Eversave’s Doyle: Creating Deals That Aren’t ‘One-and-Done’

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Eversave, the third-largest online daily deals company in the U.S. (behind Groupon and LivingSocial), can trace its online deals business back over a decade, when its parent, Prospectiv, launched a service offering printable online coupons. The company’s daily deals service, which launched last year, runs offers in 17 different cities around the country, mixing local-specific deals with discounts on larger national brands aimed specifically at women.

Street Fight recently spoke with Eversave’s CEO Jere Doyle about how daily deals sites can avoid the “one-and-done” phenomenon that makes local merchants so wary and why mobile may not be as important for deals as we’ve been led to believe.

What was the genesis of Eversave?
Prospectiv owns Eversave, and Prospectiv has been in the customer-acquisition business for 11 years. I started the company in 1999 in the local space, but we shifted a year-and-a-half into the business model because we were too early and people weren’t going online to print local coupons. At the time, we weren’t charging to print the coupons — we just had printable coupons. So, we shifted in 2000 or 2001 from local to national and started working with national brands. So, for the last ten years we worked with big brands such as P&G, Heinz, General Mills, travel brands, retail brands — helping them acquire customers, driving people to their web properties to help do a transaction, or building landing pages for them and having them registered, and feeding them qualified leads. We’ve been doing that pretty successfully.

Then, a little more than a year ago I started looking at this local space and realized: “Wow, this is the venue!” You know, it’s not that different from what we do with the big brands. The biggest difference is, instead of filling out a landing page to get a coupon sent to you, you’re purchasing coupons. So, that’s obviously a big difference. But the ultimate objective of getting customers to go into stores, to go into restaurants, to go into a salon is not that different.

So we repositioned the model from ten years ago and launched Eversave last year using the technology we’d already built and mostly the experience we had with these big brands. Our business has always been focused on females 25-to-55 years old — affluent females, professional and soccer moms making more than $60,000. Half of them have children. So, it was pretty easy to roll that into the Eversave side.

What differentiates Eversave from the other major daily deals players?
With these big brands [that we have worked with in the past] we help onboard customers, and then we help turn those leads into paying customers. And for local, with Eversave, we’ve done the same thing, helping local businesses get these consumers to buy a “save” — we call our deals “saves” — then to come back in. And that’s where we use our technology (our email platform, our surveying capability) to stay in touch with those consumers over the 12 months after they bought and visited to make sure they come in and solve that one-and-done problem.

It first starts with the audience you’re getting: get the affluent audience — don’t get the deal seekers. Don’t get the young, low-income or middle-income deal seekers.  It starts by getting an affluent audience that’s looking for a deal but also looking for great places to shop, and is not worried about spending over the voucher amount. So, that’s the first thing.

Then the second part of the program is our “Eversave Extras,” which we launched in beta a couple of months ago, but now has been launched across the country. That’s where we’re rewarding our customers who come in and spend over the voucher amount by a certain amount of money, or we reward them for booking a follow-up appointment at a salon, or we reward them for a cross-sell. So, they come into a salon, they get their hair done, then they buy some shampoo and some conditioner and they spend a certain amount of money — we reward them.

So, it’s a nice loyalty program that is getting these consumers who are already affluent and don’t mind spending more, and getting them to set a goal to get a certain level of spending so that the merchant can actually make money on this transaction the very first time. Then we follow up with our retention program to get that consumer to come back in three months later.

Groupon is moving towards mobile deals with Groupon Now — is that part of your forward-looking strategy?
I think there’s a place for mobile. I mean, there’s an argument to be made that the mobile could be more about these “deal seekers.” It’s just somebody that goes on their phone, they are walking in downtown New York and they want to go to a place that’s at a discount. So, I think there is a place for it, but I think the bigger opportunity here is to market to an audience that you know is your audience. Make this a planned purchase where they buy it ahead of time and will come in two weeks from now; make sure you’ve got a program designed that’s going to make them spend over the deal amount.

I think that’s really the big part of this, so that you’re not having people come in and spend $25 if the voucher is $25.  I talk to merchants over and over again and they tell me the same thing which is: “I’ve got to get people to spend over the voucher amount.” I think that’s where Eversave has worked hard to develop a strategy to allow that to happen. I like mobile, but I don’t know if it’s going to be the be-all-end-all to it.

How do you leverage the national brand relationships that you’ve built up for local deals?
We’re local in 17 cities and we’re national in the other 40 cities we’re in. We did that because we have these relationships with these national businesses. We do find that these national businesses can — if they are good business, with good brands, and good offers — that those also work quite well in local cities as well. So, we mix and match in the local cities. I mean, the local cities are more local than they are national, but we definitely find our business has definitely prospered because of our relationship with some of these national brands.

How do you mix local and national advertising?
Well, we have two different sales forces; we have a products that appeal to the national, and products that appeal to the local. For the national guys, we’re not just doing the “saves.” We also have the lead generation product, and we have a Facebook fan-building product, so there’s a product suite that appeals to the national brands.

There’s an argument to be made that the mobile could be more about these “deal seekers.” … The bigger opportunity here is to market to an audience that you know is your audience.

Then you have the local brands which are more focused on a daily deal. We’re also starting to see local brands ask us: “Hey, can you help us build our email files as well?” or “Can you help us build our Facebook files?” So, you have some of those local. So, we divide the company into national and local. When you have a national business that says, “Okay, I want to be featured in these cities, but not in these cities,” it’s easy for us to do that.

Where do you see couponing technology, and Eversave particularly, heading in the next few years?
Right now we’re focused on this roll-out with the Eversave vouchers. That’s something we’ve really worked on these last three-to-six months, to really maximize that first-time visit. You know, that comes with our retention program. That’s clearly our differentiator right now.

We are working on a mobile platform. It’s going to have something a little different than that real-time mobile stuff that I think Groupon and LivingSocial are doing. I like the real-time, but I don’t think that fits into our niche which is to get valuable customers to walk into your store and then come back six months later. So, we’re probably going to have a different twist to the mobile than what they have, but that’s still in development.

Merchants have told us that there’s a growing fatigue towards deals and offers. Have you encountered any of that, and, if so, has it made sales more difficult?
I think local merchants, in general, are the target of all types of sales calls, whether it’s the Yellow Pages, the newspaper guys, the rotary clubs. I mean, they are easy to go call on because it’s a physical location. So, we are certainly hearing people say: “Wow, we get these calls all the time.” So, I think that’s why being different, offering something different, offering something very valuable is really important.

I think what you’ll find is that it’s going to be much tougher. This has been such an easy business to get into, but it’s been a hard business to scale. I think it is becoming, or has been becoming a more difficult business to get into for new companies. You’ve got to have something really valuable and really different that is going to solve the merchant’s biggest issue which is they want long-term customers.