Peer-to-peer local marketplace Zaarly, which lets people buy, sell, and request services from people in their neighborhood, today announced the launch of its Storefronts marketplace, which gives its sellers a devoted place to promote their custom goods or services. Since launching in 2011, the company has expanded across the U.S and recently debuted its API and Zaarly Anywhere button, which lets people request custom goods. Storefronts is launching in beta in San Francisco, and will be launching in NYC and Los Angeles in the next few weeks.
Storefronts are akin to Esty shops for any service or custom goods provider. Prior to today’s launch, users could connect with service providers, from yoga instructors to plumbers, on the Zaarly marketplace, and pay for their products or services directly through the site, but sellers didn’t have a devoted place to list all their items or post more about their business. Now anyone with a product or service can apply to be part of the Zaarly seller network, and can receive online orders, work out details, and accept payments.
Zaarly CEO Bo Fishback said the decision to launch Storefronts came from working with some of their best sellers to understand how they could help promote their businesses. “It’s a pretty natural evolution of where we started from,” Fishback said in an interview. “This whole thing is really a big way for us to create more transparency in this marketplace.”
The company is curating its list of sellers, starting with about 100 in San Francisco in 10 categories, including their most popular categories, home services, food, and fitness. Anyone can apply to be a seller, and if selected Zaarly provides a professional photographer to capture their business in action, and their editorial team works with the seller to craft a listing with a back story on their business. Storefronts also feature reviews from other Zaarly users, which will be key for sellers who do mainly custom work. “It’s not just about how many sellers we have, it’s about who wants their stuff,” Fishback said.
Buyers can browse through Storefronts on the online platform or via the revamped Android and iOS apps (available today), and can view by category, seller, or what’s popular. Buyers can choose from existing items a seller has for sale, or they can request custom work, similar to how people can put out requests on the regular Zaarly marketplace. The company has revamped its payment process for the Storefronts launch, and now holds a buyer’s payment until they’ve received their order or terms of the deal have been reached. The company takes a fee from each transaction, though Fishback declined to share the exact percentage.
Connecting consumers with local service providers is something online tools like Craigslist, Angie’s List, and even the Yellow Pages have been doing for years, though Fishback said there are two main differences between Zaarly Storefronts and what he calls the “products of the 90s internet,” mainly that people don’t have to be a full-fledged business to have a storefront on Zaarly, and they can actually engage with buyers and process payments, as opposed to being just an online listing. Since Zaarly is targeting a wide range of service providers, they’ll have to face niche competitors, from Etsy for handmade goods to Homestars for home improvement providers.
Zaarly’s regular peer-to-peer marketplace will still be the main offering for users outside of the initial Storefronts launch markets (Fishback said they’ll be working hard to get Storefronts to users in all U.S. markets). Fishback said they get lots of interest from international users, and will be looking to expand outside the U.S. down the road. They’ll also be looking to debut a new version of their Zaarly Anywhere buttons, and to expand the program from their seven launch partners.
Fishback said he released an early version of Zaarly to get feedback and build it into a thriving marketplace, and it seems like they’re on the right track to do just that. After raising $14 million in funding in October 2011 and launching version 2.0 of their marketplace in March, not to mention the Zaarly Anywhere ecommerce buttons, the company is in a good position to grow its base of 500,000 members, and build a thriving seller network along the way.