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Zaarly app expands to pair user requests with small businesses

by Phil Hornshaw

Peer-to-peer mobile marketplace Zaarly might still have a relatively small user base, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t garnering attention from more than just users interested in offering odd jobs to other users.

According to Mashable, the startup of the same name is looking into offering a portal into the Zaarly service to small businesses, linking users who need a service to businesses near them who are willing to provide it. The addition to the service is currently being tested in New York City. It’s also free.

Zaarly works by allowing users of the service to post requests, sort of like online classifieds, both online and through its Android and iOS mobile apps. Those users also post what they’d be willing to pay for their request. Zaarly requests can be just about anything, ranging from help fixing something to the example Mashable uses: a Michael Jackson dog costume. That’s something a Zaarly user was actually looking for. Once the requests are out there, other Zaarly users can accept and fulfill them, with the transaction taking place through the app (of which Zaarly gets a small piece).

But something Zaarly didn’t anticipate, Mashable reports, is that small businesses such as maid services and catering companies (among many others) would start to gravitate to the app and use it as a way to find customers. Many are finding that they can fill user requests posted on the app, and since users are naming their own prices, those businesses can choose whether they want to do business with them. Zaarly is taking notice, and trying the new small business feature as a way to provide matching customers with potential businesses as a service. Because Zaarly takes a piece of the transaction done through its app, the customer-matching is done for free.

The trial program in New York allows businesses to search for customers using a number of different criteria, including proximity, price, keywords and categories. Zaarly allows businesses to create alerts for its specific criteria, and when a customer asks for what a business can provide at the right price, that business receives an alert. It can then respond to the potential customer and get the transaction rolling.

With the addition of small businesses, Zaarly could become even more useful. Already, the Zaarly user base has the ability to find work in a tough economy (as well as hire someone to get things done that might otherwise be difficult). The only question is whether the addition of businesses in an official capacity will fundamentally change how Zaarly works – and whether businesses will outcompete the very users Zaarly was set up to connect to one another.