Tag Archives: Michael Tavani

Scoutmob: Adding Loyalty and other ‘Non Push’ Tools to the Deals Mix

Scoutmob, the Atlanta-based, mobile deals provider, has been taking a fresh approach to the deals space since its launch. It has focused entirely on mobile to leverage geo-location; changed the business model from commissions on deal value to flat fee; and hired dedicated sales and editorial people in each of its 13 markets instead of relying on centralized resources.

The company’s s innovative efforts continue. It recently rolled out Shoppe, an Etsy-like arts feature that lets local artists sell their goods. Over the next couple of weeks, it is unveiling its next moves, including a pilot test of the First Data/CardSpring “OfferWise” loyalty program; and integration with Google Lab’s Field Trip.

The entire deals space – including Scoutmob — suffered a major slow down in growth in 2012 after some slowness in 2011, suggests co-founder Michael Tavani. Hence, a strategic decision instead to stay put where it was, rather than add new markets, and focus on new distribution methods, new revenue streams and features.

Next week, the company will, for instance, roll out the Offer Wise pilot program in Atlanta with a limited number of merchants and consumers. The program, dubbed “Local Loyalty,” lets users receive loyalty points every time they check out of a participating merchants with an acqusition.

The points accumulate network-wide, instead of being limited to individual merchants. Users typically receive a reward on the 10th checkout. Merchants will pay a small monthly fee per redemption, and are being solicited via their affiliation with First Data, the processing giant which handles over 50 percent of U.S. transactions.

The company’s other major initiative is an integration with Google’s FieldTrip, an Android-only App (at this point) which reveals things to do on a mobile maps as users go by them. FieldTrip, which was developed by Google Maps leader John Hanke as an independent effort, launched last October.

Tavani says that inclusion on Field Trip is part of a broader effort to get beyond the “push” of email offers, and compensate for any email fatigue that is impacting the industry.

“This is the next phase of push,” says Tavani. “There is a ton of value in the discovery part of it.” Non-push efforts such as personalization really haven’t had much of an impact for Groupon and others yet, he suggests (although Groupon says it has been able to boost yield by 50 percent with such efforts.) While a certain number of Scoutmob users may be personalizing their mobile app, it is hard to tell how many are doing that.

ScoutMob Raises $3.25 Million; Partners with First Data

ScoutMob, the two-and-a-half years old, mobile-centric deals company, has landed a new $3.25 Million round to develop its technology base and add more markets. It is currently in 13 cities and has over one million subscribers. The company, which had previously raised $1.2 Million, also announced a partnership with First Data and will work to implement its payments technologies, which serve over 50 percent of U.S. retail establishments.

Investors include AOL Ventures, Capitol Broadcasting (which has been very aggressive online), Cox Enterprises, Inc., Ben Lerer of Thrillist, and New Atlantic Ventures. At this point, these are purely investments and do not imply integration into Capitol, AOL,Thrillist and various Cox properties, which include newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, cable systems, Kudzu and AutoTrader.

The company stands out from the pack in many ways. Mobile is becoming more important in deals – Groupon says that 40 percent of its deals are now viewed on mobile devices – but ScoutMob also leverages the geo-location technology found in mobile phones to “check in” when deals are redeemed. With this capability, it has built a merchant- friendly model charging a flat fee for leads of $3 or $4 per lead, instead of taking commissions, which may be 30-50 percent of voucher prices

Co-Founder Michael Tavani tells us that that he sees the ad hoc investment group as “pretty good validation of the media and payment space. We’ve always considered ourselves a mobile media company, but payment is the future of this space in a lot of ways.”

Tavani says the deal with First Data is not exclusive – “no payment solution gets you all the way there,” he says. But ScoutMob intends to build on top of First Data’s payment products, including the new First Data/CardSpring collaboration on an API that would enable merchants to easily add promotions and rewards to cards with a single swipe.

Some of the more advanced concepts implicit in that technology, however, may be “3-5 years away,” however, Tavani says. Within 60 days, ScoutMob hopes to add more immediate capabilities, including a “post-payment personalization network” that would enable rewards points for meals or miles for every purchase made within the network, he says.

Tavani also chides industry investors who are primarily West Coast based – his investors are East Coast based. “They refuse to believe that local scales,” he says. “They want to see tens of millions (users) and this isn’t tens of millions. But local decisions are made impulsively,” adds Tavani. “And having just 13 cities lets us be super-curated at the local level. We literally have an editor in each market. Building a brand is the big thing for us.”