LocalPrice Tries to Compare Price for Service Providers
There are many reasons why price comparisons for services aren’t generally done. (i.e., the difficulty of nailing down providers, price changes, the need for custom quotes in many categories). Generally, people should choose service providers on multiple criteria, not just price.
But wouldn’t it be nice to get a cross-section of service pricing, like you can with PriceGrabber? That’s the concept behind Atlanta start-up LocalPrice, which hopes to use price comparison to differentiate itself from such competitors as ServiceMagic, Angie’s List, Done Right and now Sears ServiceLive.
LocalPrice directly contacts local businesses and elicits information on price, as well as more typical “copy point” information (hours, credit card, languages spoken, etc.). Twenty-four service categories have been included at launch, and the template is customized for each. Participating businesses get free listings with links, at least for now.
Dentists, for instance, provide pricing information on cleaning, root canal fillings and crowns, and also provide information on whether they see children, have 24-hour emergency service and are accepting new patients. (I’m looking at having some dental work done now, and I certainly find the pricing info to be of real interest.)
Locksmiths provide information on numerous categories, such as rates for service calls, to make vehicle keys and to replace door knobs. Founder Rob Shields, a former Yodlee executive, says some services are less resistant to pricing info than others.
There is no mystery to pricing from pet sitters and hardwood flooring, for instance. But the company has seen a lot of resistance from fence builders and Lasik doctors. The goal, however, is to provide at least four or five businesses in each category.
While LocalPrice expects some traffic to come directly to the URL, a lot of the site’s traffic will initially come from good SEO, adds Shields. The site has successfully gotten on the first page of Google and Yahoo for searches such as “Atlanta Burglar alarms,” “Atlanta teeth cleaning,” “Atlanta portable storage,” “Atlanta termite,” “Atlanta granite countertops” and others.
“The search engines tend to penalize new sites like ours,” says Shields. “So we expect that these rankings will continue to improve over time.”
If the service can prove itself in Atlanta, and get some funding, Shields hopes to take the concept to other markets. He knows the hardest part is going to be getting the rate sheets from a wide number of services, but he says he has some kind of secret sauce for making direct contact with them. The limited number of providers that he will feature may also be a problem for consumers who are used to more comprehensive listings.
This Post Has 2 Comments
This came in from “Steven”:
Clever and useful. Still — sounds more like a feature than a site (let alone a business).
You can add every IYP to their list of competitors. Not to mention Kudzu.com. Atlanta’s their home market — and they could probably replicate this in an afternoon.
I agree with Peter’s point that consumers shouldn’t choose service providers based on price alone. However, price does matter to most consumers. In our opinion, there is far too little transparency into the rates & rate structures of services. For example, try searching online for the rates of Lasik surgeons, locksmiths or movers in your area. You’ll likely find very little detailed pricing information. You won’t find any other site comparing the prices of service providers like these.
Steven makes a good point about the number of competitors in this space. There are numerous sites that allow users to compare service providers based on consumer reviews. But unlike Kudzu, Yelp, YellowPages.com, and other sites offering subjective comparisons, LocalPrice compares providers based on a wide range of objective criteria tailored to each service category. This enables consumers to weigh price against the attributes of the service that matter most, e.g. someone shopping for pest control service may be willing to pay a premium for providers that that cover a wide range of pests, offer Saturday service and have fully insured employees providing the service. This is unique to LocalPrice.
The question of whether this a ‘feature’ or a ‘business’ is probably only meaningful to a handful of product managers in the industry. What really matters is whether consumers find the information useful.
To Steven’s point about competitors copying our model, sure, this is possible over some period of time – probably longer than a day. Even so, would they? How will their advertisers with great reviews but high prices react? How happy are such advertisers going to be to choose between a) not listing their prices and loosing business to those that do and b) listing their prices and loosing business?
Lastly, Thanks for covering LocalPrice. Peter. Exposure you give to startups like us help spread ideas and furthers innovation in the industry.