SAN FRANCISCO -- Yelp, the popular social review site, will soon allow users to book appointments for home services.
Before the end of the year, Yelp users will be able to schedule a visit from the plumber, book movers or hire an electrician directly from the company's Yelp page. Yelp has partnered with ReachLocal, a Southern California-based online marketing company, to create the new online booking system.
Online bookings is Yelp's latest effort to connect with local customers and win the favor of small business owners. Last month, the San Francisco-based website announced it acquired mobile reservations service SeatMe, a move designed to strengthen ties with the local restaurant scene and compete with FourSquare and Square, both favorites among local businesses.
In an interview Monday, ReachLocal co-founder and chief executive Zorik Gordon said the new service will help mom-and-pop shops that have traditionally done most of their business offline tap into the online consumer market. ReachLocal estimates home services is a $400 billion dollar market, but the industry is one of the slowest to adapt to new technology, with many businesses offering customers little more than a phone number and an answering machine to book an appointment.
Often, the only online presence these small businesses have is their Yelp page, but until now, Yelp pages have been little more than a message board for customer reviews.
"This is closing the loop where the whole transaction is online," Gordon said. "Consumers can just book and never interact with the business. The phone is going away."
ReachCommerce, the online booking and scheduling technology that ReachLocal launched earlier this year, will handle all the coordination with merchants. Gordon said any merchant that uses ReachCommerce technology and also has a Yelp page will offer the new booking service.
The company also recently launched ClubLocal, a free Web service and mobile application for home repairs, in Dallas and the Bay Area.
Contact Heather Somerville at 510-208-6413. Follow her at Twitter.com/heathersomervil.