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Yet another startup sees gold in bringing local commerce into the digital age. Companies from Foursquare and Square to Yelp (s YELP), Groupon (s GRPN) and Google (s GOOG) have all been stepping up their efforts at making it easier for people to find and transact with local businesses. But San Francisco-based MyTime believes it can become an “Amazon (s AMZN) for local services” with a one-stop-shop for booking any kind of service online.
The company launched a pilot in Los Angeles earlier this year, but opened up its service nationwide with a new mobile app this week. Its goal: to be an OpenTable or Seamless for every kind of local business, from haircuts and manicures to oil changes and housecleaning.
As of now, just five percent of local businesses offer a shopping cart functionality for online purchasing, said founder and CEO Ethan Anderson, who was previously a product manager with Google and later sold his last startup Redbeacon to Home Depot.
Convenience for consumers, promotion for local businesses
“I created MyTime to make it more convenient to find and book the 100 or so things you need to book each year, right in the palm of your hand, anytime you want,” he said.
For consumers who currently need to call up local businesses or walk on in to make an appointment, MyTime means a new level of convenience. But it also opens up new marketing and promotion options for local businesses.
It’s free for local businesses to join, but when they receive new customers through MyTime’s promotional and retention efforts (that span Google and Twitter ads, reminder messages and more), MyTime takes 40 percent of the cut. The startup takes 3 percent of other bookings that are made through its site.
Taking a horizontal approach
Other online booking sites out there, from restaurant-focused sites like OpenTable to health and wellness sites like Zeel (for alternative medicine), ZocDoc (for doctors) and Brighter (for dental services), have focused on single verticals. But Anderson said he saw a bigger opportunity in a horizontal play. While people may order food weekly (or even more often), they only need a haircut or other services every few months. By consolidating different services on one side, the site benefits from crossover business and more frequent bookings.
I also wondered how well the site would be able to accommodate the different categories of service. When people make an appointment for an oil change they have different concerns from when they want to book an appointment with a colorist. And, for a seamless web transaction, the site needs to be able to anticipate those concerns (otherwise people may give up online and place a call).
But Anderson said they built specific architectures for each of the 70 categories MyTime accommodates. And early results from its Los Angeles pilot are positive: the startup has signed up 3,000 businesses since February and reports that 40 percent of bookings are made after hours, showing that people want an alternative way to make an appointment.
For now, its competition comes from other vertical-specific booking sites and startups like Centzy and Schedulicity. But, going forward, it may have to contend with local reviews giant Yelp, which rolled out an online booking service earlier this summer. Its first order of business is food delivery, but the company said it plans to expand into appointments at salons, spas, yoga studios and other local services.