My wife and I are moving into a new apartment, and so we’ve been busy doing all sorts of new apartment things: finding a painter and handyman, purchasing appliances, choosing an Internet provider, hiring a mover, and so on.
At almost every step, we’ve used our iPhones – and more specifically, Facebook – to do research, connect with vendors, negotiate prices, and purchase or transport items.
And, correspondingly, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp have become the default way to communicate with potential sellers and vendors. Perhaps the only time I used my phone’s call feature was to flag down a handyman looking for my address. Granted, people texted plenty in 2010. But the prevalence of constantly-updated Facebook groups and messaging apps has created a more connected marketplace with no barriers to entry for sellers and greater price transparency for buyers.
All of this spells a win for Facebook. It really has become the primary platform for this kind of localized e-commerce, and its dominance of messaging apps means that it owns much of that loop. It also spells danger for more traditional players like eBay or Craigslist, who don’t have as many irons in consumers’ fires.
As it stands now, Facebook owns two of the three spurs of local e-commerce. It owns discovery (searching for a handyman). It owns messaging (communicating with said contractor through Messenger or WhatsApp). The last spur is payments, which haven’t yet migrated to the mobile space as fully. PayPal, eBay’s erstwhile payments division, does have a fair amount of traction here, thanks to its eponymous service, as well as its ownership of Venmo. The last step would be for Facebook to complete its implementation of mobile payments. It’s a task undeniably fraught with legal and regulatory obstacles, but one which, I think, will complete Facebook’s ownership of local e-commerce.
Sent from my iPhone