This is the first article in a series that explores off-eBay marketplaces. In this article, we introduce Copious, a marketplace that integrates with Facebook, and aims to take the anonymity out of buying and selling to build trust and increase sales.
Sellers who want to harness the power of Facebook to foster trust among buyers and share deals with them now have a marketplace on which to do it with the debut of Copious.
Copious, which is expected to launch today, integrates with Facebook with the aim of making online buying and selling a personal and social experience. The site helps take the anonymity out of online sales—something buyers want, says Jonathan Ehrlich, one of the company's founders, and the former head of marketing for Facebook.
Ehrlich says that the rise of social networks like Facebook has changed "everything," including e-commerce, by increasing consumers' desire to buy from people with whom they have a connection, rather than strangers.
"People are moving away from anonymous and fake to real and social," he explains.
In light of this trend, Copious aims to help merchants increase sales by humanizing and connecting them on a personal level with shoppers. Like other marketplaces, Copious provides buyers with photos and descriptions of items. Over time, Ehrlich says, consumers will be able to see every comment, rating, buyer and interaction that has taken place with an item, right below the listing—in a way that resembles Facebook comments, complete with photos of the person commenting. These interactions will let shoppers see if anyone in their network has purchased or "liked" the item they're viewing, and how they are connected to the seller offering the product they're interested in.
Essentially, we're building a marketplace for real people, not strangers
This, he says, will foster trust among both buyers and sellers, and allow them to feel at ease when they enter a transaction.
"Essentially, we're building a marketplace for real people, not strangers," Ehrlich says. "Sellers are frustrated with buyers who suck up their customer support time, and don't pay. And buyers are worried that if I send you $200 for a handbag, I'll get a lump of coal. We're trying to take a chop at that."
Making buying personal
One of the ways Copious "chops" at this hurdle is by reassuring sellers they won't deal with deadbeat buyers. Merchants only ship items after shoppers have paid Copious for their orders, not before. Once payment is received, Copious notifies the seller so they can ship, and once receipt is confirmed by the buyer, payment is released to the merchant.
Sellers can list a variety of items on Copious, from shoes to handbags, to collectibles, to books. Listing on Copious is free and, for a limited time, merchants only pay a 3.5-percent commission fee if their items sell. (Commissions are normally 10 percent). Sellers can also add unlimited images to go with their listings.
Additionally, Copious plans to support listings with ads on Google and Facebook, Ehrlich notes.
Buyers will benefit from the ability to get a good sense of sellers before they buy, by seeing the interactions others have had with an item, as well as seeing where else online they can find the seller, for instance on Twitter or in a blog.
This will help buyers feel comfortable that "a) This is the person who they say they are, and b) They're an expert in this product," Ehrlich adds.
A social marketplace
On Copious, buying and selling is meant to be a "social" experience. In fact, sellers can offer incentives (e.g., discounts), to encourage shoppers to spread the word to their Facebook friends about items they've found on Copious, using the "Share" feature. Buyers can also take advantage of the "Play Favorites" feature to get big discounts if they follow the seller to see updates about new arrivals or promotions.
Copious also gives buyers recommendations on items they might be interested in, based on the interests they've specified on their Facebook accounts.
"If you think about it, Facebook should be a great selling tool because it's easy to spread listings to friends of friends," Ehrlich says.
Sellers can sign up to offer their products on Copious by going to copious.com. The site is currently in beta, so feedback is encouraged, Ehrlich notes.