And it’s giving it prime placement in the Facebook app.
Every month, more than 450 million people visit Facebook groups designed to help them buy or sell items in their vicinity. Now, Facebook is giving them a more prominent spot in the app to view a broad selection of goods for sale in their area.
On Monday, the social network is launching Facebook Marketplace, a dedicated section of the app where people can browse used goods for sale in their neighborhood and list items for sale, too. The new feature will be advertised to users with an icon of a store that will appear in the app’s main menu bar on both iPhone and Android.
With the launch, Facebook will become the latest company to try to beat U.S. classifieds giant Craigslist on mobile phones, where more and more shopping is taking place. Craigslist doesn’t have its own app and its website design is decidedly old school, but it still has the most important feature of a marketplace: Liquidity. There’s enough activity on Craigslist that buyers and sellers typically have confidence they will be able to find a product they are looking for or find a buyer interested in what they’re selling.
Still, the lack of an app has left an opening for well-funded startups such as OfferUp and Letgo to try to steal market share by making product photos the main attraction in their own classifieds apps. Facebook’s Marketplace — which will launch in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, too — does the same.
The new initiative can be traced back to last year, when Facebook added new features to “buy and sell” Facebook groups to help people easily list items for sale. Facebook seems to have experimented with a goods marketplace as far back as 2007, too.
This time, Facebook believes that the 450 million-plus people who already visit “buy and sell” groups on a monthly basis could give Marketplace a leg up on the competition. Whether they want to browse a much broader selection of goods within Facebook remains to be seen.
“We’re really building on top of activity we’re already seeing,” said Mary Ku, Facebook’s commerce chief. We’ll get an update from Ku onstage at Recode’s Code Commerce event during Money20/20 on Oct. 25 in Las Vegas. She’ll be joined that evening by Stripe co-founder John Collison and venture investor Kirsten Green. (Space is limited, so it’d be smart to apply for an invitation today.)
People who want to sell on Marketplace can list an item for sale in just a few steps, and can cross-post to and from Facebook “buy and sell” groups. Interested buyers can choose to make an offer or message the seller for more information, then — just as with Craigslist — meet in person to complete the transaction. The messaging feature will live within the Marketplace tab, but the conversation will also be mirrored in the Facebook Messenger app.
Facebook is not charging buyers or sellers for the service, and is instead focused on building adoption. And that’s really the only choice, considering that competitors don’t currently charge for product listings either.