Amazon has just launched a new marketplace which it hopes will help it to take on Google and Yelp in the local search stakes. The new service is called Amazon Home Services, and it focuses on connecting users with local services for things like home maintenance and housekeeping. What sets the service apart from Google, Yelp and other local services is that they offer a “happiness guarantee”, and they take care to verify all reviews to ensure that they come from real customers. In addition, Amazon is making the service invite-only, so that only companies which have been background checked will be allowed to advertise on it. The service is quite new at the moment, and is under a restricted USA rollout, with services being advertised in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and San Francisco. There are two million services to choose from, with offerings including things like grazing goats as a lawn maintenance tool. Amazon will be rolling out the service to other parts of the USA in the near future.
The Value of Vetting
Amazon’s choice to vet the companies that it advertises is an interesting one. Google has been putting a lot of effort into improving the end user experience, including penalising websites that are not mobile friendly, but it has not yet gone to the extent of verifying the quality of service offered by the websites in question – if they function well, then they will be displayed. This leads to some discoverability problems, but at least gives every service provider a chance to get their message seen. Yelp and other local search services take a similar stance, allowing any business to add their listings, and then letting end users leave their own ratings. To an extent, this works well, but there will always be some problems with astroturfing, fake reviews and other manipulations. By limiting the number of service providers that Amazon lists, and allowing only verified reviews, Amazon removes a lot of these problems, but there is some risk that the limited choice could backfire, and lead price-conscious shoppers to a search service that offers a wider range of stores and service providers to choose from. There may also be a backlash from businesses, if the vetting process is too long-winded for their liking. It will be interesting to see how the service is received when a more mainstream rollout takes place.