As we reported last year, Reply acquired online marketing network for small business owners MerchantCircle. Merchant Circle which provides a business directory for merchants in smaller towns and currently lists over a million small businesses has long targeted merchants in small locales versus catering towards the consumers, as sites like Yelp and CitySearch do. Today, Reply is relaunching MerchantCircle has a more consumer-focused destination.
Basically, the newly redesigned site allows consumers to find qualified providers in their local area, receive quotes and find expert advice, while giving merchants tools for servicing their local markets. Consumers can search for and find providers across all business categories, including home repair and improvement; health and beauty; financial and professional services; construction and real estate services; restaurants; and more. Currently the site has more than 1.2 million active member merchants.
Consumers can request a quote from providers, access ratings and reviews, get questions answered by a community of experts, and find discounts and special offers from local merchants. As the company explains, MerchantCircle is trying to compete with the giant in the space, Yelp, by allowing consumers to move from search to transaction.
For example, consumers searching for “roof repair” in their local area will be presented with the option to connect to the best local roofers and/or “request quotes” from multiple local providers.
On the merchant side, MerchantCircle now offers a “LeadStore”, which gives local merchants the ability to purchase relevant local leads for their business on an on-demand basis; and is debuting a “DealStore,” to increases the visibility of merchant’ deals, coupons and other promotions.
The transition over to becoming a consumer focused-site is certainly a challenge but could be interesting considering MerchantCircle is trying to help consumers actually connect to merchants and service providers. MerchantCircle is similar in some ways to home services marketplace RedBeacon, which was recently acquired by Home Depot.