Category Archives: Coupons/Promotions

Booker Software Raises $35 Million; CEO Josh McCarter Talks to BIA/Kelsey

Booker Software announced today that it has raised $35 Million, which it will use to invest in sales and marketing capabilities and in developing vertical-specific products that “drive more value to merchants,” said CEO Josh McCarter, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey.

McCarter noted that 9,000 locations are under contract and over 60,000 business users. These are users who are “logging in every day. They are not just signing on once a month” to create a promotion or similar feature. They use Booker’s services as an integral part of their business.

Next steps for the company will further leverage all the trends impacting services-based SMB marketing, including CRM; retention marketing; Point of Sales services; scheduling; and mobile apps via a partnership with Como.

“Last year, we refocused on things that help you grow and operate more efficiently,” said McCarter, noting that the company rebranded from Gramercy One to specifically focus on the SMB space, which now accounts for 80 percent of its revenue. “The data that Booker can aggregate really powers the growth engine,” he said. Services such as email and CRM are only as powerful as the data they can use.

While spas and salons continue to account for a significant portion of the company’s business (dating to its origins as SpaFinder), a number of verticals hold great promise, said McCarter. Pet services, daycare and after-school services (music lessons, art lessons) are doing “very well.” Another area of growth is a JV with The Golf Channel that enables customers to book tee times and other services.

The new round of funding is on top of $40 million previously raised. Several mid-sized funders that specialize in SMB services were included in the round, including Signal Peak (InfusionSoft) and Jump Capital (Swift Pages). The round was led by Medina Capital, a cloud infrastructure specialist.

Other investors included Revolution (Steve Case and Ted Leonsis), Bain Capital, TDF Ventures and Grotech Ventures. In addition, a “strategic investment” was made by First Data, the payment processing giant, who will be announcing details of its relationship with Booker in coming months.

McCarter noted that each investor brings a unique appreciation of Booker’s goals in serving the SMB community, which has been “underserved” by larger VCs, which McCarter called “SMB-averse.” But there is a definite need for SMB services, which focus less on return policies or other ecommerce issues. They are more about everything that a business needs, from scheduling services to POS innovation to equipment rentals. It is a $2.4 trillion space, he argued.

Booker Software CEO Josh McCarter

New BIA/Kelsey Report Shows Momentum for Card-Linked Offers

BIA/Kelsey is out with my new paper on the status of card-linked offers, which is based on detailed discussions with 14 leaders of the card linking ecosystem, including credit card firms, tech vendors, payment processors, publishers and merchants. Most of the respondents are members of The CardLinx Association.

This week, I presented report highlights to The CardLinx Association’s Mobile Summit in San Mateo. Among the findings: universal agreement that card linking is seeing momentum among merchants; that some budgets for card-linked offers have begun to move from experimental to seven-figure spending; and that many key categories are participating, including Quick Service and Fast Casual restaurants, specialty retail and subscription services.

Challenges remain, however. Once seen in simple terms as a successor to the prepaid model pioneered by Groupon and Living Social, there have been some slow-downs in the business. As Coupons.com SVP Bruce Sattley noted at The CardLinx Summit, “There is not as much fervor among retailers as I would have thought a year ago.”

Clearly, the ultimate success of card-linked offers will be linked to better coordination among the various segments of the CLO ecosystem; the development of a constant stream of attractive offers; greater awareness of CLOs; the elimination of structural sales blockages; and the development of industry standards for card-linked transactions.

More information about the report, including purchase information, may be accessed here.

Yelp Buys Eat24, Taking Online Delivery In House

Yelp is acquiring Eat24, the online delivery and pickup service that competes with GrubHub, Delivery.com and other national and regional players for order-taking, food search and discovery. The service is being acquired for the equivalent of $134 million ($75 million in cash and 1.4 million Class A shares).

Eat24 currently provides menus, order=taking and tracking services for more than 20,000 restaurants in 1,500 cities – 10,000 fewer than GrubHub. Like GrubHub, its revenue model is based on commissions (industry standards are typically 10-12 percent per order.) The service is free to the consumer, although restaurants can charge their own delivery fees.

The service is largely dependent on customer pick up at restaurant locations, but delivery is becoming a larger factor. In several California cities, for instance, Eat24 will soon be providing delivery via SideCar, the shared-car service.

Founded in 2008, Eat24 has been integrated with Yelp’s mobile app since 2013. By bringing Eat24 in-house, Yelp can strengthen its platform of services, which have grown beyond advertising and now includes scheduling, reservations/booking and offers. Yelp reports that it has over 93,000 active local accounts.

While Eat24 currently lags behind GrubHub, online delivery is still a nascent category. Moreover, it is ripe for cross-over activity with other food-related segments, including rating/reviews (i.e Yelp and Zomato, which just acquired IAC’s UrbanSpoon); online reservations (i.e. Priceline’ s OpenTable); and eventually even grocery delivery (i.e. Amazon, WalMart and Google.)

Uber Tests 10 Minute Delivery Service

The big online retailers such as Amazon, eBay, Groupon and WalMart have been focusing on developing same day delivery channels. Same day delivery is an effort that that may not only boost their edge over other retailers, but also add new anchor channels such as groceries, and also boost impulse sales.

