I’ve been doing some work recently looking through vote patterns on our site and looking more closely at the words consumers use when they leave a review. In Seattle, where we collected nearly 100,000 consumer reviews in 6 weeks, you can learn a lot from reviewing people’s comments. 1,300 people mentioned their kids, 300 people mentioned their husbands, and 1,900 mentioned their dog — although many of them were talking about the kind you eat. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Friday, we launched the latest version of our CityVoter platform. This is the product that pulls together 7 years of development experience into one. It is part directory, part review site, part “best of” city guide, and part local deal engine. In other words, it’s our best work yet. We’re continuing to push on improving the content quality, but here are some things that we are especially proud of:
1) This new homepage gives each city unique branding and streamlines user registration. This year, we’ve had some of our biggest unique voter totals ever (150,000 uniques in Seattle, 100,000 uniques in Sacramento, 80,000 uniques in Denver). This should make 2012 totals even bigger!
2) This new navigation that makes it easy to explore the city and browse “best of” lists. Each of our cities now boast thousands user-generated local listings so we needed to make it easier for users to see all the great content — not just our “best of” lists
3) Our integrated local deal engine helps voters find exclusive deals in their city and discover new experiences at the most popular local businesses. We’ve been sourcing and selling local deals for the past year. This success has led to us to start emailing deals to our millions of email subscribers. This product is now integrated into our platform for partners who want it.
4) There are lots of great new features like photo slideshows to keep site visitors engaged longer and voter leaderboards to showcase the voters who know their city best. We have more than 500,000 photos in our directory. We wanted to let users browse pictures of the best businesses in their city and encourage business owners to update their profiles with even better photos.
As a local business owner, do you look at these daily deal sites, see your local competitors running outrageous deals and wonder to yourself, “why do they do it?”
You can’t imagine discounting your products and services like that.
You never would.
That’s fair, but consider this Adweek article about how many of the most protective consumer brands (Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, etc.) battle with the same Internet marketing challenges you do. They worry about blogs, Twitter, eBay, Facebook hurting their business as much as you worry about Yelp or Groupon hurting yours. They’re fighting desperately to control brand and price just like you. Look at these two images below. One is from Derek Lam’s site, and the other is obviously eBay. Imagine your $1,800 handbag showing up on a farm fence post displayed on eBay?
A daily deal promotion does not need to feel like a farm post. Let’s see what lessons can you take from some of the smartest brands in the world.
1) Luxury brands have started out carefully. The article shows a great example of how Burberry back in 2009 created a photo sharing site, but moved cautiously, first with professional photographers then opening it up to the public (and even then maintaining some editorial control).
What does this mean to you: You too can start out slowly. Forget what the daily deal sales person is telling you. There is so much competition in the daily deal space, you don’t have to give away steep margins and creative control to participate. You should choose a vendor that uses professional photography and will let you approve how the promotion is written. You should ask the daily deal site to segment their mailing list and give you visibility into what kind of consumer is getting your email offer before they send it. You should absolutely negotiate on margin and limit the number of offers you sell so you can test results.
2) They’ve worked hard to maintain the sense of exclusivity. This article gives you a great example of Oscar de la Renta building a website with the concept of a backstage pass to make consumers feel special.
What does this mean to you: You don’t need to call your promotion a deal. Think of this more as crafting a unique experience for your favorite customers. Many of the daily deal sites now have things like travel escapes, tastings, adventures, tour like bundles so they will have opportunities to package up unique local experiences. Work with your sales person to explore ways you can work creatively with other merchants in town to package a showcase of your business that feels more in line with your brand. Look at Gilt City, LivingSocial, and Zozi as brands doing a good job of this.
3) They are reaching bigger audiences. Derek Lam knew eBay could help his brand reach millions of new consumers, but these customers wouldn’t all be right for his high-end products. So he was careful about which products he promoted on eBay, but he didn’t ignore this audience.
What does this mean to you: Don’t avoid the promotion power of daily deal email lists. They can be the most effective way to put your business in front of millions of local consumers. The key is use select inventory. Control and limit your offering so that you showcase your business.
This economy has made it feel like we only buy what is on sale, but that’s not true. We will always buy things that make us feel unique and special. Daily deal sites can get you closer to thousands of local consumers without discounting what makes you special.