Grayboxx is something of a paradox. At its core is a great idea and a real need: a way to use consumer actions and implicit recommendations to broaden the available ratings for local businesses across categories and geographic markets. The company won’t reveal precisely the methodology behind its “PreferenceScore” rankings because that’s the “secret sauce.” But it does offer FAQs and a general overview of how ratings are generated.
But that system is both the strength and weakness of the site, and the lack of transparency is the site’s biggest challenge. Grayboxx doesn’t have a trusted brand and the scores are largely “opaque.” There’s also not a lot of content or context currently around the scores and listings. So the methodology that enables Grayboxx to offer more ratings across more categories in more places, and be competitively different in that regard, is precisely the issue: some users don’t know “what’s behind” its ratings.
Most people aren’t going to systematically compare listings across sites (i.e., Yahoo!, Citysearch, Yelp, etc.) and categories to see how Grayboxx stacks up. So the site needs to find alternative ways to build trust and confidence for users. One of the ways, ironically, that Grayboxx is seeking to do that is by adding traditional user reviews to business detail pages as part of the national launch, which is officially being announced today.
Here’s an example for a search on “appliance repair” in “San Mateo, CA”:
Reviews come from IAC’s Citysearch and InsiderPages. Even though they’re only excerpted, their presence should give Grayboxx users more confidence in its PreferenceScore algorithm, which the company says has been improved in several ways for the national launch.
Grayboxx understood months ago, before its “beta” launch, that it would be challenging to go head-to-head with more established competitors in top US metro areas. Accordingly, it adopted a “secondary markets” strategy and put out press releases in scores of those markets as it “launched” in each. Grayboxx founder Bob Chandra says that the company has seen some traction in those markets and is encouraged by the progress there.
However, the site will need to further evolve if it is to have staying power. InsiderPages and Judy’s Book were put on the block by their boards because growth wasn’t fast-enough or the outlook was murky. But local requires patience (or luck or both).
If Grayboxx can be patient and can continue to upgrade the site and user experience, which I believe needs to be “warmed up,” it has a chance to gain broader usage and adoption over time.
What do others think? Have you used Grayboxx? Does it compare favorably?