As I get more involved into the business of running a deal site, the topics like this one come more often to my mind. It is a seemingly simple question yet a very difficult one at the same time. If you get the answer right you will know what you need to change in your business plan and site design to help build a vibrant community around your idea.
What makes people come back to a deal site over and over again? I think many website owners will agree that the repeat users, the regulars, is the most precious type. They are more likely to advocate your business/hobby and recommend it to friends. There are really multiple reasons for them to stick with you but the major one is probably information they get on the subject of their interest - bargains.
The basic form this information takes is the deals and coupons/promotions posted on the site. This is what the most of the deal sites from my “popular list” are very good at. It is important to have fresh daily updated content or the site will start losing regulars pretty quickly.
Besides the deals the information can take another form - deal related comments and feedback the visitors leave on the site. There are very few sites in that list that can boast the community required to produce this kind of information, probably just a few from the top 10, yet it is the comments and personal recommendations that help the most when deciding on a value of a particular deal.
Humans are social creatures. The feeling of being a part of a group of like minded individuals makes us happy. If you look at the deal sites and forums, the majority of comments people leave are not really directed at helping others with bargain hunting. They are a social chitchat or small talk. Humor, flame, complains. This is what we do, we strive for attention and we get it in a form of feedback to our comments from other users.
The forum deal sites (e.g. like recently reviewed Spoofy) are the kind that are suited the best to support the community. A stricter format of a typical non-forum based deal site is not as good for this and so the owners of these sites usually run a forum on a side that they try to (more or less successfully) integrate into their main deals listings.
These can include cash back on things we buy or prizes the site owners give away. Sometimes the incentives can be more elaborate, like with the no longer alive Modoshi, but these cases are very rare. Life proves that prizes by themselves are good to make existing users happy but a bad way to attract new ones, and in no way help build the feel of community.
What do you think brings return visitors to a deal site? Which site in your opinion does the best job at fulfilling these needs? Why?