We’ve also seen other players experiment with delivery. The San Diego Union Tribune, for instance, has tested delivery of coffee beans with the morning newspaper. Newspapers have been also a channel for free CPG samples with Sunday newspapers for years.

Now along comes Uber, in the midst of an ocean of bad publicity. It is testing a 10 minute delivery program called Uber Essentials, which is an evolution of an earlier Uber delivery test. The program allows under- utilized drivers to drop off key items from Flu medicine to toothpaste to birth control. The items are roughly the same price as local stores. As with Uber car service, items(and tips) are automatically charged to Uber accounts. One possible hangup: Customers must meet their Uber driver on the street. They also cannot deliver alcohol.

The program is being launched with a free order up to $20, has a tie-in with a free sample of Dunkin Donuts packaged coffee – illustrating a potential advertising opportunity.

The BIA/Kelsey/CardLinx Survey: Momentum For Card Linked Offers

Will card-linked offers supplement coupons and advertising for national and local merchants and services? Will financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies take advantage of their access to card data to become major players in ecommerce and media as well? And will cash back remain the primary driver of the card-linked offer space?

These are some of the key questions we asked in an anonymized survey we have just completed with members of The CardLinx Association, whose roster include such companies as Microsoft, Facebook, Bank of America, MasterCard, American Express, First Data, Cardlytics, Living Social, Deem and Linkable. Some non-members also participated in the survey, which had 14 respondents in total.

One key finding: this space appears to have momentum. While some startup publishers have ceased their operations, others have dug in. And more merchants and consumers are participating in card-linked offers than last year. Respondents also noted that card-linked offers have gone from representing “experimental” marketing budgets to – in some cases — seven figure contracts.

Survey results will have their public debut at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media Conference Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. The session also includes interviews with CardLinx Association CEO Silvio Tavares and Cardlytics CMO Kasey Byrne.

First Data Adds Beacon Technology to its Perka Loyalty Solution

First Data, the payment processing giant, has been building up a suite of services that would take the company far beyond payment processing and inject it squarely in the middle of SMB marketing.

The suite as currently configured includes the Clover Point of Sales system; Insightics analytics of transactions; Gyft virtual gift card services; and Perka, a sophisticated loyalty program for SMBs. Each of the services works independently, but are also increasingly integrated as well.

Perka was purchased by First Data roughly one year ago; in tandem with First Data’ purchase of Clover. Competing with Belly, Five Stars, SpotOn and other loyalty services, Perka now has over 1,000 merchants, and has recently increased its monthly fee for new customers from $50 to $59.99.

Co-founder Rob Bethge recently talked with BIA/Kelsey about the service’s progress under First Data – a sale which Bethge says has given it a chance to scale on a global basis– technologically and commercially – much faster than if it had been a standalone company.

Bethge says the company is just now “commercializing” with First Data’s various channels, including the use of up to 1,700 First Data sales reps of various stripes reaching out to SMBs. The service’s latest feature is the addition of proprietary wireless Beacon technology with rolling security codes, which will be provided for free to subscribers. The technology, which requires consumer opt-in, allows stores to know precisely who is in their store at any time – a favorite merchant feature, says Bethge.

Among other things, stores could theoretically craft special promotions based on this knowledge. The service, which is Bluetooth enabled, also allows easy transactions when consumers hands are full (i.e. if they are carrying a baby or a cup of coffee).

Theoretically, using the Beacon, consumers can turn on the feature for the morning at some stores, and then turn it on for other stores in the evening. The Beacon technology also enables individual merchant apps, in addition to Web access. “It allows for very location oriented offers,” Bethge says.

Interestingly, Bethge says the Beacon service would not have had an impact when Perka was first introduced in 2011. At that time, “less than half of locations had WiFi. Now it is not even a question.”

Gannett’s Key Ring: Integrating Circulars With Loyalty Programs


Gannett’s acquisition of Key Ring two years ago was something of a head shaker. Was the media giant diving into online loyalty marketing, an area mostly dominated by financial institution-related companies? Two years later, more light has been shed on the Key Ring acquisition.

Key Ring is a mobile app that lets consumers electronically enter their loyalty card in in one digital location. In this regard, it is like Constant Contact’s CardStar. What we’ve learned is that Gannett is using the App to drive targeted traffic to its big box and retail circular advertisers from ShopLocal, the sister G/O Digital brand.

CEO Chris Fagan tells us Key Ring, which has 15 full time employees, now provides circular content from 160 retailers. Of these, 90 are providing exclusive content via ShopLocal. Offers can be triggered on user cell phones by geo location or via in-store beacons. You might access “Here is what is on sale at Target” for instance. Consumers can use it to explore and discover what is nearby.

The ShopLocal ties makes it possible to scale all the merchant and brand relationships without having to deal with each merchant and brand – a major barrier for other companies, says Fagan. The app also incorporates 65,000 coupons a month from Clipper Magazine.

What Key Ring really brings to the table is enormous scale. Fagan says the App has a surprisingly high 11.1 million customers. Active users may access it five or six times a month, with the more steady users not only accessing circular content, but the site’s shopping lists. These consumers have really high retention and recurring usage, says Fagan.

Interestingly, the majority of the customers are driven organically by good consumer press and other sources, he says. For instance, the comapny recently got a good mention in Good Housekeeping Magazine that really drove usage. Gannett’s cross media ads in USA Today and on its TV stations have been helpful, but not especially critical.