This year has been revolutionary for the Internet. It’s growing popularity has given birth to a new trend - “social”. What started as IRC and bulletin boards has now been adopted by all online services. User contributed content is the king this year and according to this Times magazine article its impact will only grow in the years to come.
In addition online shopping has experienced very nice growth this year. Online spending during this holiday season are 25% up according to comScore. The growth has created an opportunity for new players to join the game thus growing the already long list of participants. Many of them are adopting social features.
Let’s go over some newcomers featuring social attributes and check what they are really worth. I used several factors for selection, among them are usability, functionality, innovation and design. Popularity often influences usability with social websites therefore let’s look at it first.
The only thing that is clear from this Alexa chart that Dealspl.us is leading the pack while Modoshi is far behind. The rest three websites are somewhere in between.
In an attempt to measure how many deals these websites have I did a search for “iPod” on each of them and counted number of entries posted within the last 30 days. Besides I attempted to measure how fresh the data is by looking up the latest deal. Here is what I found as of 12/25/07 4:30 am (no, Santa has not stopped by yet :-)):
|Search for “iPod”||137||105||10||12||100|
|Latest posted deal||10 hours||4 minutes||2 days||3 days||8 hours|
Be aware that some of the deals may be submitted by the people running the websites and hence these counts cannot be used to judge how popular the websites are. Nevertheless the numbers give an idea what to expect.
The side-project of its parent website bensbargains Dealspl.us may soon overgrow its dad. Dealspl.us had a privilege to come to the market among the first (if you don’t count the early experiments like dealcritic) and managed to do a lot of things right. Ben’s 6 years of pro-bargain hunting have helped to avoid mishaps. The content, while user submitted, is constantly moderated and refined. I am sure Ben feeds a few of his own deals every day to keep the things running smoothly.
The simple and nice looking design along with pre-filled quality deals content is what made the website a success initially. The team kept adding functionality and now I cannot really find anything that I wanted from a bargain hunting site that Dealspl.us didn’t have. Maybe just some minor things like email newsletter, hot deals widget, and a submitter web browser plugin? (Ben, it is a hint ;-) )
From the first glance Dealigg looks like a “not very polished” Dealspl.us copycat. Nevertheless it doesn’t prevent it from bringing in nice user traffic. Overall it is very much one step behind compared to the original. The coupons section, the friends feature, and the talk groups are just a few things that Dealigg lacks compared to Dealpl.us. Read my earlier Dealigg review to get a better picture.
The creators of Deals.com have put aside sufficient funding for the domain name and web site branding yet they failed to assess the level of saturation in the bargain hunting market. A great domain name and a cute logo could bring crowds of visitors a year back but not today.
As the result the website is somewhat stagnant (see the table above). I wrote about Deals.com earlier and why it may fail. Another example of a nicely designed quickly forgotten website is Trezr — read my review here.
Dealplumber started around the same time as Dealspl.us and originally boasted a higher Alexa rank due to slightly earlier launch and the “share deals & earn” program which allowed affiliate ids in the submitted links. The website however wasn’t as well designed as Dealspl.us and most importantly it failed to deliver quality deals which in turn didn’t work well as far as retaining a user base goes.
Very recently they have somewhat improved the website design and navigation however it is still not as convenient as I would like it to be. Just a few things:
- The menu at the bottom is hard to see (and there are some important things there)
- There is no way to access all related store deals from a single deal page
- I cannot mark a deal as a spam or expired
The web site functionality overall is a subset of that of Dealspl.us
Launched just last month Modoshi is trying to succeed where Dealplumber failed — revenue sharing — hence the web site name which in Japanese means “giving-back”. “Typically, Modoshi will receive 7 to 8 percent from an affiliate for each sale, and on average, 40 to 50 percent of that commission will go to the user who posted the deal”, according to the website’s co-founder Vaishali Anga.
I remember the main problem with Dealplumber was spam. Users would submit low-quality deals and benefit from the clicks the website attracted after the launch. In an attempt to improve the deals quality Modoshi is running daily contests. There are two ways how you can win a prize (currently $5): post a best selling deal or pick the best selling deal. While you can post or pick as many deals as you like only one deal and pick can be submitted every day to the contest. This is a very smart move which will certainly pay off.
While Modoshi may be a fun game to play for school kids it still lacks some must-have features. For example I couldn’t find any way to browse deals by a merchant. They also don’t seem to have a separate section for coupons/promo codes. The thing I liked is that I could rank deals up and down without being logged in (the vote is associated with my IP address). This should give a boost to the user activity that Modoshi needs so much.
I have ranked each website on a 1 to 5 scale where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best. Here is the run down:
No question Dealspl.us is the current leader in social bargain hunting. Judging by the features and the innovating marketing campaign Modoshi seems to be the next runner up. Dealigg is playing catch ups while Dealplumber is recovering from the early mistakes. Deals.com has good potential (especially given its catchy domain name) but the team needs to introduce some more innovation into what they are doing.
2006 marks the first year when social bargain hunting really caught up. While reviewed here websites have satisfied the essential demand there are still opportunities to build on what’s accomplished. In addition I think the market penetration at this point is not yet high and new players (or old players with new ambitions) will have a good shot at grabbing a piece of the pie — a good example is the recent social revolution at JudysBook.