If you’ve been reading the start-up press lately you’ll have noticed there’s a buzz about local services marketplaces. Amazon just announced its intends to launch one, Thumbtack is booming, and other niche providers like Rover (dog sitting) and HomeJoy (cleaning) have successfully raised funding from venture capital firms.
These marketplaces act as a middle-man between the local service provider (businesses like carpet cleaners, plumbers and pest controllers) and the customer, and use technology to make the process of finding, shortlisting, getting a quote/s & paying for services quicker and easier.
Opportunity for smaller specialist marketplaces to dominate a niche
Whilst Amazon is certainly well placed to take some market share, there is a window of opportunity right now for entrepreneurs to take advantage of this trend, and really focus on serving the needs of a specific niche.
Different industries have very different needs, and it’s not easy for a ‘general’ services marketplace to really cater to them all. For example finding, shortlisting and booking a hair dresser, is a bit different to organising a plumber to fix your toilet.
Both businesses and consumers will be drawn to smaller specialist websites that do one thing really well (and of course there’s a good chance one of the bigger marketplaces will want to buy your niche business once it starts getting some traction).
Help Consumers Find Trusted & Reliable Businesses
If you’ve ever looked for a plumber or carpet cleaner you’ll know it’s not as easy as it sounds, and finding a trusted and reliable business can be tricky. It’s not just the outright scammers you need to watch out for, but also the businesses who are difficult to deal with, turn up late and don’t do a very good job when they do get there.
Trust is a major factor in the decision making process when choosing a local services business, yet currently its difficult and time consuming for consumers to know which businesses to trust, and which to avoid.
This presents an opportunity for specialist marketplaces that make it easier for people to find the best local businesses, and to help them get to know, like and trust them (through detailed profiles, reviews & photos). Internationally there are a few companies already doing this really well. In Australia, Trusted Cleaner connects you with a vetted and verified cleaning company, and in the UK TrustaTrader helps you find a trusted builder, plumber or home service professional.
Before these 3rd party intermediaries started to crop-up around the world you only had two options:
- Take a chance on Google
- Use local directories (either online or offline)
Both these options don’t really work all that well.
Take a Chance on Google
Most people currently use Google (and other search engines) to find local businesses. They contact the first few businesses that appear when they search and waste time browsing out-dated websites (if they even have one!) and end up making multiple phone calls to get quotes & further information. Often it can take a day or more for calls to be returned and sometimes promised quotes never materialise.
Importantly there’s no way to know if a business is trusted, or reliable when browsing their own website (and they often don’t even have a picture of the business owner / team).
Use local directories (either online or offline)
Local directories are not much better. Essentially they provide with you an un-vetted (or at best ‘loosely’ vetted) list of companies, and you still have to do the shortlisting, verification and vetting yourself. Some of these businesses allow reviews, however these can be manipulated by businesses posting fake reviews.
The Trend Continues
Most people now go online when looking for a home services provider, and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Right now there is a great opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs who are able to harness the internet / technology to remove the pain involved in finding, vetting and booking local service providers & make the process quicker, easier and more convenient.