Merchant Innovation

The Latest Amazon Accessory: A Human Installer

Amazon is running a trial in three cities—New York, Los Angeles and Seattle—to offer installation and other services—including plumbing, electrical work, fitness instructors and even music teachers—along with germane products purchased. Once a shopper chooses one of a handful of Amazon “hand-picked pros” for the service, it’s added to the shopping cart like any other Amazon purchase, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

How will Amazon distinguish itself from existing service hawkers such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Craigslist, Thumbtack and Groupon? The story points to two ways. First, “a money-back guarantee on services rendered by its contractor partners.” Second, “Amazon will conduct background checks on the businesses and determine if they have liability insurance.”

Amazon will also integrate those service providers into its existing reviews area of the site, where shoppers can post their experiences, good or bad. “And the service providers will, in turn, be able to create their own profile pages, with additional information about their businesses, and a scheduling feature will help customers book appointments,” the story said.

But the most effective Amazon differentiator might simply be convenience, timing and a good sense of when this service is most helpful. Amazon understands that some purchases that need services make it easy. Think refrigerators, ovens or couches, where the sellers of the physical items typically include delivery or setup or installation. Then there are items—think car audio systems, buckets of paint or insulation—that are typically separated. To the extent that Amazon can find and automatically associate service people with products that need those services, this could be extremely effective.

It hits the shopper at the instant the need exists and requires little more than trust in Amazon to properly vet the service-provider and the willingness to add “installer” to the shopping cart.

“A recent Amazon search in Los Angeles for ceiling fans yielded recommendations for three installers, or ‘handpicked pros,’ with estimated prices ranging from $89 to $185,” the Journal story said. “Kim Hopkins, owner of Electric Connection in Los Angeles, said he had been invited to participate in the program less than a month ago. He said he believed his electrical business had only appeared in search results for a few days. Mr. Hopkins said he would pay Amazon a fee when the service leads to a job, though he declined to elaborate.”

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