Home Sears Launches ServiceLive.com: Bid For Tradespeople

Sears Launches ServiceLive.com: Bid For Tradespeople

US retailer Sears today announced the beta launch of ServiceLive.com, an online marketplace specifically for home improvements and repairs. The goal of ServiceLive.com is to connect Sears customers online with local service providers. The core of ServiceLive is an auction system, in which users can name their price for doing home improvement or repair work, and service providers bid for that job. It’s a great example of how the Web can potentially improve a ‘real world’ process. For example instead of phoning around to try and find a suitable plumber, you can enter your job details into ServiceLive and (hopefully) local plumbers will then bid on your job.

It’s early days for this type of system, but if successful then Sears could have a big hit on its hands.

How does it work? The first step for users is to enter your zip code (U.S. only) to view and select pre-screened providers in your area. You can then click on names to view profiles, insurance information and ratings. The next step is to describe your project (using photos if you like), set your schedule and name your price. You have to upload sufficient funds into your “ServiceLive Wallet”, but the website assures us that “you maintain control of your funds until the project is completed to your satisfaction.” The providers you select can then “compete for your business” – they may also respond with a counter offer for a different time or price.

The main site is focused on the same consumer market that largely drives Sears’ offline retail business, but ServiceLive also features a special section for ‘commercial’ customers – such as companies and Property Owners/Managers.

For service providers, ServiceLive is free. The business model for Sears is that the customer pays 10 percent of every completed service order amount. There is a rating system for the service providers – and only customers who have hired providers through ServiceLive are allowed to post ratings and comments. In a way ServiceLive is similar to websites like Angie’s List, which provides consumer reviews of tradespeople and other service providers. But ServiceLive takes it a step further, by allowing users to order services online using the auction system.

In our initial tests, we managed to find 6 local plumbers in the Portland zip code. All were unrated, but we assume that Sears will get more ratings into the system once they market the site to its huge retail customer base. As with all ‘web 2.0’ apps that rely on user-generated content (in this case ratings and comments), it requires a large user base to get decent ratings data. But Sears is in a much better position than startups to get that data, given that ServiceLive is very complementary to its core retail business. Imagine for example getting a flyer with each home improvement product purchase in Sears or KMart, promoting ServiceLive. This could very quickly ramp up.

ServiceLive began in 2007 and is a subsidiary of Sears Holdings, parent company of Kmart and Sears. Currently there are more than 20,000 “ServiceLive-Approved providers” available to hire through the online marketplace. The $10.00 posting fee for users to place an order on ServiceLive has been waived for the rest of February, as an initial promotion. But we obviously think that Sears can find other much more effective ways to promote the service in its Sears and KMart stores.

Sears says that it is the leading home appliance retailer, so ServiceLive.com is a natural online complement to its core offline retail business. This is definitely worth watching to see how quickly it grows, as it’s potentially a very useful service for both homeowners and tradespeople.

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