What is FaceBay? The rise of social media in ecommerce
With eBay still recognised as one of the world's premier ecommerce sites, it makes sense for the site to rank highly on someone's list when buying or selling goods online. However, the auction site not only faces competition from rival ecommerce businesses but social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as well. These offer merchants the opportunity to sell their wares without paying the fees associated with listing on eBay. With social media potentially increasing the sale values, it shouldn't surprise anyone to hear that these sites are making a significant impact in ecommerce.
Noemi Kubiak, of pricespy.co.uk, commented on the proliferation of social media selling to theguardian.co.uk: "Social media has allowed individuals and independent shops to achieve the visibility and brand loyalty which was previously gained only through traditional advertising or local shoppers.
"The ease of cash-in-hand, and the security of buying from someone you can communicate with via social media, can prove an occasionally attractive alternative to waiting for items to arrive through the post."
Indeed, having the option to constantly remain in direct contact with the seller instead of jumping through hoops to phone up customer service or drop a message to a faceless firstname.lastname@example.org email address is invaluable for social media sales. It's one of the reasons why FaceBay, an online selling community set up on social media behemoth Facebook, has become so popular.
Started as a general page for buying and selling items over the network, FaceBay has become a localised, convenient way for shoppers in the same area to dabble in local commerce. Simply type 'FaceBay' into the search bar at the top of Facebook and a wealth of local pages (FaceBay Southampton, FaceBay Portsmouth and FaceBay Bournemouth are just some examples available to those living on the south coast) appear for account holders to choose from.
According to Facebook, there are more than 1,000 other groups which accommodate specific geographical areas under the FaceBay brand. It's almost like an online boot sale; Facebook users peruse the pictures and comments left by sellers in the hope of finding a bargain. If interested, each party can contact each other via private message to arrange a sale.
It almost sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately, FaceBay does have its downsides compared to using eBay. When dealing with sales on local community groups, there has to be an element of trust and security with the information being provided. Where eBay has a million-dollar security system to protect users' personal details and sensitive financial data, FaceBay users are risking their confidential information. There are no guarantees when using FaceBay - or using any of the similar buying/selling pages set up on Facebook - so exercise extreme caution, especially when big purchases are involved.
In addition, eBay has a process of weeding out fraudulent sellers as well as a resolution service should transactions go awry. With FaceBay, there is no feedback system or resolution centre, making any purchase or sale a gamble. There is no way of claiming back money, nor any real structure; it is based on trust. While this trust taken the brand very far, there will inevitably a single experience in the future that will sour even the most ardent of FaceBay users.
#buying and #selling
That all said, Facebook isn't the only social media platform where shoppers can buy and sell their goods. Micro-blogging service Twitter is becoming extremely popular for commerce, especially last-minute event ticket sales. A quick search of the hashtag '#twickets' delivers a wealth of messages from real users selling tickets for a variety of events. Moreover, most sellers tend to be truthful sellers simply looking for a face value return on their ticket.
Again, this isn't always the case. Like Facebook, this is an unofficial buying/selling community so it is not regulated like eBay or other peer-to-peer commerce websites. Any sensitive information you divulge to a stranger is done so of your own accord and you must deal with the consequences - positive or negative.
Social media isn't the only booming commerce platform. Brands are designing specific peer-to-peer commerce apps in order to make easy transactions even easier. Shpock (intended to be an amalgamation of "shop in your pocket") is an app where sellers can list items in as little as 30 seconds, while buyers can agree a price through the app before exchanging cash in the real world.
As part of the app's terms and conditions, sellers cannot list counterfeit products via the app or present a photo of the product in question that comes from stock. Furthermore, items that are "defective or of poor quality" are also prohibited.
In order to combat spammers, Shpock requires users to either register with a Facebook account or a combination of email and SMS confirmation as 'proof' that they're using it for legitimate commerce reasons. While this makes it safer than some social media selling platforms, it's not fool proof.
David MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Trading Standards Institute, has commented on the potential perils of social media ecommerce: "While many goods are sold in this way to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller, an increasing number of consumers are being stung.
"For example, if anything goes wrong with a purchase, it can be difficult to identify who exactly the seller is and how to pursue a complaint against them," he added.
Competition is healthy for the ecommerce market and, despite eBay's almost-unassailable market share making it the premier ecommerce platform, users are taking to new mediums like ducks to water. However, it still pays to be safe and secure when using any platform, regardless of its size.