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Becoming the Next E-Commerce Giant: Starting an Online Cleaning Company

So, you’re enamored with e-commerce and interested in tackling the multi-billion dollar “on-demand” home cleaning and services market. Before you quit your job to embark on this quest for glory, we’d like to share a basic game plan to prepare you for the battlefield ahead. Below, we’ll discuss the market dynamics of the industry and why the opportunity is compelling. Then we’ll dig into the nature of the business, addressing what you’ll need to launch a successful venture. Lastly, we’ll leave you with a few words of departing wisdom.

The Realm of Possibility: Market Opportunity

jeff-bezos

Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) claims, “It’s still Day 1” for e-commerce and he’s probably right. The “on demand” services market has been active – many services traditionally ordered over the phone / in-person are now booked with keystrokes; an Internet connection allows you to order a cab, dinner and/or a household cleaning.

The dynamics of the household cleaning market are compelling, representing billions of dollars of available, partially-chartered territory. A handful of companies have recently budded to de-fragment the industry; the dream is simple and straightforward: provide reliable cleaners at the touch of a button, anytime and anywhere.

The good news for potential entrants is the nascent market is comprised of few visible (but not infallible) leaders founded recently. The better news is that investors remain excited and reliable businesses can receive a premium for dominating certain locations. Top industry players have risen upwards of $100 million in early equity financing from reputable Venture Capital firms; furthermore, certain players have demonstrated a tendency to be acquisitive.

The Billion Dollar Journey: Things You Need

First, you’ll need cleaners – background-checked professionals who have performed cleanings. Can’t find any? Gather eager first-timers and teach them or enlist yourself; remember, Craigslist serves as a great pool for cleaning talent.

Obtaining cleaners, while a crucial part of your business, is a standard hurdle you’ll have to maneuver. Your ability to attract cleaners will likely depend on how fast your business is growing (e.g. how many jobs you can give them). Thus, your initial focus should remain on developing the following: 1) an effective website, 2) a sensible pricing strategy and 3) reliable customer service.

1) Your Website = Your Temple

This will be the single most important tool in attracting and converting apartment-dwellers and home-owners into customers. An effective website (optimized for mobile viewing) will address services offered, available locations and pricing (more on this later). After this is up, consider developing a complimentary mobile application.

Your services should be in-line with the industry, including (but are not limited to): cleanings for 1+ bedroom houses/apartments, comprehensive methods (e.g. sweeping all floors, dusting and wiping all surfaces, taking out trash, etc.) and further detail regarding how kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms will be addressed. Lastly, explicitly state what is NOT provided (e.g. mold removal, carpet cleaning) and what is considered “extra” or “add-on” (e.g. cleaning inside the fridge).

2) Sensible Pricing = Happy Customers

Now that you’ve listed your services in crystal clear detail, let’s add price tags. Relative to the services offered, you’ll theoretically have more flexibility over your pricing strategy. This will be key from a competitive standpoint because consumers will become price sensitive in a world where companies can offer similar services. Your challenge will be to satisfy customers with attractive prices while simultaneously covering costs.

Cleanings are expensive given the prevailing high cost of labor and their time-consuming nature. Certain companies charge per-hour rates and do not give very accurate visibility on how long cleanings can take; further, they prefer booking multiple cleanings up-front instead of allowing one-offs. Maid Sailors is one of the few services that offer one-time cleanings with transparent, fixed pricing and no per hour charges.

3) Pick Up The Phone, I Know You’re Home

As in any relationship, communication is critical. Customers may have reservations about booking without speaking to a professional to alleviate his/her concerns. You need accessible customer support (web and phone) – your website should have a chat interface that allows the customer to talk one-on-one with a representative or leave a message. Always remember, it’s easier to get someone to book a cleaning over the phone than on the keyboard.

Bon Voyage – Things to Remember

If it sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. While your brand awareness will be paramount to your success, there are clever ways to build it. After you’ve completed the above tasks, you could start a blog, ripe with entertaining content that can drive traffic and inform readers of the benefits of your service. Maid Sailors’ has exemplified this very well, here. After all, if you’re on the long, winding road to success, shouldn’t you try to have some fun along the way?

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