Category Archives: Deals

Shopping Malls as Local Rewards Targets? Starwood Partners with Spring

Shopping Malls get a lot of foot traffic, but other than some email and newsletter marketing, haven’t really had success parlaying their brand and their consumer loyalty to online marketing efforts.

Starwood Retail Partners is seeking to change that with the rollout of “Oh, So Simple Rewards” at the Chicago Ridge Mall. The launch will be followed by three additional markets by the end of 2015, and all 29 Starwood properties during 2016, reaching 3000 retailers locations and more than 100 million annual consumer visits. The rewards program is a partnership with Spring Rewards Network, which says its mission is to connect digital marketing efforts to in-store sales.

For consumers, the one-step signup process links an existing Visa, MasterCard, or personal American Express credit or debit card to an Oh, So Simple Rewards account. Members can connect as many of their cards to the account as they wish. They will then automatically earn credit for purchases made across the entire mall and receive real time notifications for cash back rewards. When the shopper spends $250 at Chicago Ridge Mall stores, they will automatically earn a $10 credit connected to the card(s) registered to their rewards account. Members can use their earned cash value at a retailer they choose.

At the Chicago Ridge Mall, the Rewards program will be promoted via kiosks, signage etc. In return, the malls receive a small percentage of spending and also incents its customers to return more regularly and spend more. (malls typically receive a percentage of gross receipts).

Groupon Joins Food Delivery Wars

Groupon today announced it would join the online food delivery space, acquiring Baltimore-based OrderUp, which has O&O and affiliated delivery service in 40 markets. Most of the markets are college towns, which is a strongpoint for food delivery.

As Crain’s Chicago Business reports, OrderUp — Uber for your Burrito — raised $7 million in 2014 from investors that included former Living Social CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy, who had been an archrival of Groupon. The service was founded in 2009 and has a strong orientation towards buying existing food delivery services, rebranding them and then reselling them as franchises.

Groupon’s move extends its relationships with restaurants and other food providers. It is consistent with its efforts to migrate these advertisers from occaisional deals into its “always on” marketplace, where it enjoys a well-rounded relationship based on the provision of offers, advertising, analytics, payments and Point of Sales.

It had been reported in April that Groupon was seeking to divest its Breadcrumb analytics, payments and Point of Sales business to a competitor such as Square. The acquisition of OrderUp could be less synergistic if Breadcrumb was actually divested.

With the OrderUp acquisition, Groupon will compete against other, more established food delivery companies, including Grubhub/Seamless, Yelp’s Eat24 and Delivery.com. Rather than focusing on winning market share against these players, it seems more likely that Groupon will initially seek incremental sales that support its broader initiatives.

Wanderful Bets on Mobile ‘Cash Dash’

Wanderful Media, the newspaper-owned promotions company, has expanded on its original Find&Save coupon portal, which now includes 500 national and regional merchants, and 18,000 brands. The new expansion efforts are focused on Cash Dash, a geolocation promotions feature found within the Find&Save Apps, and Coffee Table, an iPad-oriented retailer catalog that it acquired at the end of 2014.

The big bet is on expanding Cash Dash, which puts Wanderful’s network – which not only includes Wanderful’s newspaper owners, but also key Yellow Pages and others — into the world of incentive promotions. The original version sent promotions to shoppers while they are at retail stores and presumably, in a shopping context. A typical offer might be “Spend $15 at Walgreens, get $5 back from Find&Save.”

These aren’t real time, card-linked offers, which would provide real time feedback; more comprehensive buying information; and ties with financial institutions. In the interest of simplicity, no credit card is used. Instead, consumers snap a picture of their receipt to validate (and track) their spending on a personalized basis. The new improved version adds additional capabilities designed to add shopper frequency and spending, including a “Cash Cart” that lets shoppers select items from a weekly circular ad to create their own cash back offers.

All of the efforts require consumers to get comfortable taking photos of their receipts, and to remember to do so — something that Wanderful execs say has not been an issue.

Speaking about Cash Dash at BIA/Kelsey’s NATIONAL event in March, Dallas Morning News SVP of Business Development and Niche Products Grant Moise noted that major retailers wanted a one stop mobile promotions solution. “It has driven up to $100,000 in sales for some advertisers,” he said at that time.

Signpost Raises $20.5 Million to Provide CRM-Based SMB Services


Signpost announced today it has raised a new $20.5 Million round, which will let it build out an evolved, CRM-based “close the loop” strategy of tracking SMB digital sources via transactions, social media, websites and email.

The current round has been led by led by Georgian Partners along with Spark Capital, OpenView Venture Partners, Scout Ventures and Jason Calacanis’ Launch Fund. The company has raised $36.5 Million since its founding in mid-2010. Earlier funders included Google Ventures.

Signpost’s evolution has been a dramatic one, fully reflecting the changes in local online marketing. The company launched as a provider of sales agents for local SMB deals, then evolved into an SMB-oriented SAAS company with offices in New York, Austin and Denver. In its case, deals gave way to a broad range of marketing services, including analytics, marketing automation, loyalty marketing, referrals and review acquistion.

The company now serves over 10,000 customers, and says it is eyeing a large customer set of six million very small businesses with 2-10 employees. Most of these have not previously had access to CRM and are unlikely to subscribe to pricey CRM tools such as Salesforce.

The inclusion of financial transaction information provided by a third party is something that is increasingly being added to marketing services. Google, ForwardLine and others similarly incorporate financial transaction information.


