Signpost, a community-driven deal site seed funded by Google Ventures and Spark Capital, unveiled a platform Wednesday that CEO Stuart Wall describes as a "self-service" tool allowing local businesses to create and distribute prepaid coupon offers in real-time.
The Signpost Merchant Center allows companies to offer deals when sales are typically slow. Those that want to try out the service can do so for free through Feb. 24. Following the trial offer, the tool will cost half of what daily deal sites typically charge.
There are two options. For starters, if a restaurant uploads a mailing list to distribute a prepaid offer, Signpost takes 10% of the earned revenue. In the second, Signpost would market the deal and share it with affiliate partners for 30% of earnings.
Village Cuts is busy every day of the week except Monday, which gets expensive because the shop still must pay rent and employees. "It wouldn't make sense for them to run a daily deal because those customers would come in over six months and overwhelm them on days when they had full-paying customers," Wall says. "It does make sense for them to sell 20 haircuts every Monday at a 65% discount."
So, the barber shop in the West Village, New York published a campaign through Signpost Merchant Center where 20 people on Mondays get a deal. Businesses can promote the deal through email, tweets on Twitter, and posts on Facebook. Signpost also has agreements through a revenue-share deal with bloggers and deal aggregators.
Signpost initiates the initial setup. Businesses then log on to Signpost Merchant Center where they manage all deals through the self-serve platform. Consumers can access those deals either online or via a mobile phone through a Signpost app, which serves up coupons based on location technologies such as GPS and triangulation.
Wall says in time, deal sites will look for ways to tie coupon deals into organic search results, similar to the way Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines pull in real-time Twitter tweets. Some businesses already tie the deals to paid-search campaigns.
The viral spread of group coupons through email and social media made the recent phenomenon ubiquitous across most customer segments. Of the nearly 11 million monthly visits to Groupon, only a few hundred thousand come from search today. Of those referrals, a tiny fraction come from paid clicks, according to Horizon Media, citing stats from Compete.
Groupon has experienced a rise in use within the past year, from just less than 2 million unique visitors in December 2009 to 15.6 million in December 2010, according to Compete. The upward trend may have something to do with the release of their iPhone app, which made their deals more easily accessible to a wider base of customers.