Thursday, July 2, 2009

eDoorways Part 6 - Achilles Heel

Achilles Heel
This post will perhaps be the most contentious assessment I'll make of eDoorways. The foundation of the SOLVE platform is the novelty of consumers asking questions and having real-time responses from experts/businesses.

That sounds wonderful.

Now back to reality
Let's remind ourselves of the target market: micro-boomers (20's & 30's) and local small business owners. Most micro-boomers are savvy enough to get most questions answered through searches, and most small business owners cannot devote hours each day to answering questions for people outside of their market.

Think about Susie who owns Little Susie's Bakery. Someone has a question about the best way to bake a pie. What is she supposed to do with that? Politely ask the consumer living 500 miles away to buy a pie from her shop?

How about Jim who owns Jim's repair shop. A guy logs in and asks for help restoring the transmission of '57 Chevy. Jim should say 'haul it over to my shop and I'll do it for $1500'... but that wouldn't work well with eDoorways' model.

Incidentally, you can Google both questions above and get those answers instantly.

With the live chat feature of eDoorways, both the consumer and the business would have to be geographically close to each other. That can be done through basic IP checks with varying success.

The larger problem is how do you guarantee that an expert will be online at any hour, for any topic, and in any location? If you can't provide that 24/7, you can't guarantee that live response service. And if you can't guarantee that live service, eDoorways is reduced to a Yahoo Answers style of site.

A Real, real-time response?
To guarantee a real time response, have the managers at EDWY really thought through what it will take to reach a mass large enough to support such a commitment? They are creating a chicken and egg scenario in which they must get a large enough group of consumers to make it worth the time for experts/businesses to devote on the site. But they must also get a large enough group of experts/business to make it useful for consumers to use the site.

Otherwise, consumers will just be asking questions with no one to answer in real time, and thus the entire purpose of the site is lost.

This criticism is fundamental to my view that eDoorways will ultimately disappoint investors.

To break that chicken-egg scenario, they could do one of the following:
1) Drop the real time guarantee and fall in line with competitors that guarantee a fast response (2-24 hours). ( & model)
2) Have a premium service that consumers pay into and experts/businesses are paid for their time. ( model)
3) Have the real time response be derived through semantic results - driven by predetermined logic that leads the user to outcomes that include relevant information and product placement. This can remain free and still be extremely profitable. ( model)

eDoorways could seek a different delivery mechanism. Building a Facebook app would instantly open a consumer base large enough for businesses to sign on. Facebook provides so many great demographics that it really could make for a viable combination.

eDoorways could also seek a different market. Rather than focus on consumer fed revenue model, EDWY might consider packaging the solution as a hosted app for enterprise customers. What better way to get get thousands of mini "SOLVE" portals than to have Toyota pay a license fee to offer a live Q&A for their consumers. Or have Best Buy provide real-time sales answers to their products.

Little Susie's Bakery or Jim's Repair Shop will be unlikely to derive any revenue from such a solution relative to the amount of time the owner would invest online. Local advertising is still going to be their best marketing avenue.

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