Facebook beefs up Marketplace with listings from auto sites

27 Oct 2017

Where will you find your next car? Craigslist, Cars.com, AutoTrader … or maybe on Facebook?

This week, the social media giant announced a major new emphasis intended to transform the company’s Marketplace general classified app into a go-to destination for buying and selling vehicles.

Car listings are no stranger to Marketplace, but they had to be posted by individual Facebook users, rather than dealerships. Some businesses got around that limitation by linking an individual’s post to an external shopping site.

Coming within the next few weeks, the integration will be more on the up and up: Facebook created a dedicated automotive section within Marketplace that will include listings from Cars.com and Edmunds, and valuations from Kelley Blue Book. Other partners announced include Auction123, CDK Global and SocialDealer.

Conspicuously missing: AutoTrader (which is interesting given that fellow Cox Automotive-owned KBB is part of the announcement).

Facebook will also be adding more specific search fields, such as transmission and vehicle type, to the automotive section. That places Marketplace more in sync with other vertical classified sites focused on vehicles. But, where Facebook has a serious leg up: users will now be able to communicate directly with dealerships via Messenger, Facebook’s popular chat service, Vivek Sharma,

Facebook Marketplace head of product, explained the significance of this last move.

On most other auto classified sites, “you basically go through a bunch of pretty extensive steps and then you are barraged by these emails, voicemails and phone calls, and it’s not really that great of an experience,” he said. “You get tired, and you just pick a dealership to visit and you carry on the conversation from there. We want to cut out all of that back and forth and make it a lot more seamless through messaging.”

We first reported that Facebook Marketplace, which is just about one year old, would be adding features for selling cars over the summer. Facebook still isn’t saying how many users Marketplace has, just that its search volume is up three times from the beginning of 2017. In May, there were 18 million items listed on Marketplace in the U.S..

Vivek Sharma, head of product at Facebook Marketplace (photo from his LinkedIn profile with thanks)

Geektime reported that Marketplace’s automotive functionality was built in Facebook’s Seattle office, which is (coincidentally?) where classified app competitor OfferUp is based. OfferUp has also found strong demand for car listings.

The overlap between Marketplace and OfferUp may become stronger in the coming months. “This is just the beginning,” Facebook’s Sharma said. “What we’re going to do next, is take a look at all the interesting things that people are demanding of the system and figure out which ones to amplify.”

They can also look across Lake Washington to see where OfferUp, just a 20-minute drive away in nearby Bellevue, is having success.

The connection between cars and classifieds in Seattle extends to fellow Northwestern tech giant Amazon – the company last year introduced a new section on its website that includes specifications, prices, images, videos, and customer reviews for thousands of new and classic cars. Amazon does not include direct sales (yet).

In August, Facebook Marketplace vice president Deb Liu said in an interview that Marketplace would soon be adding listings from real estate brokers, as well as a Daily Deals feature, sourced from EBay.

Facebook has also been aggressively beefing up its jobs functionality with an open approach to third parties and a new resume feature.

With the announcements coming fast and furious, it’s hard to discern exactly which companies Facebook is targeting. Is it classified apps, such as OfferUp and LetGo? Vertical sites, such as AutoTrader (for cars) and Indeed (for jobs)? Classified behemoths, such as Craigslist and LinkedIn?

Or – more likely – all of the above?

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Brian Blum

Brian Blum covers the U.S., Canada and Israel for Classified Intelligence Report, and contributes to our special reports and research projects. Originally from San Francisco and now based in Jerusalem, he has been with the AIM Group since 2004. He is the president of Blum Interactive Media, specializing in writing and multimedia content development for online, print, video and audio. His clients include newspapers, universities and non-profits. He is currently working on a book about the billion-dollar bankruptcy of a once high-flying Israeli startup.