Q&A: James Edwin Surrey shares his creative insights about the online comparison space
James Edwin Surrey is the Marketing Manager and Head of Operations for ReviewHomeWarranties.com, a new comparison website that delves deeper than ever before into home warranty products. We have conducted a short interview with him to learn more about his product and his insights about the online comparison space.
Q: What is ReviewHomeWarranties and who is the target audience?
ReviewHomeWarranties is a website that reviews and compares various home warranty companies in the U.S market. Our target audience is essentially anyone who is looking into buying a home warranty and wants to find the best options for him.
Q: What are home warranties?
Home warranties are an agreement between the issuer of the warranty and the customer. The coverage policy consists of the home electric appliances and systems and guarantees that if any of the covered items breaks, the warranty provider will get it fixed or replaced.
Q: Why do you need a comparison site in such a relatively small niche?
Although home warranties are not as popular as some other products in the financial space, there are still some hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S who do use them. There are more than 100 providers across the U.S, each one servicing different states, offering different plans with varying prices, and with different terms and conditions. We want to be able to provide prospective customers with the option of making an educated choice based on data rather than marketing materials.
Q: What do you do that your competitors don’t?
We have really great competitors out there, but we’re doing things a bit differently than them. While our competitors rely on proprietary data they have gathered over the years, particularly client reviews, we aggregate as much data as we can from wherever we can get it. The end result is that we have a lot more information about every aspect of home warranties than our competitors.
We like to tackle each topic from top to bottom which leads to excellent buying guides (or so I consider them to be). If you are considering whether to buy an extended warranty or a home warranty (or none of the two), you could not find a better article than ours on the topic. If you are wondering about the real costs of home warranty there is nowhere consisting of more information on the topic than on our website.
Q: What do you have planned for 2018 and 2019?
ReviewHomeWarranties was established in late 2016, so it’s only been 1.5 years approximately since the website was launched. I think we have a solid website tighty now, but that’s only the beginning. We plan to launch our new home warranty company review template as early as next month. Each of the reviews will be far more detailed and entertaining and most importantly, helpful than it is today.
Soon afterward, we are planning to launch an automated tool that will be enable you to find the right home warranty plan in 60 seconds or less. Further down the line, we even consider positioning the site as a mediator between providers and clients to resolve issues and get a first-hand experience in the industry.
Q: What are you general thoughts about financial product comparison sites today?
I think that financial product comparison is really kicking up in the last few years. There is an abundance of products to choose from, and as a result more and more people are seeking for financial guidance. When everything is readily available online, very few bother paying a financial adviser, and most millennials go down the DIY route.
The level of content you can find in such website is on a constant improvement, but there is still a lot of garbage content to be found. There are a lot of websites, some of which are very successful, that don’t provide any real value or insight about the financial products they are pushing. They just stack up tables and buttons and sugar-wrap it with promotions. The ultimate sin they commit is that they claim their guidance is impartial and lack any transparency about their business model.
On one hand, I can’t blame anyone for trying to make a living. ReviewHomeWarranties is also affiliated with a lot of the companies which are reviewed there. On the other hand, there is a huge difference between providing value to your readers and being transparent and fair about the way in which you make money, and providing 0 value, 0 insights and 0 data whilst being dishonest.
Q: Where do you see comparison sites heading in the next 5 years?
I think that traditional comparison sites that consist of nothing but static and dull articles (or even such videos) will be long gone by that time. Our target audience is getting more impatient as years go by, and in 5 years from now they would expect to get answers to their queries in an instant. Smart algorithms that know how to match between vendors and buyers will be the ones to dominate the market.
Q: Where do you think the home warranty industry will be heading in the next 5 years?
Home warranty companies need to make a significant improvement in two areas – service and technology. There is still way too many complaints about home warranty companies which are floating around. If this situation will sustain the entire industry will be shut down by the regulator or that people would ultimately stop buying home warranties. Home warranty companies need to show a bit more flexibility and attentiveness to the needs of their clients even at the cost of losing a few bucks, if they want to stay in the game for the long haul.
The second aspect in which home warranty companies must improve is technology. It can’t be that the communication to the service department is done through the phone for most companies! Telephone is a diminishing medium that will be soon long gone. Companies need to adapt to websites and apps that will enable the client to do everything online.
Q: What are your top tips for someone in your position working for a similar company?
If you are running the operations and the marketing of a comparison website, then one thing I would definitely recommend is to steer away from the hype. There are so many trendy thing out there today. Some of them blew up big time like the bitcoin, and some of them sank like a rock to oblivion. Don’t waste your resources on hype, and instead focus on the core parts of your business: collecting data, developing features and creating content. Everything else will come on its own.
Another tip I could give is to be patient. 10 or 20 years ago, you could have made money instantly “off the internet”. Just create a website in some niche that no one else no knows about, set up an advertising campaign, and start counting dollars the next month. Nowadays, this is definitely not the case. Although I would suspect the ROI for a comparison affiliate website is much higher than almost any other type of business, it is still rate to turn profit before the end of your second or third year. That means you have to be patient with your website and continue to improve it and nurture it while it grows, even if it is still not making the sums of money you’re looking to make.
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