Center’d, the local/social events and city guide site, has consistently reported growing traffic. But in its three-year existence, the site has never really found a niche that would set it apart from the competition.
The site, however, has kept on hammering away at local/social trends, with a strong emphasis on sentiment analysis and local mapping — no surprise, given that its leadership comprises CTO Chandu Thota, the former Microsoft Virtual Earth leader, and CEO Jennifer Dulski, the former head of Yahoo Marketplaces.
Now, the success of Groupon and other deal-a-day sites has apparently led the site’s executives to an epiphany: One of the next waves of local is likely to be deal aggregation — a path already taken by such sites as 8Coupons.com and Localofferlounge.com (and before that, by Judy’s Book). Research conducted by the company showed the power of the deal. Indeed, 80 percent of those surveyed said they feel “exhilarated” by finding a good deal.
Dulski previewed concepts behind The Deal Map at our Marketplaces 2010 conference in March –see Mike Boland’s post here — and the site went live yesterday. The Deal Map aggregates the whole gamut of socially driven deals and information, which include coupons, sales notifications, frequent flier type points, sweepstakes, new product information, events and recipes.
The goal, says Dulski, is to finally move deals beyond the silos of mail, TV and newspapers, store windows and e-mails. All are better served by a true cross-digital platform that might include the Web, mobile, social media, aggregated e-mails and APIs.
Dulski’s expectation is that a certain portion of the deals themselves may be sent in by users, some of whom will be motivated to contribute sites and reviews by cash incentives for super-frequent users. But other offers will be grabbed from a wide range of sources, including large, national deal providers; deal-a-day providers; and extracted from e-mail newsletters, social media and other sources. A larger portion of the deals will eventually be driven from the social efforts than from coupon feeds, says Dulski. The site will also have several revenue streams, including revenue sharing with the deal-a-day sites.
Dulski makes a case for the Deal Map’s uniqueness by noting it is the only site that mixes “location,” “price” and “sentiment” (i.e., how people feel about a product or location). On the map, locations of deals are clearly coded by one of 10 category icons (restaurants; health & beauty; shopping; events & attractions; hotels; food & drugs; automotive; Services; Home & Garden; and medical. The intensity of deal areas is also indicated by a heat map.
It all looks great and is very easy to use, compared with other maps we’ve recently played with where everything tends to bunch up too much. It will be even better in future iterations when users can set up personalized categories.
While The Deal Map is billed as a a project that is both separately branded from Center’d, and integrated within it, it seems realistic to think that it becomes Center’d’s primary purpose now, just as Living Social’s Daily Deal is its primary purpose, not its Virtual Bookshelf. The space is going to be big, and the people at Center’d seem poised to ride with it.