May 4, 2010
Marrying the wisdom of crowds with small businesses ongoing need to identify and vet vendors and service providers is the offering that ChoiceVendor unveiled today. The free online service launching today offers peer-driven business-to-business reviews in more than 70 categories. Initially ChoiceVendor is focused on developing a strong presence in the San Francisco, Chicago, and New York metro markets with the intent of providing reviews nationwide. Concurrent with the launch of the new service, ChoiceVendor announced the acquisition of Boston-based VendorCity, a move that bolsters the offering in the Northeast.
ChoiceVendor founder and CEO Yan-David Erlich claims the concept for ChoiceVendor was born of his own frustrations and challenges in identifying quality service providers for his previous business. He noted that the approximately 26 million small businesses in the U.S. spend roughly $5.3 trillion annually on non-payroll services with legal, accounting, and insurance comprising 30% of that. According to Erlich, 64% of small businesses start their vendor and service provider research with search engines and online searches and word-of-mouth remain the primary avenues for identifying vendors. That's a contrast to the consumer markets where a host of ratings and rankings services from Angie's List to Yelp to Consumer Reports offer consumers input about purchasing decisions. "Business owners are busy and ChoiceVendor can significantly reduce research time and provide valuable insight, whether these companies are seeking service vendors to print business cards or searching for a marketing firm," said Erlich. "When we were searching for a lawyer we started with a Google search, which was uninformative at best. ChoiceVendor was inspired by the desire to bring word-of-mouth referrals online. We believe small business owners should be able to access a trustworthy repository of peer reviews." Erlich also cited data that indicates that 54% of small business don't write reviews of vendors and service providers because they don't know where to go to do so. That data suggests pent up demand for vendor rankings, but also underscores a lack of traction for existing vendor ranking services such as VendorRate. Viewing vendor and service provider ratings will be free on ChoiceVendor at launch as will vendor listing, though the firm is counting on vendors to spur reviews from their own customers and will introduce ways to monetize the service in the future. Right now, ChoiceVendors offers vendor reviews in 14 top-level categories and a bevy of subcategories including, accounting, attorneys, web design, search engine marketing, value added resellers, and software and application development.
Benjamin Tomkins is editor of InformationWeek SMB.
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