Newspapers, Yellow Pages turn to NimbleCommerce for custom group-buying deals

Nov 19, 2010   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  11 Comments

Prashant Nedungadi

by David Silverberg

A new company wants to bring the Groupon idea to newspapers and service directories, claiming it’s a win-win for struggling media companies: they cement relationships with local businesses while also engaging their readers with a burgeoning trend already trailblazing across the Web.

In an interview, NimbleCommerce CEO Prashant Nedungadi said creating a white-label group-buying technology “is a killer app for newspapers.” He added, “They can monetize their relationships with local vendors much more easily now.”

How does NimbleCommerce work? It strikes a deal with a newspaper or  a service directory, such as Yellow Pages Group. Nedungadi said it has deals with 25 newspapers and directories across the US, Canada and the UK, in cities such as New York, L.A., Chicago, Toronto and Montreal. They work with the client to determine what kind of branding and features they want their deal to include. The paper’s sales force goes out to negotiate with a local business to get an attractive coupon deal; NimbleCommerce doesn’t do any sales for its client, but it  powers the Groupon-type deal, allowing the newspaper to mass-mail its readership a deal that would offer, say, $89 for $250 worth of teeth whitening, as it did with Philly.com recently. Or the deal would be displayed on a banner ad on the front page of the paper’s website.

Once enough people have bought the deal, NimbleCommerce handles the distribution and fulfillment of the online coupons. The newspaper’s staff can look at metrics tools to determine a deal’s popularity.

“Newspapers aren’t in the technology business so they need someone to create a scalable technology,” Nedungadi said about his Santa Clara, California startup.

He was mum on details relating to how much NimbleCommerce charges its client, but he said it’s a percentage based on the volume of net or gross revenue of the partner deals.

There are some early stats available, even though NimbleCommerce officially launched to the public today: Nedungadi said 75 percent of group-buying deals purchases come from the media company’s mailing list, while 15 percent come from the display ads on the company’s site. A small margin originate from Facebook and Twitter. “They publicize the deals and we do the technology,” he summarized.

Nedungadi didn’t want to cite specific newspapers and other clients, saying many deals have yet to be introduced.

Group-buying deals can also be found in search results, Nedungadi said. Known as real-time flash deals, these coupons are displayed when someone searches for a certain service, such as plumbing, on a directory like the Yellow Pages. The deal for a specific plumber can display for an hour or so, available only to users who click on the deal within that time period.

NimbleCommerce is also focusing on mobile. The company offers an add-on to a paper’s app in order for coupon fulfillment to also work via smartphones. “It’s all about push on cellphones, so users can get notified about deals through push,” Nedungadi said.

NimbleCommerce enters a market bustling with competition and big buzz. Google is reportedly in talks to buy Groupon, and Forbes recently reported around 180 group-buying companies have sprouted across the U.S. since Groupon and Living Social began operations.

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