I bought my wardrobe on Facebook Marketplace. I bought my camera and my laptop on Amazon.
Why? The wardrobe was second hand, and I could go take a look at it first, and it was only five miles’ drive away. And I know how to look at a bit of furniture and work out if it’s good quality or falling to bits. And it was a bit of an impulse buy.
But when I wanted to buy electronics, I wanted a guarantee, and a seller with a good track record, and I went to search for exactly the right product at the right price.
That’s two very different kinds of purchase and it sums up the difference between Amazon and Facebook Marketplace. They really are chalk and cheese – completely different in almost every way.
Amazon is a tightly controlled marketplace. Sellers have to abide by its rules, and get sanctioned if they don’t. On the other hand anyone at all can sell on Facebook Marketplace, and it has a slightly amateur flavor, a bit like a jumble sale or a flea market. (I know people who source goods for resale there, and they do very well from it; they resell on Etsy or Amazon, at a good margin.)
However, professional businesses are using Facebook more and more. It has a big emphasis on communication, using Facebook Messenger, which is quite different from the relatively hands-off mode of selling using FBA. It’s great for selling products in a more personalized way, and gaining stronger brand loyalty. Plus, because you’re communicating more directly with your customers, you can get a good feel for what particular aspects of your product they value.
It’s also quite local, with most viewers seeing stuff that’s located close to them. That’s great for a mom-and-pop business or a small brand, because you’re not competing with the big guys, and you can build up your local presence.
It’s also a good place to offload your surplus inventory, rather than paying Amazon to store it.
However, remember that it’s not just the sellers who are not regulated on Facebook – it’s also the buyers. Don’t deliver till payment has been confirmed. And watch out for one scam; buyers send money and ‘accidentally’ pay you too much by adding a couple of zeros. They then want to be reimbursed… which would be fine, except that when you do, you find out the original payment has been revoked or failed for some reason, leaving you out of pocket.
Facebook Marketplace is free. (Technically, there’s a 5% fee for sales made through Commerce Manager, or a flat fee of 0.40 for shipments worth less than $8, but these are being waived till the end of June 2022.) That saves you the Amazon referral fees.
And you may find that Facebook delivers you a different customer base, and lets you build up your own group of brand followers. Set up a good social media feed for your business and you’re continuing to build the conversation with buyers, as well as brand loyalty. You’ll also be able to get word of mouth, or perhaps ‘word of Facebook post’, recommendations.
I suspect Facebook Marketplace is never going to make more than a tiny percentage of your business. And of course, you’ll have to fulfill these sales yourself, which can be a hassle. But you may find that it’s more fun, and that you’re getting great feedback from customers, which makes it well worth using this channel to market.