OfferUp is making waves as a mobile-only hybrid between Craigslist and eBay — and so far, users are loving it.
The company is said to have surpassed the early days of eBay in terms of sales volume, and its users are spending the same amount of time on OfferUp in a day as they do on Snapchat or Instagram.
As someone addicted to Snapchat with some extra furniture pieces lying around, I decided to try the new hip version of Craigslist to see if it lives up to the hype. Here’s why I won’t be going back to Craigslist after trying the app:
When I first saw this chart I didn't believe it. OfferUp users spend 25 minutes on average a day on the app -- the same as Snapchat and Instagram.
All the time spent on the app means OfferUp is growing faster than eBay's earliest years -- and rapidly too.
It's crazy growth for a company founded in 2011 by Nick Huzar and Arean Van Veelen. The pair was struggling to get rid of extra items in their homes and thought there had to be a better way. If you haven't heard of them though, it's because they didn't do any press interviews or announce their fundraising until November 2015. The startup has now raised more than $90 million from top VC firms.
The idea was to create a local mobile-only marketplace. Instead of buying from the world on eBay, or scanning through the headline descriptions on Craiglist, OfferUp is a more local, more image-friendly mobile-only marketplace. Users get sucked in scrolling through all the photos like their Instagram feeds.
Every offer on the site comes with at least one photo (if not many). There's also information about the location, what condition it's in and the description.
Compared to Craigslist, a key difference is that everyone has a profile like you would find on eBay. You can even join TruYou by uploading a photo of your ID so you can be verified as a real human. Trust on OfferUp is key.
Instead of creating fake emails or phone numbers to deal with Craigslist strangers, all communication on OfferUp is kept within the app. I never had to give out my phone number since people could message me immediately -- and it was great.
While all those pictures look nice and clean, what I found when I opened OfferUp in San Francisco was a different story. I loved seeing the sold labels on so many things, so you can tell it's working. But to me, so many of the pictures looked dingy. You could tell the difference between when someone nicely photographed their shoes or just gathered them in the pile.
The other annoyance I had? I had to constantly play with the filters to narrow down what I wanted. It's set by default to people 30 miles away from you, so I always narrowed it back down to 5 miles.
Compared to Craigslist, the image requirement means people have to post what an item looks like so you can see it. Still, just an image didn't take away some of the creep factor. This phone listing that says 'don't ask a lot of questions' makes you wonder where the phone is from.
Those were all small nitpicky complaints. What I really wanted to find out though, is whether this was actually better than using Craigslist?
I started with selling a small jewellery holder I had leftover. You can take photos from within the app or upload your own. OfferUp tells you to take photos that are nice and bright, although from what I'd seen in the app, many people ignore the instructions.
It's easy to choose a category and a slider bar lets you set the condition the item is in. Descriptions, compared to the text-heavy Craigslist, are entirely optional. The last two steps are to simply type in a price and choose the location you're selling from. I was done in four steps.
The listing went live immediately, which is a huge bonus. Sites like Craigslist make you confirm the listing first on your email. Step saved.
From the listing, people can see your general location (based on zipcode) along with the condition and description. I may have been annoyed that it set the search radius so large at first, but I could adjust to see just what was for sale in my neighbourhood.
One misstep: I realised after the fact that I should have taken all of my photos vertically. The small horizontal ones end up getting lost compared to the tall photos. Oops!
Since each item took me less than a minute to put up for sale, I kept uploading more items. Soon, the messages started pouring in. Negotiating a price and deciding on a pick-up time and place was still on me to work out with the interested buyer, but having the whole message history in one place was super easy and helpful.
A note about selling anything on sites like Craigslist and OfferUp: Always be sure to set your meeting in a public place, like a shopping center, local police station, or a fire station.
Marking it as sold also means you get a chance to rate the buyer or say you sold it elsewhere. I wish there was a way to rate some potential buyers -- like those who flaked on meeting me -- but it's still a step up from Craigslist.
In the end, I can see why people spend a good amount of time on the app. It was easy to scroll through like Pinterest or Instagram, but it was all things I could buy. Talk about impulse control.
From a seller's perspective, OfferUp has a real shot at killing Craigslist. I thought I would try just the jewellery holder for a test and I ended up posting five different items. I only managed to post one on Craigslist before I decided OfferUp was the one worth my time. Plus, the extra safety features of having verified and rated IDs made it easy to know which people were worth responding to and which people should maybe be avoided. Now that I have my own five-star rating, I'm going to stick to selling on OfferUp -- it's just easier.
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