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Digital-First Economy Spawns On-Demand Partnerships

The digital-first economy has spawned many new business models, and one that has taken flight during this end-of-the-year period is on-demand retail partnerships. They come in two flavors. In the first one, a service company partners with a retailer to be an exclusive on-demand service provider. (Think TaskRabbbit and IKEA.) In the second, a company sets up shop as the answer to the consumer eCommerce question: “How am I going to use this?”

The first version received a shot in the arm from a company that has been very aggressive about its on-demand business: Handy. The company bills itself as a platform that connects individuals to pre-screen independent service professionals. Walmart works with Handy for $59 furniture assembly and $79 for TV mounting from 2,000 of its stores, and recently expanded to installing Christmas lights. It has also formed partnerships with Target, Crate & Barrel and Wayfair. And as of Thursday (Dec. 17), it has added a big name in home improvement: Lowe’s.

Lowe’s customers will be able to add Handy’s services for plumbing, garage door openers, lighting fixtures, window air conditioner units and more. The company guarantees its work, and in response to COVID-19, has implemented a Handy Safety Standard to “foster a safe environment to better serve the professionals and customers on the platform.”

“We are very excited to be bringing our trusted install options to Lowe’s customers nationwide,” said Handy CEO and Co-Founder Oisin Hanrahan. “Handy continues to be the installer of choice for leading retail brands. Together with Lowe’s, we’re bringing more installation options to consumers who want to make their homes safer and more convenient as we all spend more time at home during this challenging time.”

That time at home, as is well-documented, has led to an entire stay-at-home economy driven by home improvements, exercise equipment and other categories that have adapted to the digital-first era. But it also extends to cars, where the used automotive market has been surging during the pandemic. General Motors is among the companies now taking the automotive aftermarket more seriously. This week, it led a $23 million funding round for an on-demand car maintenance service called Yoshi, investing in the company for the second time.

“We obviously took a huge hit when COVID hit, but we are now approaching the levels that we were [when] coming into it,” Yoshi CEO Bryan Frist told CNBC. The company was founded in 2015 as an on-demand fueling company in California and has expanded to on-demand oil changes, car washes and windshield treatments in five markets across the U.S.

Other companies in the space have been getting funding and finding traction. For example, GoFor Industries, which bills itself as a “last-mile, on-demand and same-day delivery company,” closed a $20 million Series A growth investment to continue its ongoing expansion. The funding follows record growth for GoFor, which has developed partnerships with multiple Fortune 500 retailers to provide delivery for construction, building materials and other consumer goods.

According to a statement from GoFor, “the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in demand for reliable, same-day delivery for retailers across industries, as customers increasingly make purchases online and expect rapid delivery. By filling the “last-mile” gap in the shipping industry — particularly for large items like building materials — GoFor says that it enables its retail customers to deliver goods on-demand and avoid delays. “GoFor’s delivery business and logistics platform specializes in trucks of all sizes that can deliver within three hours of purchase,” the release stated. “The company has made over 200,000 deliveries, and since March this year, it has experienced revenue growth of more than 500 percent.”

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