Sears, the not-quite-a-big-box retailer, has announced the beta launch of a new website: ServiceLive.com. It’s an online marketplace for home improvements and repairs. Think of it as VOIS for tradespeople (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.).
The idea of ServiceLive is to connect customers with local service providers in the trades so that clients can find people to help them with their home improvements. The site works like an eBay auction with Buy It Now. Users name their price for home improvements/repairs (by the job, the hour, whatever) and service providers can bid for the job. The first one to bid the asking price wins automatically (pending buyer approval, of course), but âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â‰ˆÃ¬bidding upâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Â¬Ã¹ is OK too.
Profiles and other social markups are there as well, so that buyers can see who they might be working with and invite providers they like to bid on their projects. So instead of grabbing the Yellow Pages and making a bunch of phone calls to people who’re busy on the job and trying to talk over the hammer drill in the background, you can simply post your job on ServiceLive.com and wait for the providers to come to you.
Think of this scenario (we’ve all been there): you’re working on a DIY project remodeling your bathroom. You were planning to leave the toilet in place, but the demolition on the back wall got a little out of hand. Now you’re going to need a plumber. Log into ServiceLive.com and there ya go.
This type of online bidding system for construction trades is in the very early phases, but more and more tradespeople are getting online and sophisticated. More and more homeowners are looking for information online rather than the older, traditional routes as well. So this could become something big and with Sears behind it, it’s probably got a good chance of getting there. Don’t be surprised when Home Depot or Lowe’s try to get in on this.
The site itself is a little clunky at first and will hopefully see some refinement as users give their feedback and the service improves. It works simply. Just create a profile (your ZIP is your starting point). You can then either enter a job with photos, descriptions, scheduling, etc. and post it or you can go directly to provider profiles and search providers in your area.
In order to post a project, you have to âˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨â‰ˆÃ¬fundâˆšÂ¢â€šÃ‡Â¨Â¬Ã¹ it through your ServiceLive Wallet via credit card, e-check, etc. Those funds are tied up until the job is completed or you cancel it for a refund. Once a provider bids on the job and it’s accepted, the funds are put into escrow to provide security for both parties.
The site is aimed directly at the semi-do-it-yourself homeowner and similar consumer profiles that make up most of Sear’s retail business. There is a commercial section for contractors to use in finding smaller sub-contractors to work with, but I’d be surprised if this gets popular at all.
Like all similar freelancer sites, ServiceLive allows those who’ve had jobs completed (and paid for) leave feedback for both buyers and sellers. The site is fairly sparsely populated right now, but Sears has already made the press release and will likely start marketing it to their huge retail base soon, so it will probably explode quickly.