BIA/Kelsey Managing Director Rick Ducey, Signpost’s Ryan Sommer and Peter Krasilovsky play “Chinese style.”

FiveStars Links Growth to Big Data Analytics; Projects 8,000 + SMB Customers by Year-End

FiveStars, the well-funded SMB loyalty company that competes against Belly, SpotOn and others, is projecting it will grow its merchant base to 8,000-9,000 businesses by year-end, up from its current base of 6,000 customers. Customers who subscribe to FiveStars premium service pay as much as $200 a month. The San Francisco-based company has received over $45 million in funding.

Growth Manager Brian Lee, in a Webinar discussion with Radius Product Manager John Hurley, said the company is now positioned for rapid growth. Radius’ big data analytics helps it better understand its sales prospects and vertical segments, and manage its sales team.

Specifically, the company has grown increasingly confident in growing its sales team, which consists of 35 inside reps and 50 outside reps. “We had been stuck in neutral” with 15-20 reps for a long time,” notes Lee, who likes to call himself a “revenue hacker.” “But we asked ourselves: ‘Where can we grow as a team?’ Half the battle has been figuring out the addressable market,” he adds– something that Radius has helped with. “We are now ready to grow and talk to customers.”

Lee adds that it hasn’t been a matter of simply adding 20 sales people. “This isn’t a product you can (sell by reading) from a script. Every rep we bring on represents ‘X’ percentage of revenue. It is a very refined model that takes in both the performance of reps and the performance of leads. We look at what leads (the reps) are getting. And how are verticals performing.”

Groupon Re-thinks its Ambitious SMB Platform

Groupon is apparently thinking hard about dismantling its ambitious SMB platform, and refocusing on its core strengths in daily deals, goods and travel. Reports have come out saying that Groupon is offering to sell its Breadcrumb POS platform, which had been rebranded as Gnome; and also sell its interest in Serviz, a Local On Demand Economy home services company that has been developed as ClubLocal by former ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon. Groupon has also been in talks to cash in on T-Mon, the South Korean ecommerce service that it bought last year from Living Social for $260 Million, but could now been seen as a cash cow that could allow Groupon to invest in other areas.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks that the Breadcrumb part of Gnome could fetch $100 million, and that Groupon’s stake in Serviz could be worth $30 million. T-Mon, which is seen as an ecommerce winner in Asia, could ultimately get as much as $800 million. Groupon’s apparent decision to explore the sale of Gnome is the most interesting to us. A report in Re-Code said that executives casually offered to sell at least a portion of it to Square.

In developing Gnome, which has been built on top of its June 2012 purchase of Breadcrumb, Groupon assessed its widespread, international merchant base and concluded it could reinforce and upsell that base and position itself as a global ecommerce giant. It would do so via a compelling package of highly discounted point of sales devices, payment services merchant analytics and strategically targeted offers to customers.

The investment in Serviz – which gave the greenlight to Gordon’s team to continue developing a service that was not going to go further at ReachLocal – was also seen as strategic as Groupon looked for more and more ways to connect and broaden the local marketplaces. Coincidentallly, it looks like Groupon is giving up on having a piece of the home services market just as Amazon and Google are diving in.

Is Groupon giving up too early? We’ve been impressed with the capabilities of the Gnome platform and the strategic vision behind it. The Serviz product is also impressive, although perhaps too rarified for Groupon, as it aims for higher ticket repairs and services. And separately, T-Mon is going to require enormous investments to grow and maintain its market share in a business that has come to not only include deals but also ecommerce, fashion and services.

The bottom line here, however, is that Groupon may have concluded that its merchant base sees it as a 3rd, 4th or 5th choice for this kind of activity – rather than as a substitute for blue chip and diverse players such as American Express, VeriFone, First Data and Salesforce . While Groupon can always work to keep repositioning itself, it currently seems most secure as a provider of discounted goods and deals that it continues to mold into an always on marketplace.

Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein: ‘Let’s Call Them Card-Linked Services, Not Offers’

thanx

The BIA/Kelsey “Status and Review of Card-Linked Offers, 2015” report, which is based on in-depth interviews with industry leaders, has generated a lot of interest among the various shareholders of card-linked offers and non-advertising marketing solutions (including financial institutions, tech vendors and publishers).

We’re especially interested in the feedback from Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein, who tells us he’d like to see the Card Linked Offer space rebranded as “Card-Linked Services.” The main reason? “There is a lot of value that can be delivered to a consumer by linking their card without receiving and fulfilling an offer,” he says. “In our case, for instance, easier reward accrual for loyalty programs.”

In Goldstein’s view, the report — which is bullish on momentum in the card-linked offer space — could be even more bullish. He’s seeing conversion rates for Thanx campaigns ranging from 22 percent into the low-30 percent range. This is well above the 3 percent to 12 percent conversion rates that we cited as the norm.

Goldstein also takes issue with the report’s conclusion that cashback is the preferred reward type — something that is widely assumed by the financial institutions and related ecosystem, but sometimes disputed by players that focus more on loyalty.

“Many of our merchants would rather sacrifice margin than top-line revenue,” he says. “We actually see far more businesses who like to use card-linked for the ‘accrual’ portion of the experience (tracking spending to qualify) but redeem rewards through a more traditional channel or through mobile.” For more of Goldstein’s views on card linking, click here.

The CardLinx Association, which partnered with us on the report, is going deep on card-linked offers with a great lineup of speakers in New York April 28. We hope to see you there.