With online travel sites aggregating flight, hotel and car hire options, a local partnership is set to offer a new way to book appointments for services like hairdressers and gym sessions.
Local business incubator, Cobalt Blu, and web developer, SitePoint, have partnered up to develop a new website called Unbooked, which will aggregate appointments for a variety of health, home and beauty services. The site will then allow retailers to manage "unbooked" appointments, and consumers to find the most convenient times, prices and locations.
Unbooked founder, Sarah Taylor, believes the concept could change how consumers search for services, creating a new process similar to that developed by the travel industry. First, however, Cobalt Blu needed to consider development from both the front and back end.
"Once we had the idea, we did a feasibility study and we thought about what the platform would need to look like," Taylor said, turning to SitePoint for advice, and ending up with a partner. "We went to talk to [SitePoint] initially to seek advice but we got along very well and we entered into this arrangement where they're going to develop our iPhone application and our iPad application."
SitePoint was also charged with creating a platform that would be easy to navigate for all parties involved.
"[The end result was] a really robust trading platform that allows vendors to list appointments as inventory... We on the other side need to process the booking, the payment and the distribution of payment, and the user needs a great interface so they can be on their phone or their laptop or whatever and they can quickly search and find appointments that they want."
Taylor is passionate about the project, believing that it could give individuals the ability to offer services and "trade out of the home without a retail presence". The service could also assist those small businesses that aren't online to reach consumers. "Everyone wants to be online, it's just that it's not cost efficient for an individual business to have an e-commerce site and direct the kind of traffic they would need to make it worthwhile."
To make Unbooked relevant to both retailers and consumers, Taylor has said the site has a strong focus on search. "Once you've entered your search terms we will be collecting and studying that and then tagging and metatagging all the data. Our goal is to build an incredibly intuitive site. [Being able to] search by place, proximity, price are all important." Taylor is aware that the project will require an enormous amount of information, from both retailers and consumers, and said that it could be the site's biggest challenge.
"The biggest challenge is that we'll have to scale very fast; the utility of a network is determined by its size, and for a product like Unbooked, it's all about having a large network so you need a lot of vendors and you need a lot of users to be giving you information about what they're looking for."
However, Cobalt Blu isn't shying away from the challenge, with plans to ultimately take the site international. "We see it as a global business, and we built it to be global."
First, the company needs to launch the site, unbooked.us. A soft launch is set for 1 July and applications for the iPhone and iPad are due to be released on 1 September.
Cobalt Blu will then see whether the site can take on international (home, hair and beauty) markets, with Taylor stating, "If we can make it work in Australia, there's evidence that we can make it work everywhere else as well."