Facebook launches online Marketplace platform in Singapore

Facebook's new Marketplace feature allows users to list and browse items for sale and filter results by location, price and categories such as furniture, electronics and apparel. PHOTO: FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Facebook users here will be able to buy and sell items through the social media platform from Tuesday (Jan 23), with the launch of the Marketplace feature in Singapore.

Those using the latest version of the Facebook app will see the addition of a shopfront icon, while desktop users will see a new tab. The function will be rolled out over the next two weeks.

Marketplace, which is similar to local online platform Carousell, allows users to list and browse items for sale and filter results by location, price and categories such as furniture, electronics and apparel.

Buyers and sellers communicate through the messaging function to make offers and work out transaction details, as Facebook does not facilitate the payment or delivery of items.

Singapore, which has four million monthly Facebook users, will be the third Asian country to launch the service after Thailand and India, Facebook's director of product management Karandeep Anand told The Straits Times in an interview.

The service, first introduced in the United States in 2016, is currently available in 47 other countries, and is restricted to users aged 18 and above.

The Marketplace feature is an evolution of existing Facebook groups that are used for trade, said Mr Anand.

"Over 550 million people globally use Facebook today to buy and sell items in local communities. We are building on that to create a single destination for people to discover, buy and sell items," he said.

Members of such groups will now have the option of cross-listing items for sale on the groups and Marketplace simultaneously.

Marketplace is primarily a platform for consumers to trade used goods, though markets such as the United States are testing the listing of Facebook Pages and shops as well, said Mr Anand.

"We will learn from that and explore what the Singapore Marketplace needs," he added.

The Facebook Marketplace feature will be rolled out for both mobile and Web use in Singapore over the next two weeks. The platform is similar to Carousell, allowing users to list and browse items for sale and filter results by location, price and category. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK

The platform currently lacks a feedback and user rating function, which is also being tested in the US and will likely be rolled out to other countries in the future, Mr Anand said.

The social experience on Facebook will be separate from Marketplace, and listings will not appear on individual profiles, said Mr Anand. But the ability to view a seller's public profile helps to add a layer of trust, he added.

"We will be adding tips and tricks to make sure people are not sharing information they should not be sharing, and for exchanges of expensive items, for example, to request a certificate of authenticity."

Items listed are automatically screened for prohibited items such as guns and alcohol. Users are also able to flag items through a report function.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said that the likely addition of retailers and business pages to Marketplace will make it a threat to e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Lazada.

"Facebook's extensive experience giving advertisers the ability to target very narrowly defined customer segments might make it the platform of choice for many retailers and service providers," said Dr Ramaswami.

"The huge advantage that Facebook has is its existing community of users who spend a lot of their online time on that platform... Adding a mobile commerce function can cement Facebook as the go-to app for almost all of one's Internet-related needs," he added.

Ms Gwendoline Yim, founder of the East Coast Preloved Sales Facebook Group, said she is open to using Marketplace, though only as a last resort.

"Our current group is already focused on the east location and has a community feel to it. I may try on the group first, and if (my items are) not sold, I will then try the Marketplace for increased visibility," she said.

Ms Yim, 41, a company director, said that the introduction of a feedback or rating system would be useful, as one of the most common complaints is the buyer or seller pulling out of the deal at the last minute after he has already come to an agreement in such online trades.

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