Should eBay be worried about Facebook Marketplace?

For over two decades now, eBay has been the number one way that many of us buy and sell things online. From its early days as something of a wild west of trading to its position in 2016 as a respected and trustworthy place to trade. However, it’s not been plain sailing for the company in recent years.

Despite an operating incoming of $2.19 billion and almost 35,000 employees, smaller companies have been eating their lunch. Companies like Gumtree, Craigslist, Shpock, LetGo and OfferUp have all appeared and helped steal some of the companies thunder.

By putting together local sellers and promoting face to face trading, these companies have scooped up sellers who don’t have the time to stage an auction or simply don’t want to have to bother with postage. Peer-to-peer selling is extremely prevalent, but it’s also hard to quantify as it takes place across a huge range of websites.

Now, Facebook want to get in on the action. With an audience of 1.71 billion, Facebook pose the biggest ever threat to eBay’s dominance in the space, but can it really send eBay customers flocking to cancel on the eBay contact number?

Facebook Marketplace is a rebranding exercise…

In a very real sense, Facebook Marketplace is a simple rebranding exercise. The company claim that more than 450 million people visit buy and sell groups each month on Facebook. By creating Facebook Marketplace, the company are hoping to scoop up many of those interested in buying or selling and, of course, taking a cut.

Facebook haven’t yet said how they intend to monetise their service, although their competitors have laid down several models. The eBay model means charging a small fee for listing your product and a cut if you’re selling an expensive object, like a car. Alternatively, they could operate a model like Gumtree, which lets people post entirely free of charge, but allows users to ‘feature’ their adverts for a small fee.

And a very real threat

Let’s be honest, 1.71 billion active users is a gigantic amount of people. Facebook will need to do more than simply open up shop to get people interested in their service, but they’re at a huge advantage compared to the majority of their competitors. After all, why would you leave Facebook to go to Gumtree if you can buy and sell direct from the former?

But not everything Facebook touches turns to gold

eBay will take heart from the fact that not everything that Facebook does turns out to be a dramatic success. Indeed, much of its efforts in recent years have been flops. Facebook Graph Search, for example, was meant to be the next generation social search engine, but was basically shuttered just over a year after it launched in 2013.

Further missteps have been in their recent rollouts of bots in Facebook Messenger and indeed, their attempts to copy Snapchat’s feature base.

Indeed, eBay are likely to be broadly unperturbed by Facebook Marketplace in the short term. Facebook have a lot of ground to make up in regards to trust, and have yet to really lay out how customers across platforms will access the sales service.