Summary:

ChoozOn, a start-up co-founded by a trio of former Yahoo executives, is launching a social network built around shopping and personalized deals that works hard to bring brands and consumers together. It will face tough odds going up against Groupon, Facebook, Google and others.

ChoozOn Screen

Even as Facebook works to leverage its social network for commerce, it’s still primarily a personal network designed more for sharing photos than deals. That’s where ChoozOn, a new Bellevue, Wash. startup built by a trio of former Yahoo executives, comes in. The new social network is built around shopping and personalized deals and works hard to bring brands and consumers together, to their mutual benefit.

The service, which doesn’t go live until early summer, offers a familiar social networking platform, but built around identifying, sharing and receiving discounts, particularly from brands and retailers users have chosen to communicate with. On one level, it helps make sense of the onslaught of deals being thrown at consumers. Users can manage their various daily deal and discount services through ChoozOn, which picks out and highlights the ones most relevant to a user based on their tastes and preferences. Upcoming mobile apps for Android and iPhone will also highlight deals, particularly location-based ones nearby.

This alone is a help in managing the cascade of growing number of discounts being offered to consumers. But ChoozOn also allows users to manage their loyalty and reward memberships so they’re up to date on offers from companies they already have a relationship with. The most relevant deals are surfaced in a news feed as they come in, or are highlighted by ChoozOn. Consumers are also able to sign up for loyalty programs through ChoozOn.

But the real interesting work happens when users share their shopping preferences and the brands and retailers they like, and those brands are able to craft specific discounts for them. That allows brands to speak directly to their most loyal followers and keep them interested with deals that speak to them. Users are also able to use the search function on the site to pull up deals across the universe of offers, filtered by their relevance to the user. They’re can search ChoozOn for deals organized by verticals and categories. In some cases, the service pulls up deals only available to members of specific loyalty programs, but it gives users an easy way to sign up.

“We’re creating a whole new network where people can manage their deals, their affiliations with brands they like and loyalty programs they belong to and the subset of friends who are their shopping pals,” said co-founder and CEO Nick Weir. ” We felt there is a tremendous opportunity in the online marketplace for consumers and brands alike to create some type of way for everyone to communicate in a beneficial way.”

ChoozOn builds off the experience of its founders, who have a background in online marketing, data mining and search technology. Co-founders Weir, Usama Fayyad and Hunter Madsen all met at Yahoo, where they first hit upon the idea of giving users more power over their information and how they wield it to gain deals.

By creating a network expressly built for shopping, Weir thinks it has the potential to meet the needs of both consumers and brands. It also brings together like-minded people who can shop together and rally around certain brands or categories. Facebook already has pages for brands and is infusing more social features into shopping. But it’s still not as broadly constructed for deals and it’s not as focused on surfacing relevant discounts for users.

For all its shopping-specific features, ChoozOn will still need to achieve some type of scale to matter. That’s one of Facebook’s big advantages. It’s got 600 million users who make a great target for offers and deals. So far, ChoozOn has 300 merchants signed up, but will need many more if it’s to cover all the different brands people are attached to. It will have to ensure that service can surface relevant deals, especially ones that would have gone unnoticed. But I think there’s promise in something like ChoozOn. There’s room for more social networks that address specific needs and interests. And I think brands are looking to make their offers more meaningful and less commoditized in a way that benefits them, not just consumers. But with Facebook, Groupon, Google, and a gaggle of others looking to bring consumers, merchants and brands together, ChoozOn has its work cut out for it.

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