Facebook.

I write all this knowing that Mark Zuckerberg will probably prove me wrong, but hey, maybe not...

Anybody use a Facebook phone lately?


Notes:

[1] Hubert is not my real middle name, what are you nuts? I would never tell you my middle name is a New Testament Bible name that starts with T and there's 2 books, and my namesake was mentored by Paul the Apostle. Nope, my lips are sealed.

Articles and References: http://newsroom.fb.com/news/2016/10/introducing-marketplace-buy-and-sell-with-your-local-community/

https://www.wired.com/2016/10/facebook-marketplace/

https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/03/facebook-marketplace-2/

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