ILM West: Next Directions in Deals Space

It’s obvious that the deals business is going to quickly move to a broader set of offerings. But how? That was the question posed today at ILM West in San Francisco.

Belo Interactive GM Joe Weir noted that deals remains a great space to be in. Demographics of Belo’s deals are dominated by college educated women with a lot of disposable income — deals users extend many missions for Belo, he noted.

But CBS Local Media President Ezra Kucharz said that deals need to change because merchants and consumers are fatigued. Email open rates are declining significantly. And merchants want a higher revenue share.

Kucharz’s solution is to provide a richer experience embracing SoLoMo (social local media) and segmenting deals differently. CBS is adding experiential deals that may be once in a lifetime experiences; aggregating deals; allowing consumer to rate and review deals.

Some things he would like to do, however, aren’t necessarily going to be easy. For instance, he might like to add more deals from big national brands, but “they are being tight with deals,” he says.

Experiential deals have also been embraced by Thrillist, a site that is geared towards young men, or “dudes,” as VP Mike Rothman call\s them. Thrillist has developed experiences such as micro brew pub beer crawls. But these are hard to scale from market to market; What works in New York doesn’t necessarily work in Detroit, says Rothman.

The most extreme position on deals was taken by Michael Tavani, co-founder, ScoutMob. The idea of “Daily deals make us cringe internally at the office,” he says. ScoutMob is a mobile service based entirely for on the go mobile users. Its customers have no idea where they are having dinner that night, and they don’t want to pay in advance for deals, he says.

The company, which considers itself a “reverse FourSquare,” takes $3 or $4 commissions for customers that it points to merchants. Instead of printing out deals, customers simply show the deal coupon on their phones to merchants.

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