article

Echannel: Yahoo! Adds Long Distance, Wireless Offers to Personal Finance Portal

Posted: 2/2002

E-Channel

Yahoo! Adds Long Distance,

Wireless Offers to Personal Finance Portal

By Khali Henderson

Yahoo! now offers long distance and wireless services through deals with SmartPrice.com and Simplexity

Inc., respectively.

Consumers can access the services through the Savings Finder tool in Yahoo! Finance Money Manager, a free suite of personal finance tools and services launched Dec. 6. To find out about savings of as much as 60 percent on long distance from the 13 carriers represented at SmartPrice.com, consumers enter information about their calling habits and are presented with customized options for the best available calling plans. Users can sign up immediately online.

Similarly, consumers can find wireless services from among 40,000 rates and plans inventoried in the Simplexity database. The decision tool allows Yahoo! Finance to offer its customers plans covering 99 percent of the United States.

The Yahoo! front ends have been private-labeled by the respective vendors so the offering is transparent to the consumer.

Yahoo! spokeswoman Jennifer Doidge told PHONE+ services are accessible through Money Manager, its flagship personal finance tool, as well as the Yahoo! Finance home page. The portal also will be “promoting it networkwide on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis,” she says.

Doidge says the company chose to put the telecom shopping services in the finance section because phone bills are a “very common and confusing part” of most people’s personal finances.

“With our new Savings Finder tool and our partnership with SmartPrice, we can give users an automatic way to find opportunities to slash their long-distance spending. That’s a natural extension of our ongoing mission” to be a single destination for managing personal finances, she says.

SmartPrice.com spokeswoman Erika Bennett adds: “We are trying to get the message to them when they are looking for long distance savings. If they are not in the right frame of mind, they will ignore it. If they are looking at their bills and where their money is going, it seems to be a good time.”

The offers are two of three available using the Savings Finder tool. The third offer relates to checking accounts. Doidge says the company is working with only one partner in each of these consumer expense areas, but did not confirm the deals were exclusive and declined to elaborate on their terms.

Neither Yahoo! nor its partners would reveal projections for the telephony service, but Bennett says SmartPrice.com expects Yahoo! to be a “consistent traffic partner.”

This is the second deal with a financial portal for SmartPrice.com, which also has a deal with BankRate.com, another company that also works with Yahoo! Finance. Other notable partners include Weather.com and Moving.com.

Simplexity CEO Mike Ferzacca says his company has been doing business with Yahoo! since 2000 and covers all wireless telephony initiatives the portal is offering. Simplexity also offers similar decision tools for local, long distance, Internet and data, satellite and paging services.

Ferzacca, who joined the company in September 2000 after working in marketing with Talk.com and channels for Cable & Wireless, has been responsible for the company’s transition from a retail comparison-shopping portal to a turnkey platform for brick-and-mortar and e-tail partners.

He says the transformation has been successful, noting revenue and subscriptions are up. He declined to give specific results for the private company. Among the publicized relationships Simplexity supports are deals with master agency U.S. Telebrokers Inc. and Internet direct marketer MyPoints.com.

At a time when many similar dot-com businesses have folded or are struggling to survive, Simplexity changed its business model while SmartPrice.com maintains its retail business and claims steady growth. The company closed on $4 million in Series B funding in July, giving it enough money to reach profitability by January 2003.

Bennett says SmartPrice differs from its competitors because it resisted the temptation to move quickly into other products in addition to being cost-conscious. “We spent a long time focusing on long distance and creating carrier relationships and an infrastructure to support long-distance provisioning,” she says, adding the company is electronically integrated with each of its 13 carrier suppliers.

That said, SmartPrice.com plans to extend its service to other products, including local and wireless, in the first half of 2002. Bennett says it also will be testing a new subagent channel.


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