vFlyer Launches Widgets

vFlyer today announced a new line of “widgets” that companies and individuals can use to display products on their Web sites or blogs.

Previously, vFlyer’s main product was a multimedia-rich “virtual flier” that let anyone create a professional looking classified listing. Rather than being a classified destination, it distributed these fliers to existing classified marketplaces and aggregators. Up to 10 fliers are free and higher price points, including a subscription, are available for larger volume sellers such as car dealerships or real estate professionals.

The site also serves AdWords ads on the contact reply links that its virtual fliers link back to (hosted on its own site). These ads are complementary to items for sale, according to Oliver Muoto, vice president of business development for vFlyer, so they don’t compete with the company’s target market of classified sellers.

“If you view a flier for a BMW and contact the seller, we have you identified as an active shopper. The engine knows what you are looking at and knows what other fliers you’ve looked at,” Muoto told me after the product launch in October. “This gives us the capability to understand the probability of real intent, and we can use this to offer things that are complementary. If you’re purchasing a car, you may want to do a credit check, or know the blue book value, or get financing.”

This can be a nice seller-centric tool in a marketplace where such a thing is lacking. But the penetration possibilities are only so great here, according to Muoto. Though this is a nice tool for any business or individual to establish a Web presence  a form of microsite that is easy and cheap to build (there is an Advisory currently in the works on the webification of SMEs)  it doesn’t address the other portion of the marketplace that is already online.

The new widgets are meant to appeal to this segment. Anyone with a Web site or blog can plant these widgets on a site to display products or inventory in new ways. The widgets will likely grow in number but for now mostly include photo slideshows.

This will catch on most in autos and real estate, where pictures are important and where the margins and need to chase that coveted lead have forced the industries to be more progressive with online marketing (for the most part). Monetization of the widgets will be similar to the virtual fliers, according to Muoto, in that they will be free for a certain amount of products and contain various price points for upsells to new features and volumes.

Again, real estate and auto will be the sweet spot, as the need for leads lends a certain degree of price inelasticity to promotional tools like this. The company is hoping the buyer-centric nature of the widgets will cause them to market themselves in a viral way. Each widget has the vFlyer logo and a link to go to the site and create your own.

The widgets involve simple HTML code and come with directions on how to set them up, but this extra step to actively plant a new piece of programming on your blog or Web site could be an adoption barrier. If the attractiveness and need for such a tool in the auto and real estate verticals is strong enough, as mentioned above, it should outweigh this adoption barrier though. Much of the product’s success will hinge on this.

An ad model could be the weak point of the widgets at this point, as it’s unclear how ads will be integrated, given that the widgets will reside outside vFlyer’s own domain (I’m awaiting clarification on this). Its need to upsell auto dealers and real estate professionals therefore becomes even more vital to the company’s success.

Nonetheless, it’s an interesting development, around which ad models could be built. The ability to appeal to and upsell real estate and auto dealers again will be a defining factor. More details can be found in the press release and on the vFlyer site.

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