If Priceline can ride its “name your price” model to a $22 billion market cap, can it work in the mobile local shopping market? That’s the question small start-up Spreezio is trying to answer with its shopping app MAKEaDeal, which came out of beta earlier this month and relaunched as a $2.99 iPhone app.
The app lets users set a radius, a product category and preferred discount and MAKEaDeal comes back with coupons from 85 retailers, mostly national brands including Macy’s, Target, Best Buy and Sears. The company boasts that during its 9-month online beta, consumers made one purchase for every 5.2 searches, something CEO and founder Todd Chipman attributes to the intent-driven buying habits of local shoppers. You probably haven’t heard of Spreezio, which has been bootstrapped by Chipman, but the company has some interesting ideas and has shown the ability to bring in a pretty impressive collection of national brand partners.
On the consumer side, MAKEaDeal works because of its simplicity. You just select a category you want to search and how much you think you should get discounted, and the service churns out relevant results based on your profile. Users can then take the limited-time coupon to a retailer and claim their discount. It’s not always exactly what you want, but there are often things a consumer is interested in buying. And results often feature prices at a steeper discount than requested. This isn’t necessarily good if you’re looking for one specific item. But it’s better than the waiting for random coupons and discount offers that may or may not be relevant to a user. It also doesn’t require a user to scan a product with their phone or check-in to a location. That too can help nail down a particular product but it doesn’t always mean retailers are offering competitive prices nearby. MAKEaDeal is helping create sales by empowering users to make their general shopping intent known and letting retailers complete the sale. Basically, it does what Priceline offers but for local deals.
For companies, MAKEaDeal is also appealing because it’s easy to input deals using an API that connects to Spreezio’s merchandizing engine. That’s one of the reasons the company has been able to sign up so many partners, said Chipman, because partners don’t have to do much to keep their offers fresh. And the app delivers them qualified leads and the potential to upsell them on a range of products. The app has also incorporated social features that allow users to share deals on Facebook and Twitter.
Chipman, who used to run services marketing at BEA Systems before it was acquired by Oracle, is on his third start-up. Though he’s bootstrapping the start-up so far, he’s managed to pull in talent like former Verizon Wireless Northern California President Rich Garwood, who serves as chief operating officer. Chipman said the company will get an Android app launched in a couple of months and is looking at expanding its offering to services not just products.
Spreezio still has a long was to go before it even sniffs Priceline success, especially considering the company is relatively unknown and is also a paid service. But I think there’s a place for a service like MAKEaDeal in helping facilitate local transactions. Competitors such as Groupon, ShopKick and ShopSavvy have staked out different area, solve specific problems for consumers and merchants. But MAKEaDeal is smart at mining opportunities in the market and doing the leg work to line up the right technology and partners. Now it has to prove that it can be as good a seller as its retail partners.
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