Today I pulled down our site TheDealer.com.au – a daily deals aggregator that Cameron, Ruben and myself built way back in 2011.
As a challenge, we designed, coded and had the site live sending daily deals emails within 6 weeks; integrated with a dozen or so of the largest deals sites at the time – several of them no longer online, themselves, or now merged.
The initial objective with The Dealer was to fill a gap – there was no site at the time that would allow you to sign up for deals that were categorised, or tailored to you.
The space was booming and there were new deal sites launching daily. There was no reason for any customer to be loyal to any one site, and no one wanted to own this loyalty through strong customer service; both of which were part of the eventual bust in the space.
For us, this meant this was an opportunity to acquire a database by offering something simple: one email, in place of the noise.
Categorising and listing deals sounds simple enough, but it quickly got tricky.
Some sites would supply a feed, others never officially worked with us and we had to scrape their sites to get their deal data. Some categorised their own deals, some didn’t. Some sites would duplicate National deals throughout each city, so we’d end up with a page of duplicates.
For most sites we had to categorise deals based on a keyword matrix, weighing up the number of keywords matched in each category.
While we led into this thinking of The Dealer as a stand-alone product, that wasn’t the case. We were inhibited by the sites themselves and constantly having to rework out product to keep up with their individual quirks and changes. We were a team, and you’re only as strong as your weakest member, they say. In that scenario, some of our team members weren’t talking to us, some were playing different games altogether, and I don’t think some of them even knew they were in the game.
I think affiliate networks in Australia would have the same thing to say about the space and their partners: there’s a serious divide in complexity / understanding of online retail, and many sites are inhibited by their own technology and creativity.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone when daily deals went bust. The merchants had been burnt, consumers were bored of the concept and the competitiveness of the space meant that merchants weren’t offering the same levels of discounts. Hair products and Bali holiday packages began to reign in place of pizza shops and Thai massages.
Looking back, it wasn’t just the space that failed, it was our own product. We started the site as a hobby, and once the excitement wore off, we weren’t committed. Other sites continue to improve, while we left ours as it was. We persevered with data issues, but our focus was on SEO and marketing over the product itself, so our rankings improved but we weren’t retaining users.