The past two years have brought us some interesting online trends. The web has truly become a place to meet friends, exchange ideas, and express your personality. The result is the explosive growth of blogging, online collaboration and social networks.
On the other hand web technologies keep advancing improving usability of web applications and opening some new opportunities. As the result certain online services are seriously threatening the markets established by their traditional off-line counterparts. Microsoft has never been more in trouble with their Office than it is now.
The web revolution hasn’t gone unnoticed in the deals and coupons niche either. The traditional web forums still dominate the scene but new websites have come online and while some failed others are slowly creeping their way up the popularity ladder.
The concept of a perfect deal site has been haunting me for some time and today I finally got my act together and put down my thoughts in writing. Just to be clear, these are my thoughts. I am sure you have your own opinion and I would love to hear about it in the comments.
1. Open discussions
SlickDeals and FatWallet have been in the lead for very long time and there is a simple explanation to it: they have gathered a community of people who share ideas and news around anything deals related. The ideal deal site must allow for its users to initiate and follow discussion on a variety of subjects, not necessarily related to product offerings or promotions
2. Visual presentation
It goes without a question that graphically rich visual presentation is critical with shopping. All newcomers that made the list have been distinct about how they present the offers. Both DealPlus and Dealigg extensively use images and have similar layout that seem to work the best with online bargain hunters.
3. User submitted content
I don’t know about you but I have much more trust in the site driven by content submitted by other fellow bargain hunters like myself. RetailMeNot is my favorite coupon site and it is also one of the top in the list as well. User submitted hot products is tough but not impossible to implement as well. Just need to put in place the right incentives.
4. Absence of ad banners
Banner ads suck. A deal site plastered with ads will be the last deal site on my list. It is certainly lost revenue for the site owners but only in a short run. Ultimately it will bring more return visitors and grow the sales. This is probably why DealPlus has recently reworked their design to eliminate almost all pay per click ads from the pages.
5. Shopping incentives
With so much competition and online shoppers becoming more educated, sharing affiliate commissions becomes a norm. Providing it is lost revenue, not providing it is a lost market share. The success story of JellyFish proves that this approach works even when you break into an already saturated market.
6. Convenient site navigation
This should really be on the top of my list but it is not because this is a requirement I take for granted. Being able to see similar deals or deals from same merchant is essential. Categories and search must be visible and accessible from any page. Use of AJAX could also improve usability and make visitors happier.
7. Clearly marked expired deals
Hot deals usually have very short life span. That extra effort of verifying and marking expired deals makes a huge difference for a deal site. This can be a lot of work for a site with a thousands of products but doing so at least for the last week or two worth of deals is very important.
8. Integrated price comparison
The hot deal offering looks much more convincing when compared to available alternatives. Not displaying price comparison on the deal page almost looks like a sign of weakness to me. Many popular deal sites are doing a great job at providing this functionality. Check out DealNews for example
9. Social functionality
User profiles, deal ranking, friends and communities – all of these features create a devoted following and gets new visitors involved. This is more important for an established site than a new one since absence of any activity (when it is expected) may negatively affect the overall impression about a site.
10. Informative about page
Knowing who maintains the site, what their policy is, and how I can contact these people gives me a nice and warm feeling that may well become a deal breaker when I get to decide whether I should come to shop to this place again. Unfortunately many deal site owners fail to realize it.
This list could probably keep going. I have not mentioned RSS feeds, web API’s, or integration with social networks, which becomes widespread these days. Also, I want to stress that no functionality will replace the quality of posted hot deals which is the utmost important characteristic of any deal site.
The list above just combines the things I pay attention to the most when visiting a new website and the things I would make sure to implement if I were to start a deal site myself (and I am not saying I won’t ;-) ). What is your list? Please share with me your thoughts.
The photo is courtesy of purplespace at Flickr