At the end of 2016, we published our thoughts about the sharing economy in the construction industry. This trend is now accelerating in the European market. In France for instance, the FFB (Fédération Française du Bâtiment) listed more than 150 intermediation websites that provide a liaison service between construction professionals and private individuals.
These platforms aim to create a link between individuals’ needs and artisans’ know-how, but in the construction market, giving immediate access and unlimited choice of craftsmen – like Airbnb does with rooms – is not sufficient. The leaders, like Quotatis and Homly You, offer an additional service by verifying and refining clients’ requests before forwarding the leads to the service provider. Homly You (Saint Gobain’s platform) even goes one step further by calling back the individuals who posted their needs on the website, to better understand their projects and expectations. Both platforms boast dedicated customer service.
These models seem to work – Quotatis is expanding its offers across Europe. They’ve acquired eBuilders in the UK, and compete in Germany with MyHammer and BlauArbeit. Homly You already lists 2,000 professionals on its platform.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved: end customers have easier access to proven remodeling companies, craftsmen acquire qualified leads, and platform players charge a fee for those leads. In Saint Gobain’s particular case, it’s even a way to reinforce the brand recognition of their Distribution division.
The market is not mature yet, with more than 100 websites created in recent years – only a few of which will survive for any length of time. Several business models currently exist, with some platforms charging a monthly fee to professionals, and others charging per lead generated. So far, these business models are not yet as advanced as players like Airbnb and Uber, who directly charge the end customer before paying the service provider, while keeping a commission.
Longer term, the challenges for those platforms will include: ensuring the necessary traffic to provide sufficient leads; retaining a solid professional base; enlisting professionals who provide high-quality work; and satisfying clients who may be leery of the lack of initial human interactions.
For more information on how the internet can become a true business vehicle in industrial and technical B2B markets, download our white paper about the sharing economy in the construction industry.