Commentary

Amazon's Services Include The Kitchen Sink

Who ya gonna email when you need a gutter cleaned, iPad fixed or interior designed? Who else? Amazon hopes. “Now you can buy a sink on Amazon and hire someone to come and install it. Or a goat herder to tend your flock. Or someone to teach you aerial yoga,” writes Elizabeth Weise in USA Today.

Amazon Home Services — formerly known as Amazon Local Services in test markets — has come to a zip code near you if you’re in a major U.S. metropolitan area “including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle,” according to a news release yesterday. All told, there are “two million unique service offerings across over 700 professional services.”

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“A home services marketplace will extend Amazon's role as a middleman for third-party vendors, which account for about 40% of its sales,” writes Reuters’ Nandita Bose. “It would also help Amazon gain an edge in the fast-growing services industry in the U.S. which the retailer estimates to be around $630 billion.”

“Third-party estimates show that customers spend four times more on services each year than they do on physical products,” Peter Faricy, VP, Amazon Marketplace, tells Bose. “So for us the opportunity is very big.” 

The service should be available in the 30 largest metro areas in the U.S. by the end of the year, Faricy “hinted” to NBC’s Devin Coldewey.

“The Internet giant had long been rumored to be entering the home-services space, and these rumors proved true with the quiet roll-out of Amazon Local Services last year in some areas. Today’s launch represents a rebrand, refocus, and wider rollout…,” writes Paul Sawers on VentureBeat.

“The new service is obviously competing in the same space as user review tools like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Porch, and customers with verified purchases made through Amazon will be able to review services as well,” observes Brad Tuttle in a Time piece that lists seven other categories that demonstrate Amazon’s efforts to “become the destination for anyone wanting to find and purchase pretty much anything” from sports collectibles to environmentally friendly baby wipes.

“Amazon also says all of its professionals are handpicked and fully insured, and if anything goes wrong with a job, it promises to ‘work with customers and the pro to ensure the job gets done right or provide a refund,’” Tuttle says.

“We’re very excited to see if we can solve what today is a real pain point. It’s tough to quickly find someone who is qualified,” Faricy tells Ben Popper, writing for The Verge. 

“Amazon says it accepts an average of three out of every 100 service professionals in each metro area. It makes sure each business is licensed, insured and passes a five-point background check, with a further six-point background check for each technician,” Popper writes, assuring readers that “you will never need to worry about hiring a sub-par goat grazer again.”

There are limitations, however, Ian Paul suggests for PCWorld after perusing plumbing options using a Brooklyn zip code. 

“You can get a garbage disposal installed for $175-$225 or unclog your drain for $400. But it's less obvious to find help if your 75-year-old copper plumbing needs a complete overhaul,” writes Paul. Granted, you could click on “Hire a Plumber” for some quotes “but you might be better off just sourcing a contractor yourself.”

But will they be backed by Amazon’s “Happiness Guarantee”? Or be vetted by its “Verified Reviews”? Or carry well-known brand names?

“Amazon has signed up several national service providers, including satellite television company Dish, auto mechanics Pep Boys and TaskRabbit,” writes Greg Bensinger in the Wall Street Journal.

He also reports that “Amazon takes a cut of between 10% and 20% of every service arranged through its site, depending on the type. Recurring services, such as house cleaners, are on the lower end of the range, presumably because Amazon is guaranteed more volume.”

Oh, and by the way, there will be all the more data to be collected, collated, crunched and exploited. 

“Knowing how many customers buy piano lessons could help determine how much sheet music to stock in Amazon’s warehouses,” Bensinger points out.

There are, for the record, no ghostbusters in the Amazon Home Services database yet, despite the looming resurgence of the profession. For that, there’s always Google.

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