Looking for a cool new vintage piece or something nice to wear on student budget? Heading to a good old flea market the best choice? Think again our shopper friends! In the past few years the treasure hunt has moved online and with it the market has seen huge popular trend in consumer-to-consumer trading.
The concept of this so called ‘Flea market 2.0’ is fuelled by the power of social media, has now become a considerable commercial force and a new type of a supply chain for many consumer products. Results of the economic downfall and the growth of environmental awareness amongst consumers — millions of pieces of clothing, home-ware, baby products and whatever you can think of, is being traded on a variety of online platforms worldwide.
Especially here in Finland these social media groups referred to as ‘Facebook Flea markets’, have grown in to a noticeable commercial force and viable competition for many retailers. We wanted to look deeper into this quite fascinating phenomena on a local level and see what it’s all about. Is this type of consumer-to-consumer trading a threat or an opportunity for conventional retail?
In the world of Facebook Flea markets, first one needs to make a choice — do I shop by style or by location? Each group has a distinct characteristic that tells something about the style and types of products being sold or just acts a random multi-brand store of everything based on location. And don’t let the thought of ‘a flea market’ fool you — the merchandise on offer can vary from a couple of euro to thousands on selected designer items.
But not even the so called zip code — based groups lack the power of branding. Groups are being joined in the hopes of catching a cool pair of sneakers from the city’s most hipster neighbourhoods. Because we all know — where the cool people live, that’s where the cool stuff would be sold as well. Or if you have hopes of getting that designer bag for a fraction of it’s original price, the groups located in the more upscale and expensive parts of the city would be a better choice for you.
This shop has thousands of owners or from another point of view, none. The person acting as the group admin could be seen more as a ‘moderator’, almost like a referee. A Godfather that makes sure everyone sticks to the same rules and in some cases even makes sure the stylistic standard of the group is followed to the tee. The more high quality merchandise, the higher the ranking in popularity. It is almost like some groups have more ‘street credibility’ than others, based on the stylistic standards and exclusivity.
These little cloud based online-first-stores are really starting to operate as their own commercial entities. They don’t have any staff, but each seller will go through quite the lengths to promote their own merchandise. A simple photo of a tee-shirt on the floor isn’t enough anymore to awaken the buyers interest. More and more elaborate examples of visual merchandising and photography is popping up and increasing the value of used products.
The success and speed of your sale is also based on your skills as a merchandiser — is the assortment being sold of the same style, can they be purchased as an outfit? Or can you represent a style that someone else can relate to? The better a seller can master this, the bigger the buck and the faster the sale.
The fascinating part about this, is how consumers are now recreating completely new brand values in this manner in the products after-life. For example if you mix Lidl with some specific old school Nike, you get a completely new genre of ‘street cred meets smart shopping’. And the variety in this is as wide as one’s imagination! But how could brands really tap into this stream of consumer generated information and inspiration without ruining such natural brand value development?
Forget about stress-free shopping — in this boutique, speed is key. The one who sees the photo and reserves the product first, is the winner. And the rest just have to queue up. And you’d be surprised how many people do queue, in the hopes of the people in front of them changing their mind and cancelling. Never before have we seen such value-increase on used everyday products as in these Facebook flea markets now. People really have realised how ones trash can be someone’s treasure. The value of high desired items may retain they value up to 60% after as long as 3 years! But it’s really not just your Acne jeans being traded, it’s everything from H&M to IKEA, finding new homes outside dump-sites. And that’s just great!
Speed also plays a big part of the actual transaction itself. The faster you are able to pick up and pay — might make you a preference buyer and bump you up in the queue. And unlike in conventional retail where brands have to dance in circle around consumers to vouch for the love, in these platforms the seller holds all the keys.
Bad fit? Not to worry, just put it back on sale! The return policy is as good as your skills in sales. If you can repeat the above mentioned steps of styling, merchandising and supply chain — voila!
As in any consumer-to-consumer trading, Facebook flea markets also have their dark side. Shoplifters that hang around in groups where products are being mailed, collected and never paid. Still a relatively small issue as far as we have understood and something that is being improved by new mailing options and pick-up points. Secure payment options and click-and collect services aimed specifically at this type of trading are definitely something worth keeping your eyes open for. But for now, trust is key when no-one is holding the keys to the shop.
So what do we see as the opportunities for brands in this?
Many high-street brands are starting to have testimonials of their products after-life and utilizing these new types of consumer-2-consumer trading platforms could be an interesting addition. This could potentially grow into fully brand-run moderated groups, where the brand would act as the Godfather up-keeping the standard and every so often feeding the cycle with new one-offs everyone is graving for. And most importantly taking more responsibility of it’s products true life-cycle.Or perhaps it could be more collaborative models between two brands tapping into a completely new target audience, by new styles being generated in these communities. We would totally shop the NIKE X Lidl! Just saying.
But most importantly, is there and should there be a way how this ever so cool Flea market 2.0 could evolve back into a brick-n-mortar world and become a new type of omnichannel solution for second-hand products? We’re thinking pop-ups being moderated with the same stylistic precision as online or perhaps something more subscription based shopping with products in their second cycle?
Want to get started and become a online flea market shopper pro? Check out some of our favourite picks in Helsinki region, Finland below.
All photos are borrowed from a variety of Facebook flea markets operating from Finland. We do hope that by using these photos we have not violated the privacy of anyone’s wardrobe, but if you would like to get credited for these grand visual efforts or have them removed please get in touch.
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