For Gen Z, Facebook Is a Marketplace

For Gen Z, Facebook Is a Marketplace

In December, Ellicia Chiu and Cher Su had just a few boxes in tow when they moved into a walk-up apartment in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood. Before their move, from Los Angeles, the two friends knew that they would need to furnish their new apartment with small kitchen appliances, décor and furniture. But instead of purchasing new items, they knew it would be more affordable to find secondhand items on Facebook Marketplace, the social network’s buy-and-sell service.

“I only use Facebook for Marketplace,” said Ms. Chiu, 24, who added that she spent most of her social time on TikTok and Instagram, which is owned by Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

For many 20-somethings who don’t have a lot of disposable income, Marketplace is a place to get deals on items they wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

“As someone who’s in their young 20s, I want to have nicer things but I don’t have the financial means to get there yet,” said Ms. Chiu, who added that she preferred Marketplace over other sites because its interface was easy to use, making it easier to find deals on furniture.

Over the past decade, Facebook has declined in popularity with Gen Z as a social site, a 2022 Pew Research Center survey found. Instead, younger people are spending more of their social time on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.

“Facebook Marketplace is often referred to as ‘the internet’s garage sale’ and is a modern-day counterpart to eBay and Craigslist,” said Yoo-Kyoung Seock, a professor of textiles, merchandising and interiors at the University of Georgia, who studies consumer behavior among Gen Z and millennials and environmental sustainability in the textile industry. “The platform’s remarkable success is largely due to the trust users place in it, which is a result of its unique connection to Facebook’s social network.”

For a generation that is environmentally conscious and prefers to shop secondhand, Marketplace has become popular.

“Young people, including students and young professionals, are increasingly drawn to used goods,” Dr. Seock said. Faster inflation has also made secondhand purchases a practical choice, she added.

Launched in 2016, Marketplace has over a billion monthly active users and is the second most popular online site for secondhand goods, behind eBay, according to a 2022 survey by Statista, a company that provides market data. Meta doesn’t say much about Marketplace as a business, how its demographics may differ from Facebook overall and whether it has a vision to grow the platform in its annual reports. Meta did not respond to questions about whether it has long-term business goals for Marketplace or if it was aware of the platform’s popularity among Gen Z.

Some buyers say they prefer Marketplace over Craigslist, which was popular among older generations searching for used goods, because unlike Craigslist users, Marketplace buyers and sellers have profiles with ratings that make them more trustworthy and messaging is built-in on Facebook, making communication easy.

Marketplace is free for buyers to use. Although sellers can encounter transaction fees, many of them avoid it by selling locally and asking buyers to bring cash when picking up their purchase. Ms. Chiu said she usually paid using Venmo, though she would bring cash if a seller insisted.

Ms. Chiu and Ms. Su said their favorite Marketplace purchase was a couch from West Elm, which the seller had for less than a year. The couch cost $1,200 at retail, and they purchased it for $145. Ms. Chiu said the seller had warned her that the couch had cat scratch marks, but when she and Ms. Su showed up to look at it, they didn’t see many scuffs.

Some of their other favorite Marketplace finds include a Zojirushi rice cooker (retail price: $150; purchased on Marketplace for $50), a Dyson vacuum (retail price: $470; purchased on Marketplace for $135) and an IKEA NORDEN extendable table (retail price: $350; purchased on Marketplace for $150).

In total, Ms. Chiu and Ms. Su said they spent approximately $1,400 on more than 30 items purchased from Marketplace and estimated that they saved more than $3,000.

Not all of Ms. Chiu’s and Ms. Su’s purchases have been successes: Ms. Chiu once bought a plant from a seller that she discovered had root rot when she tried to repot it. Buyers have to work out returns with sellers on Marketplace, and Ms. Chiu’s plant seller later offered her a refund of 50 percent of the price she had paid, which she accepted. Ms. Su said she once bought a bookshelf that fell apart once she was home. She was not able to get a refund.

Ms. Su said that she was aware of Marketplace scams and tried to avoid them. “There are many scammers that try to ask for personal information when messaging about items — so beware of that too!” she warned. (Meta provides users with guides on recognizing and avoiding scams.)

Sebastian Ramos, a junior at DePaul University in Chicago, also uses Marketplace to buy and sell items, and he even once got a free couch (estimated retail price: $1,300). He has also purchased acrylic vinyl record shelves (estimated retail price: $45; purchased on Marketplace for $10) and sold his used Nintendo 3DS (retail price: $200; sold on Marketplace for $150).

Mr. Ramos, 21, said he did not use Facebook for social media, but he enjoyed purchasing secondhand items on Marketplace to save money and also because he liked shopping at thrift stores.

“You don’t have to pay more for a new thing when you can find something that has been used, or even slightly used, for a lot cheaper,” he said.

Sarah Williams, who lives in Kenosha, Wis., is an executive assistant and a new mom. Shortly after she and her husband found out that they were expecting a baby last year, Ms. Williams said Marketplace was the first place she started looking to buy baby items.

The first item on her list was a light-toned wooden crib. But the cribs that she found online were listed for $1,200 and were out of her budget.

“The prices were just absolutely ridiculous,” Ms. Williams, 24, said.

After a rigorous two-week search online, she found a crib she liked that a woman who lived near her had listed on Marketplace. After messaging back and forth through Facebook Messenger with the seller, Ms. Williams and her husband drove to the woman’s house to inspect the crib. They bought it for $300 — 75 percent less than the original price — after they saw that it was in good shape.

“It was a very nice exchange, and it felt very personable,” Ms. Williams said.

Ms. Williams said she hoped to find other mothers on Marketplace who had items they no longer needed because their children had outgrown them.

Like Ms. Williams, Ms. Chiu and Ms. Su said that being able to network and meet new people when picking up their Marketplace purchases had been an enjoyable part of their moving experience and settling into their new home.

“That’s what Facebook started as, and it’s cool that Marketplace is also fostering that,” Ms. Su said.

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