My little social bargain hunting experiment

Do you remember Modoshi? It is a deal site that launched in November 2006 and implemented a few interesting concepts that turned bargain hunting into a fun contest. The project eventually shut down but it really got me thinking.

  • Can a deal site be turned into a fun game where participants get rewarded for the bargains they recommend?
  • Can the site modeled around this concept be a successful and profitable business?

Ever since Modoshi shut down in summer 2007 I have been sitting on this idea. But I wasn’t just sitting, I was actually doing something. Read on to find what kept me sleepless over the past several months.

What makes people share deals?

Why people come to deal forums to post the shopping deals they find? For the most part it is because of the community. Initially they come to get information, feel thankful for the support they find and eventually come again to give back to the community that helped them. You could say that the community feeds itself.

Sometimes the site owners make an effort to help the community grow. SlickDeals encourages participation via reputation points the deal submitters receive from the peers. With DealsPlus each deal submission brings you closer to the next level - another star by your avatar. All these small attributes help the participants build their place in the community, help them feel useful and rewarded.

What did Modoshi do differently?

Why did I like Modoshi when there is already a number of striving bargain hunting communities out there? Because the team made an effort to improve on what some of these communities are doing. They have attempted to give the members a monetary incentive to participate and contribute. The incentives were offered in a form of daily and monthly contests that rewarded quality submissions and intelligent deal picks/votes which in turn brought a crowd of regulars to the site.

modoshi contest

In addition Modoshi offered a huge number of tweaks for efficient bargain hunting on the site itself. The amount of product data they displayed made me think I am looking at a control panel of an airplane. It probably was a bit overboard but it appealed my geeky taste and built an invisible bond with the site creators.

I liked the idea so much that I decided to recreate it in a slightly modified form on Buxr, the project I started with my partner last year. Here are the basics (and I encourage you to comment on these!).

The daily contest

  • Users submit deals. Every day one deal is selected “the best of the day” based on user votes and our own judgment. The user who submits this deal is rewarded a daily prize (currently $10 via PayPal).

The monthly contest

There are two ways to participate, via deal submission and via deal votes.

  • Users submit deals. We select the best and the worst deal of the day on a daily basis. The user who submits the best deal gains 5 points, the user who submits the worst deal loses 5 points.
  • Users vote deals up/down. At the end of the day we compare user votes with our deal picks. If a user votes up the best deal of the day, or votes down the worst deal of the day, they earn 1 point. If a user votes down the best deal of the day, or votes up the worst deal of the day, they lose 1 point.

The user who collects the most points at the end of the month earns the monthly prize (currently Apple iPhone).

buxr monthly contest

We plan to tweak these rules going forward as we learn from the participants, but the goal will stay the same, to build an exciting environment for people to come and share shopping deals, given whatever limited resources we have at hand.

Modoshi failed. Why am I doing this?

I strongly suspect a part of the reason why Modoshi closed was the lack of experience from the team (or the individual) who was running the site. Both my partner and I have been in this niche for a while and have come here to stay. Buxr doesn’t bring any significant revenue right now, not even enough to compensate for the prizes we offer. Yet we believe that the community around a deal site is the single most important side of a successful shopping affiliate business. It brings life, triggers conversations, helps with viral marketing.

Personally for me, it also gives a meaning to my life. I have always said that comments on this blog make me wake up in the morning and write more. Buxr is my new (more bargains focused) way to talk to you guys. The good part is that now you can initiate conversations as well! :-)

See also:

3 Responses to “My little social bargain hunting experiment”

  1. 1 Gary May 13th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Try to fix the font color and background.

    White on blue is easy. remember the first PC apps…that is what they used!

    Green on green (?) is really tough to scan read.

    Jakob Nielson has more info at

  2. 2 Yan May 14th, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Thanks for the tip, I will give it a thought. Styling has always been my weakness.

    I was really looking for a feedback regarding the idea, not so much the website design.

  3. 3 Krish May 15th, 2008 at 9:11 am

    slickdeals won because it provide more place for nastiness for user to pull each others leg. It creates joyful environment for the user. But the site is ugly in nature, using a forum for deal posting. The smiles make the site more ugly.

    I honestly don’t know what makes the users to come to the site and post data. There are many deals sites like slickdeals provides deals based on forum but they are not popular like slickdeals.

    My personal opinion is that people won’t come and post to win a iPOD. Even many sites cheats by promising offers or lucky draw for user, I don’t know users are attracted to it.

    Try thinking differently. You may take all the deal posting community to your site. Best of luck

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