BView claims to be Yelp+Yell+Facebook for businesses and their customers. When I first heard that, I though “join the queue”. There are lots of startups trying to do this, many from different angles, including Welovelocal (since bought by GCap), Tipped, TrustedPlaces, Qype and even Rummble. Some are more directory based, some leverage social networks, some major on local reviews. BView is trying to do all three, but slanted towards the business end of the scale.
When I first looked at the site I was wholly under-whelmed by the design. That blue colour is a real switch-off for me. And it’s not clear until much later that the long list of categories at the top are actually the best-rated businesses on their system.
However, digging deeper, you get a feel for what they are trying to achieve. Their take on things is to return search results based on relevance, not how much the advertisers pays, as with Yell.
So I did a classic trade directory search: a search for a Florist in my local area. It’s clear pretty much of the results are based on Equifax data, their partner. That’s fine, but Equifax logos slapped all over the search results doesn’t exactly give the site that “organic Social Network” feel. I could also get a credit report and see the number of employees at my local florist (one), but handy as it is, feels rather like overkill. No matter. I can rate the florist to death, and see other businesses. So far they have 1300 reviews and 1100 registered users.
However – it turns out there is method to this approach. MD Adam Baker explains to me that the Equifax deal is significant. There are 1.5 million credit scores on BView and it’s the first time you’ve been able to see a company’s credit rating in the UK. That will have an affect on whether you do business with them, and is a key USP for BView given that only it is making this data free. Making businesses look more transparent is BView’s whole pitch, therefore incentivising them to pay for a slightly sexier-looking listing.
Where the social networking kicks in is in user profiles. I can see “Kat Neville in London” has 16 reviews, 19 photos, and she has 21 subscribers to her profile (a few of them Bview directors). I can’t pull an RSS feed from her reviews – you have to be a member to subscribe. Kat has a an influence of “2″ despite writing 16 reviews, which seems a bit unfair as the site only launched in April. Bakers says “influence” is based on how many reviews, subscribers, compliments, feedback to reviews and activity a user has created on the system. To prompt user take-up Bview is offering offering a trip to Barcelona for the highest influencers by the end of May – prompted nowhere else other than their blog, bizarrely.
Can some business’s employee rate their own business higher? Yes, but their gushing review probably wouldn’t have an overall affect on a business’s rating, according to Baker, unless the small business employed a bank of articulate astroturfers in India to spam Bview. For one site? Unlikely. This is key as businesses are ranked in search results by distance, best credit score or by rating, not payment to Bview.
Where a company gets a bad rating by a customer on Bview they get to respond – sort of eBay ratings without the online transactions to go on. It’s a cosey closed world, which doesn’t pull in company review from blogs, Twitter or elsewhere but I guess it’s a start.
Future plans inlcude RSS feeds and an open API (but no OpenID, boo!). They are also looking at Wiki-style editing.
Bview has signed data agreements to launch in other countries, is backed by around £2m in private money, and has a strong management team. Baker is a media veteran, while chairman Brad Liebmann founded Xbridge, an a online insurance and finance broker.
Bview is indeed different to many of the players in this sector. If consumers can get over it’s heavyweight appearance and delve deeper, and if the site can fulfil its open API pledge, it should have a bright future. I have no idea if Yelp would look at an site like this is a good way to enter the UK market but it’s bound of have crossed BView’s mind.