Constant Contact Opens SaveLocal to Public

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Constant Contact has opened its social promotions play SaveLocal to the public after three months in a customer-only beta. The rollout is the next step in what has been a coordinated push by the company to position itself as a full-service marketing service for small merchants – a vision shared by big players like eBay and Intuit as well as a handful of emerging startups.

Much of the product development has been fueled by a series of acquisitions over the past six months. The company snapped up CardStar and Mob Manager in January and last week spent over $65 million in cash on business information play SinglePlatform.

SaveLocal is a major benefactor of these acquisitions (particularly Mob Manager). The service enables small businesses to create and distribute promotions to their existing customer base via email, Facebook, or Twitter, and incentivizes those existing customers to share with friends through additional discounts. Constant Contact then takes a one-, two-, or three-dollar cut for each customer that redeems an offer, depending on the price of the promotion.

The model shares some of the key features that have become a staple of the merchant-focused offer plays that emerged as a response to the pure-play daily deal companies — namely, a focus on a lower yield and self-service campaigns for a smaller commission. However, the use of a businesses customer graph, rather than demographic indicators or proximity, as a vehicle for targeting new leads is a notable paradigm shift, and indicative of the integrated approach gaining steam in the local marketing space.

“The opportunity to go from deals into loyalty and tract that full customer lifecycle is really strong,” Dave Gilbertson, VP and GM of SaveLocal, said about the company’s recent M&A activity. “And now with SinglePlatform, by enabling SMBs to get found on directories and review sites and having such strong pub relationships, you can kind of see a lot of the intersection there between SaveLocal and the rest of Constant Contact product suite.”

The next step for the company will inevitably be payments. Intuit, which pressed aggressively into the local marketing space with two big acquisitions in April, took a big step towards connected payments when it merging its Square competitor Go Payment with its existing point of sale solution earlier this month.

While Gilbertson said that managing payments was not “something that [Constant Contact] needs to own,” he did stress that connecting their marketing products with the point-of-sale was a high priority for the company. “Getting that ability to close the loop on redemption and payments is pretty critical to the value proposition for constant contact as a whole not just save local,” he explained.

If the big players like Intuit, eBay, and Constant Contact continue to push forward, the local market space could see some consolidation, and a few more sizable exits before things level out.

Steven Jacobs is deputy editor at Street Fight.