On Zaarly’s San Francisco homepage, you can order French toast cupcakes with maple buttercream and candied bacon and receive skeeball training from a world champion. French toast cupcakes and skeeball seem pleasant enough, until you realize that it marks a significant shift for a company struggling to hit its stride.
Zaarly started out as a “mobile Craigslist” that focused on the buyer. Its members posted goods or services they were looking for with a certain time frame and price, and people on the other side of the marketplace would fulfill the tasks. In September, Zaarly released “Storefronts” where sellers can display what they do and offer it for sale. This update shifted focus to its best sellers. At the time, Zaarly said the “want engine” that allowed people to request anything would still be available.
However, a report in TechCrunch this morning tipped us off that Zaarly’s core product — the request-anything-buyer-centric marketplace — is no longer available. The storefronts are now the whole shebang.
A post on Zaarly’s blog said that the ‘The Seller Project’ began a year ago. The team realized that there was a select group of active sellers who were building a group of loyal fans and decided to create a platform to help them market their services. “Request Anything” would be phased out, and Zaarly Storefronts would be the main product.
Zaarly started out in 2011 as a competitor to CraigsList and TaskRabbit. Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers led a $14 million round, and current HP CEO Meg Whitman joined the board of directors. Since then, the company added integration with social commerce site The Fancy and released a “Zaarly Anywhere” button that connected products or services on the web directly to Zaarly’s marketplace. The company seemed to be searching for a model that stuck.
Now, Zaarly more closely resembles Etsy or Shopify as a place where people can showcase their unique crafts and skills.
Unfortunately, Zaarly is now a little late to the game for this type of marketplace. Maybe the pivot will prove to be a smart move and help many small business owners boost their marketing and sales. Maybe. But as a consumer, perusing the marketplace, I see a lot of things that look cool, but that I would never buy. I am all for juice cleanses, apartment cleaning, and I bet my boyfriend would appreciate a week of homemade “Bro Meals” delivered to our door, but I don’t see anything that encourages me to buy or that I can’t find anywhere else. That said, next time I am desperate for a fully assembled terrarium with a bonus animal, I know where to go.
Photo Credit: Screenshot