Kathleen Chaykowski, FORBES STAFF
Facebook is making a push to expand the sale of used cars on its e-commerce tab, Marketplace.
The company announced on Thursday that it is partnering with a handful of auto dealers such as Edmunds, Cars.com, Auction123, CDK Global and Socialdealer to expand the selection of vehicles available to U.S. shoppers on Marketplace over the coming weeks. Facebook users in the U.S. will be able to filter search results by year, make, model, mileage, transmission and vehicle type. Marketplace will also show cars’ estimated value according to Kelley Blue Book, and will enable users to chat directly with a dealership employee via Messenger, Facebook said.
“We noticed that autos is one of the most popular categories on Marketplace with millions of Americans looking at cars and vehicle listings every day,” Facebook product manager Bowen Pan said in a phone interview, highlighting the Messenger integration as key to Marketplace's ease of use.
“People have found messaging to be the most natural way for them to engage on mobile," Pan said. "Instead of filling in a form, people are now able to have a seamless experience and real-time conversation about a car they might be interested in before going to the next spot of visiting a lot of sending their information."
Facebook hasn’t disclosed how many people actively use Marketplace, which debuted last October. However, the company continues to give the feature prime visibility within Facebook’s mobile app and site. Facebook said search volume on Marketplace has grown three times globally since Jan 1, and that 550 million people visit formal "buy and sell" groups on Facebook each month. Marketplace has seen approximately 70% growth in unique conversations between buyers and sellers over the first half of 2017, the company said. Marketplace is now live in more than 20 countries. In the month of May, 18 million unique listings were made on Marketplace.
By comparison, eBay is available in more than 30 countries, and about 170 million people used the site in the first quarter. About 55 million people visited Craigslist in February, according to ComScore. (Last year, Craigslist generated more than $690 million in revenue, according to an estimate by the research firm AIM Group.) Mobile e-commerce is growing quickly. Smartphone e-commerce sales are expected to exceed $100 billion this year in the U.S. alone, according to forecasting firm eMarketer. In 2021, U.S. smartphone retail sales will generate more than $333 billion and make up 80.5% of all retail e-commerce purchases, eMarketer said.
Facebook is betting that identity data on its flagship app, which reduces anonymity and connect friends of friends who live nearby, will be key in setting Marketplace apart from other retail sites. The company said it is testing new features in other Marketplace categories such as retail, tickets, home rentals (for example, for individuals seeking an apartment or single family home) and jobs. Since Marketplace’s launch, Facebook has updated its design and infused more artificial intelligence features such as “smart” suggestions, in a push to make item discovery easier.