Many small businesses have dabbled in online coupon deals — such as those offered by Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon Local — with varying degrees of success. Marketing your business via these websites can have obvious perks, as well as some unintended consequences, including devaluing your brand.
The good news is that you don’t have to offer rock-bottom prices to see an uptick in business from online promotion. There are plenty of alternative lifestyle sites that emphasize the experience your business offers as opposed to simply a deal. The users of these sites are looking for what to do and what to buy in their cities, not just a limited time offer on something they might not go back again and buy at full price.
Here are three lifestyle sites (with corresponding mobile apps) that could give you just the boost you need.
1. Gilt City — Part of the global fashion brand Gilt Groupe, Gilt City provides high-end local experiences for users in
13 U.S. cities. Although members do receive discounts, they tend to shop for specific goods and services rather than bargains, according to Claire Herr, who curates promotions for Gilt City San Francisco.
Herr emphasizes that Gilt City is not a deal site; it’s a high-end marketing platform. “We have 300,000 members who are educated and 65 percent female,” Herr says. Rather than discounts, Gilt City offers “added values,” such as a four-course dinner with wine rather than just “35 percent off” dinner.
“They were awesome,” says Sarah Schulz, owner of Schulzies Bread Pudding in San Francisco. “The staff and the team are really personable. They honestly rob you blind, but I felt the benefits right away. With Gilt, you get more upscale clientele. With Groupon it was more people looking for a deal who didn’t come back when it was over. I was trying to craft a brand, and Gilt helped with that.”
Herr recommends aligning your brand with other businesses Gilt already features. Partners pay based a revenue share rather than a flat, upfront rate. Once the promotion is over, Gilt will pay your business your cut.
2. Sosh — Not interested in offering your goods or services at a discount? Sosh may be the marketing opportunity for you. Instead of featuring specials or deals, Sosh promotes businesses that its curators believe enhance the experience of living in a particular locale. Sosh started in San Francisco, just released a New York version, and plans to add five more cities, including Seattle, in 2014.
“We have the theory that people will pay full price for something they love,” says Sarah Loaiza, marketing manager for San Francisco and Seattle. Sosh’s site even features free activities, such as hikes and yoga classes.
Loaiza suggests offering up your small business or venue via its local submissions page, noting any upcoming special events. You should have a clear point of contact and submit professional photos because strong visuals drive Sosh’s online layout. There’s no charge to submit your business or upcoming event on Sosh.
“We are seeing a lot of interest in special events amongst our users … and as a result are exploring partnerships with local businesses that are interested in partnering up on one-time events,” Loaiza says.
3. Scoutmob — A hybrid discount site-social lifestyle site, Scoutmob users can shop for independent and artisanal goods from local and national vendors. Based in Atlanta, Scoutmob has a homegrown Etsy-esque feel. Local versions of its app are available in 13 cities, including Chicago, Denver, and Portland, Ore.
Scoutmob features mobile deals, local one-off events, and ongoing experiences in each city. While Scoutmob emphasizes local artisans and shopping, it’s marketplace sells products from all across the country and its vendors will ship anywhere in the country. As long as your business can offer anywhere from 50 to 250 units of a product, Scoutmob will keep it on its site and cover shipping costs to customers.
Jere Dean runs an apparel company with silk screen design prints called Urban Octopus in San Diego which Jere sells on ScoutMob.
“I’ve only been on ScoutMob for about a month now, but the experience
has been really good so far and sales keep coming in. It’s nice to have a presence within their community which opens the door for new customers,” Jere says. “They have a great system of keeping me aware of new orders coming, which makes it easy for me to ship them.”
While it’s free to initially list your business on ScoutMob, it does take a percentage of your revenue. To feature your business on Scoutmob, apply here.