ERento, a Berlin-based e-commerce site for all types of local rentals, has recently expanded beyond the German-language countries to the U.K. and the U.S. The site has 9,800 rental firms signed up to use its commission-based leads program and processes more than 4,500 daily inquiries from 50,000 visitors.
Leading categories among its 2,200 categories are motor homes, beamers & screens, Ferraris, Porsches, gardening tools, relocation needs, as well as special event equipment like tables and tents.
Launched in 2003 in Germany and almost immediately profitable, the site (think “e-RENT-o”) expanded in 2007 to Austria and Switzerland. The U.K. site was launched last fall, and the U.S. launched in March — the latter under the direction of former SF Examiner sales exec Barry Haislah. Next up will be Dutch, Polish and Czech editions. The venture-backed company, which is lead by former eBay executive Oliver Weyergraf, has 60 employees.
Clinton Patterson, eRento director of international business development, says eRento is, at heart, a performance-based business. If rentals are successful, partners provide a commission of 4.9 percent. If rentals are unsuccessful, there is no charge.
Patterson adds that the company also acts as a CRM player since it has substantial data on customer rentals and rental habits and satisfaction levels. “We know exactly what the demand is” for different products based on such factors as seasonality, renter demographics, etc., he says.
The company also keeps close tabs on its rental partners, with a careful validation process to ensure collections of fees — a frequent problem for leads-based firms in general. The system includes feedback on work quality, on time performance, response times, etc. This feedback system, which is frequent but random, enables eRento to weed out bad actors, and provides a public thumbs-up and thumbs-down on businesses. But no user-generated reviews are currently published externally.
To date, the market has been fairly evenly split between B2B and B2C rentals, with the former accounting for 53 percent of rentals, and the latter 47 percent. Patterson notes, however, that B2B is more valuable since rentals are higher priced and of longer duration. On the B2C side, which has greater potential volume, the company has seen interesting spikes in usage for certain features, such as rentals of lady handbags, which could cost thousands of dollars if purchased.
ERento is less interested, however, in pursuing person-to-person rentals such as room rentals, massages, etc. — a market that is covered by Austin-based BookFresh (formerly HourTown), which appears to be the only other company with a focus entirely on rentals.
Going forward, Patterson says the company’s most substantial marketing efforts will be SEO/SEM. But the company will also have some TV exposure in certain markets.