Online SMB scheduling service HourTown, which launched in Q1 of 2008, has rebranded as “BookFresh” and entered into a partnership with free hosting/web-building site Webs.com to enable broader distribution of the service:
In addition to a fresh name and site, BookFresh has partnered with Webs.com to enable their more than 20 million site owners to seamlessly integrate online scheduling into existing or new sites via Webs’ social publishing platform. The partnership offers the 15 million small business owners that offer services for a living, a one-stop-shop to create an interactive online presence with the capabilities of translating visitors into customers.
Here’s CEO Ryan Donahue’s rationale for the name change:
As our business has developed and grown over the past year – we’ve increasingly been unhappy with the name HourTown and we had concerns about how it was going to grow with us. Yeah, we thought it was kind of cool and clever when we first started out, but quickly we began to realize that having an Internet brand and domain name that also happens to be a homophone (people hear “hour” and type in “our”) is not a good idea.
There are a range of direct and indirect competitors in the segment, including BookingAngel, which has been focused to date on restaurants, and GenBook. A couple of years ago now GenBook had a range of deals lined up with major local sites to provide “pay per booking” options to advertisers. It made lots of sense (like PPCall), but those implementations never really surfaced. In addition to those companies, there are several other competitors and startups (yet to emerge) trying to play in the online appointments space.
In contrast to the CPA pricing model of some of the other players, Donahue recognized that simplicity is key with the SMB crowd and offers very simple pricing:
The premium services offer very obvious reasons to upgrade vs. the free service, including PayPal integration and mobile/SMS notifications of appointments. The challenge then is not so much proving the value of the paid version of the service but getting SMBs to adopt online scheduling and booking in the first place. That’s partly driving syndication with Webs.com. There are also APIs for third party developers.
Online scheduling is desirable for many consumers and the flat, subscription-based pricing avoids the problem of what to charge the business upon repeat bookings by existing clients. But SMBs themselves have to get over a hump in setting this up and getting used to managing their appointments online. Over time, more and more of them will.