Amazon is beefing up its Home Services business — a marketplace rival to the likes of Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack and Handy for helping people find and hire contractors for everything from plumbers to at-home reflexologists.
Today, the company added 20 more metro areas, one of its most significant expansions of Home Services since launching in March 2015, and bringing the number of markets covered to 50. New cities getting added today include Indianapolis, IN; Las Vegas, NV; San Antonio, TX; Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Milwaukee, WI; Boulder, CO; Raleigh, NC and Trenton, NJ.
The news comes at a time of other developments in the home services category.
First, Amazon itself appears to be considering entering into another, related on-demand area: housekeeping and helping people organise their lives.
Last week, the Seattle Times spotted Amazon job openings for a new role at Amazon called “Home Assistant.” This is a concierge-style service where the employee “will be an expert in helping Amazon customers keep up their home…working with customers each day with tidying up around the home, laundry, and helping put groceries and essentials like toilet paper and paper towels away. You will assure that customers return to an errand-free home,” according to one of the ads. We’ve contacted Amazon for a comment and will update as we learn more.
A few months earlier, Google launched a beta version of its own home services platform, where consumers can search and find for professionals for tasks by typing in keywords into Google. This appears to be live only in the Bay Area at the moment.
Meanwhile, there is also some consolidation underway in the market: Angie’s List — which last year rejected a $512 million acquisition from IAC’s HomeAdvisor for being too low — hasn’t had a smooth time of it, and now, one year on, it’s laying off employees and exploring strategic alternatives. The company currently has a market cap of around $517 million.
Amidst that competitive landscape, Amazon has been relatively quiet about its own Home Services effort in the last several months, with a lot of the company’s consumer hullabaloo continuing to swirl around its latest efforts to double down on its Echo voice-responsive home hub and the multiple cloud-based services that can be used in conjunction or alongside it.
Home Services is somewhat related to this. It is, essentially, one more on-demand offering and cloud-based marketplace that leverages Amazon’s giant network effect and gives people one more way of making customers’ lives run more smoothly. But it is also fairly distinct and somewhat anachronistic, couched as it is in a fairly time-honored, traditional way of getting things done — by looking to skilled craftspeople for help.
Given the wider developments in the U.S. right now, it will be interesting to see how services like Amazon’s fare. In one regard, trades like plumbing may be immune to the rising and falling tides of the economy: a blocked toilet is a blocked toilet, after all. In another, many services may not be quite as essential and will be impacted with a fall in consumer spending or other forces that would put a squeeze on disposable income. On the other hand,, if the housing market declines, another area like home improvements could be positively impacted as home owners might be less inclined to move house and more motivated to spruce up the place where they live.
Amazon is, in keeping with its usual practice, not giving much away about how successful Home Services has been to date, but it’s definitely growing in terms of supplier interest. Amazon said that the number of service providers has gone up 1,500 percent, and it now covers 60 professions and 1,200 unique services.
“We’re thrilled to be offering more Amazon customers access to our network of trusted pros throughout the U.S.,” said Nish Lathia, General Manager of Amazon Home Services, in a statement. “Today, customers can search over 1,200 unique services from pros in over 60 professions – from house cleaning, to lawn work and beyond. The availability of Home Services in more cities means that more customers can quickly find and schedule the help they need around the house heading into the holiday season.”
It also notes that the services most popular with customers include TV wall-mounting, house cleaning and furniture assembly.