Even the most unexpected industries are ripe for innovation (who would have thought to upend the way we buy mattresses?). With the help of modern technology, these businesses are offering new approaches that make common, frustrating experiences better — whether it’s a driver on-demand or a consumer good that cuts out the middle-man — and the relocation industry is following suit. Over the past few years, a number of start-ups have popped up in the space with the goal of making moving easier, physically, financially and logistically.
What began as a dorm-moving service for college students in 2011, has become a venture capital-backed business operating in more than 20 cities across the U.S (and growing). Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bellhops uses an app to connect customers with movers, aka “bellhops,” who, true to their humble beginnings, are all college students (they handle the labor while professional drivers do the transport). Everything is run through their technology platform: customers get cost estimates and schedule their move via the app, Bellhops accept jobs, clock in digitally, and carry out the move.
Payment and tips are handled through the app as well (prices are typically half of what a traditional moving company costs). The company is continuing to expand its markets, its offerings and its team — in 2017 it named former Uber manager, Luke Marklin, CEO.
Moved, “a moving concierge service” based in New York, also streamlines the moving process via an app, but they handle more than just the move itself. Launched in 2016, its model pairs you with a personal assistant who helps coordinate services beyond just booking movers — they’ll also order packing supplies, find storage units, sell or donate unwanted items, and even update your new address with the postal service. “Moved is the one single destination where you can complete every part of the move,”
Head of Marketing Justin Brasington explains. “The platform is fully customizable according to your unique moving needs. And you get a dedicated personal assistant to coordinate the entire process (think elevator reservations, certificates of insurance, arrival and delivery scheduling) — for free.” Customers pay when they actually book a service; Moved makes its money from referral fees. The company currently only handles moves within the U.S., but international moves are on the horizon.
California-based Sortly, founded in 2013, seeks to solve one particular part of the moving hassle: keeping track of all your stuff. With the app, users create a digital inventory of items by snapping photos, adding item names and notes, and categorizing them into folders. You can then create custom labels to print for your moving boxes with scannable QR codes that tell you everything that’s inside; no more tearing through a sea of boxes searching for things as you unpack. You can also export your list for movers and make use of the built-in moving checklist so you don’t forget to take care of the little details like defrosting the freezer. (There’s also “Sortly Pro” designed for small businesses to keep track of their inventories.)
While new technology is credited with driving change, innovation in any arena — moving included — really comes from something human: customer need. “Simply put, the industry hasn't evolved to meet the needs of the modern-day consumer,” Moved’s Brasington says. “Companies need to be tech-forward and offer convenient solutions to appeal to the Millennial generation who expects this level of convenience.” Keen advice, perhaps, for traditional moving companies that want to keep up with the shifting course of the industry.
And for those getting ready for a move themselves? “Do your due diligence!” he adds. Research and read reviews about moving companies, and make sure they have proper licensing or insurance requirements, whether they’re operating as part of this new, digital mobility world, or entirely old-school.