The friendly folks behind unassuming local-semantic search site Center’d have just launched what is probably the definitive local deal site on the Internet, The Dealmap. I wrote about it in a preliminary way in March after a brief discussion with Center’d CEO Jennifer Dulski.
Now there’s more detail out and the site has gone live.
Here are some quick facts gleaned from the press release:
- The DealMap is available in the US and UK (the heatmap above indicates coverage areas)
- There are daily deal emails and deal alerts via Twitter in more than 20 cities (all the individual group buying sites are here, and Foursquare)
- Deals are coming from a wide range of sources: partner feeds, other coupon/deal sites, traditional media sites, directly from businesses and from users (there are game dynamics to promote the last of these)
- Dealmap will also launch an iPhone application (Android and RIM too)
There’s also an API, which means that other publishers and developers can access all this content as well. This is, essentially, CityGrid for deals.
The DealMap site is a destination but also a hub that sits in the center of a distribution network that includes a range of partners (which will undoubtedly grow quickly) and sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The DealMap aims to deliver deals content to users in whatever way or form they prefer to receive it: via search/browse functionality on the site itself, through Twitter or Facebook or via email. You can see deals on a map (hence the name) or in list form. Users can also browse by deal category (e.g., restaurants, shopping) or type (e.g., expires soon, 50% off, kid-friendly):
Beyond compiling all this content through crawling and business development, The DealMap is trying to capture “hard to find” deals — the kind that appear in a local store window but never get advertised anywhere else. They’re trying to get users and businesses to upload these directly (via mobile devices for example) and are employing “game dynamics” (like Foursquare) to create incentives to do so:
At certain point levels there will be tangible rewards for users, like a traditional loyalty program, redeemable for (what else) discount coupons and offers at restaurants and other local businesses.
Sites like Yipit are seeking to do a version of this by collecting the content of group buying sites and pushing aggregated offers via email. Search engine Ask has also tried to do something similar and comprehensive with its “Ask deals” site. However The DealMap combines both approaches and seeks to go further with the user-submitted deals information (a la the early days of RetailMeNot).
A subtle but important point is that users can search for local deals and find them. Typically there’s not enough content on any given site enable search and make it meaningful.
Users can click through to the originating site or source or see more information on a “deals profile” page on The DealMap:
The breadth of content and functionality on this site are impressive. Yet the API strategy may be what makes this site and turns The DealMap into the most valuable component of Center’d's business.
CEO Jennifer Dulski said that there were probably 100 sites that The DealMap was drawing upon, roughly 80% of which were some flavor of group buying sites. However use of The DealMap’s API could grow the number of sites (online and in mobile) that offer local deals in dramatic fashion. We’ll see how many local publishers jump on board.
The business model here is an affiliate revenue share. And coupons/deals is arguably the one area — even more than search marketing — where advertising is truly content, to use the online cliche.
Dulski and her team have created something in this site and strategy that should be enormously successful for all involved.
Two years ago I asked “Where Is the Coupon Destination?“:
From my point of view the deals/coupons segment is ripe for a next phase of development. There are numerous online competitors but, mysteriously, no one has really gotten it right. Part of the reason for that is that it’s challenging to get sufficient inventory to satisfy a broad range of consumer needs/use cases in a “search” context.
There’s also the forgetting to bring the coupons (mobile can help) and the stigma (for some) associated with using coupons.
Offline coupon clipping behavior is an interesting mix of both “search” and “discovery.” People actively look through circulars and newspaper/direct mail coupons. However they don’t necessarily know what they’ll find or what may be on sale. So there’s a bit of serendipity along with the directional behavior. I’m looking for coupons for things that I normally buy or that I need, but occasionally a coupon will prompt me to try something new or different.
I’m not sure that a pure search model or an “Oodle for coupons” is right. There’s some creative mix of community, search, discovery and content aggregation needed to make a coupon or deals destination work online. And the branding or value proposition shouldn’t be around “coupons,” which is too pedestrian.
Instead, branding should probably be around deals and discounts (for breadth). It should also start off small, like an insiders network. This is the way that Craigslist essentially began in San Francisco and built slowly over time.
With The DealMap I feel like that site has finally arrived.