Avenir has beta-launched its Connecting Business b2b comparison website.
The company has reported strong interest in the soft launch of the website, which is currently non-transactional, and has received ‘extremely positive’ feedback from users.
Avenir has invited 50 partners to test the site and is also getting feedback from passing web traffic.
The comparison website, which targets SMEs, aims to provide independent advice on b2b airtime services and handsets and will act as a new sales channel for Avenir.
The website will also offer an online chat service and links to 11 regional franchise partners who are available for on-site visits. Avenir hopes to build a network of up to 50 regional Connecting Business franchisees.
Visitors to the website are being urged to give feedback as the Connecting Business team refine the site.
Introducing the website, Avenir MD Andy Tow (pictured) said: ‘The decision to build the site was because we realised there was a real gap in the market for a company mobile phone comparison tool online.
‘The more we spoke to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), the more we realised that, although this is an area we are expert in, it can be really hard for others to find what’s right for them and to obtain unbiased mobile phone tariff information.’
Tow said the company’s faith in Connecting Business was strengthened by the ‘countless small businesses from web developers to design agencies’ that it had encountered while building the comparison site. This included a company that was on the wrong mobile tariff but had not had the time to renew it.
‘They were delighted when we told them exactly how much money we could save them,’ Tow added.
The Connecting Business website will cover airtime and handset ranges at launch but plans to expand into cloud computing, software solutions, hosting and business applications in the near future.
All the major operators are on board and Avenir will manage fulfilment for O2, Three, Orange and T-Mobile. However, Vodafone will make its own transactions, with Avenir taking a commission on successful deals.
Glitches hit beta site
The soft launch of the beta site has not been without its glitches. Feedback within the first week revealed a disproportionate number of recommendations for one particular mobile network.
In a blog post on the site, Simon Peat, head of e-commerce at Connecting Business said: ‘Firstly, it has been spotted that a certain network seemed to be favoured in comparison results… rather a lot.
‘This is most definitely a bug, and was caused by an error in the feed between our comparison tool and the website. Fortunately, it was an easy fix, so shortly we should be getting results in the correct order!’
He admitted that the site is ‘far from the finished article’, adding that Avenir had thought ‘long and hard’ about whether it should go live with the site.
Peat said: ‘Although my pride makes me cringe a little at the faults we still have, the useful critical feedback we’ve had so far has for me, defined the reason we decided to put the site live.’
Avenir is also honing its on-site offers. ‘We also intend to be far more competitive on our deals than we are currently. We have to fix a couple of bugs in the algorithm that works out the money available on each deal, and then we can ensure we are competitive. Sim-only options will also be available very shortly,’ he said.