In October last year, cleaning-business owner Juan Marín heeded the advice of a friend and signed up with Amazon Home Services, which connects customers of the Seattle tech giant to local plumbers, electricians or someone who can assemble an Ikea bed.
The loss of a full-time job in 2013 prompted Juan Marín to plunge all his efforts into the home-services business he and his wife, Yesica, had started in 2010.
They expanded what had started as a housecleaning service into roof and gutter cleaning.
In October last year, the 46-year old native of Monterrey, Mexico, heeded the advice of a friend and signed up with Amazon Home Services, a then-nascent marketplace that connects customers of the Seattle tech giant to local plumbers, electricians or someone who can assemble an Ikea bed.
The move gave Marín’s business a sudden boost. He says perhaps a third of his work comes from Amazon, and that his plate is filling up after favorable reviews (his small firm, Everclean Cleaning Services, has 22 reviews, all five-star.)
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“We are looking to hire to extend the services we can offer, because my wife and I can’t keep up,” he said. “We’ve had to turn down requests.”
It’s been about a year since Amazon.com opened an online marketplace dedicated to the home-services category, throwing itself into a market first carved out by Angie’s List and more recently by Seattle-based Porch.
It’s not known exactly how many service providers like the Maríns have enrolled, but Amazon says it has done well, with orders growing more than 20 percent per month since the marketplace launched in March 2015 in four metropolitan areas. Now Amazon Home Services extends to 30 major metro areas.
For Amazon, the home-improvement business is an interesting field to conquer in its quest to becoming the place where everybody goes for purchases or services. The company, of course, takes its cut — a 10 to 20 percent commission per job in the case of home services, depending on the complexity of the order.
By taking similar cuts from third-party merchants of everything from diapers to high-priced art, Amazon has built its Marketplace business into what CEO Jeff Bezos calls one of the three “big pillars” of the company.
Amazon Home Services not only adds a new segment to that pillar, but also enables its online store to sell more things by, say, selling both a new TV and the service to mount it on a wall.
Erika Takeuchi, a spokeswoman for Amazon Home Services, said Amazon has seen an uptick in certain categories of home improvement and electronics because of the associated services offered.
Amazon brings to buyers and sellers something in return. It does background checks on providers, and its well-established review system allows customers to have some reassurance.
At the site of one of Marín’s window washing jobs, on Queen Anne, the customer, who declined to be identified, said it was easier than “asking her neighbor for someone who might or might not do a good job.” Amazon will automatically suggest a provider if the client is unsure about whom to hire, and guarantees the job.
To the service providers, Amazon offers a line into its millions of customers. It handles payment and scheduling, and the way it connects sellers and clients (providers have an app on their phone that pings them when a job is offered) is pretty much automated, helping harried small-business owners run the trains on time.
Customers approve a bid online and pay Amazon when the job is completed; then Amazon pays the provider every 14 days.
“You save a lot of time on calls,” Marín says.
That said, there are challenges. For Amazon, dealing with people was different from dealing with companies that sell merchandise. It was a task to reach out to these service providers, many of whom weren’t even online, Takeuchi said.
(Amazon has run into trouble before identifying these providers: Last year Angie’s List sued Amazon Local, a now defunct Groupon-like deals business, for taking leads off Angie’s site. The companies agreed to a settlement last month in which Amazon agreed to bar its employees from using Angie’s List accounts for business purposes. But Amazon Home Services is a separate business.)
Its guarantee to customers had to evolve as well. “If you have your roof leaking you don’t just want your money back,” Takeuchi said. “You want to make sure it stops leaking.”
For service providers, the challenge is to keep up with increased competition, which brings the same downward pressure on prices that third-party merchandise sellers are already familiar with.
For Marín, who lives in Edmonds, it means that there are some jobs he won’t do. He’ll take a $125 window cleaning job on Queen Anne or Magnolia, which is his usual area of service. But “if it’s in Issaquah, that’s too far,” he said.