Like a technological fault line, the online home services terrain keeps shifting, leaving contractors to find their footing yet again. The latest temblor came with an announcement from Porch on Tuesday that it’s rolling out a new retail-focused extension of its services aimed at connecting shoppers with contractors.
The so-called Porch Retail Solution aims to connect home furnishing consumers with home services professionals right at the point of purchase, according to a company announcement. The idea is similar to Amazon Home Services, which had a limited launch in 2015, but now is available in 25 cities with more to come, according to Amazon.
Initially, Porch is partnering exclusively with Wayfair, a company with 2015 net revenues of $2.25 billion that includes the brands DwellStudio, Birch Lane and Joss & Main. But Porch calls the new service a way to “provide retailers with access to home service professionals for shoppers,” leaving the door apparently open for other retailers.
Porch’s service works like this: Wayfair shoppers who buy products they want help with installation, assembly or plumbing, will have access to Porch home services providers in one “integrated” shopping experience, causing less project “friction,” the company statement said.
“Launching the Porch Retail Solution helps our partners deliver a turn-key and seamless experience to their tens of millions of shoppers, by providing access to quality professionals to complete projects at check-out,” said Matt Ehrlichman, Porch CEO and Chairman. “Up until now, projects have required two separate transactions: needing to find the product that is right for you and then finding a qualified person to help with assembly and installation.”
The service launched this week in 15 major metro markets:
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metro Area
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metro Area
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area
- Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC Metro Area
- Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metro Area
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metro Area
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metro Area
- Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area
- Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area
- Raleigh, NC Metro Area
When customers in those areas make an online purchase from Wayfair they can add Porch Home Services to their shopping cart. They then receive an email from Porch about scheduling a professional “and a subsequent connection to a Porch professional,” the company statement said.
Porch’s announcement comes on the heels of a March Angie’s Lists decision to remove the paywall from its ratings and reviews. The change came several days after the firm reached an agreement with a private investor to buy 12.75% of the company’s shares and assume three board of director seats.
Angie’s List also plans to offer freemium and premium tiered offerings that include emergency service hotlines that guarantee pre-qualified handymen within hours.
Separately, the company partnered with the James Hardie Contractor Alliance program that will include “exclusive” e-commerce offers. The alliance will allow contractors to align with the James Hardie brand and sell directly to Angie’s List members along with advertising discounts for buying James Hardie products above a certain threshold.
Earlier this year a new group joined the growing list of online home services offerings including Super, Nextdoor, eRenovate and possibly the largest player to join the fray yet — Facebook with its billion-plus users.
And though some contractors may not want to bother with the handyman types of services Porch and others offer, they may want to rethink that attitude, said Kermit Baker, program director for Remodeling Studies with Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
“The way you have traditionally reached consumers in the past is going to be outmoded,” Baker said. “…It may be that more traditional projects are going to start flowing through these channels, and [contractors] may get locked out of that market if they don’t participate.”