Push vs. Pull Commerce

The deals space is a mess right now. This is the first in a series of posts that we’re calling Lessons from the Deals Graveyard. We will discuss our observations - both good and bad - as we seek to carve out the path forward for this section of the e-commerce economy.

There are strong signals that the party may be over for daily deals: Amazon recently closed its local daily deals site, Groupon announced 1,100 layoffs in September, and Living Social laid off 20% of its staff in October.

While this is happening, the American economy is growing, e-commerce spend is up (by some estimates, by double-digit percentages year over year), and there are more active internet devices than ever before.

While it’s clear that deals space is experiencing a downturn, this does not mean that we’re six feet underground. There is hope.

The consumer’s hunger, even competitiveness, for a discount is not dying. The maturity of the daily deals sites mentioned earlier lead to a consumer base with a bit of fatigue: tired of the same old e-mail blast with the same low-quality brands, tired of worrying about quality, and definitely tired of seeing products that they’re not interested in.

The secret sauce: appeal to the user on their terms. If you distill all of this, it comes down to push vs. pull commerce.

Push commerce is the status quo for marketers, especially daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. The tactic? Sending e-mails or app push notifications about a dozen deals multiple times a day to see if it piques enough interest for a purchase. According to Experian’s PriceGrabber, over 52% of people find this constant attack on their inbox overwhelming.

Pull commerce a subtler opponent. Pull commerce invites the public to search for deals on their terms, scrapping the e-mail and notification campaigns entirely, thus creating a less abrasive and better user experience. It’s also a win for us: we learn what the user is looking for and we can use that information to drive sourcing decisions.

Pull commerce is hard to pull off. At benjamin, we’ve established relationships with high-quality vendors and brands like Ray Ban and Patagonia. We’ve worked hard to create a user experience which leads a user expects two things:

  1. Great brands
  2. No idea what to expect next

This one-product-at-a-time, “Tinder meets personalized shopping” experience drives the user to check our mobile app several times per week out of fear of missing out. As DJ Khaled might say: compelling content - major key.

Of course, it’s easy to urge the deals space to provide compelling content. It’s an entirely different thing to actually execute. The problem is that many daily deals sites did this to themselves when building their business models: a rep from a major athletic brand told me “We don’t give our own retail stores 20-60%, why would we give it to Groupon?”

We addressed the business model problem, too - that’s a big reason why these vendors and brands work with us - but that’s for another post.