Seattle area startups refine the daily-deals model

 
 

While
scrutiny over daily deals has been generating headlines recently, the digital
coupon craze is here to stay. Even as Groupon finds itself in the midst of an SEC investigation of its profit metrics, other companies are plowing ahead with offerings that tweak the model
somewhat.

Seattle-based ChoozOn aggregates
coupons to help consumers cut through the clutter in their in-boxes. ChoozOn’s
site was launched in April and the company has just secured its first round of
angel funding. Meanwhile, Kirkland’s
Pirq launched Thursday morning, addressing redemption concerns
associated with the current daily deals model.

ChoozOn integrates social
networking into its site by creating “deal clubs” in which users can
bargain hunt together. “Choozers” can follow what others are shopping for and
make recommendations of products.

Pirq users
are told about deals near them based on cellphone GPS tracking. They then
“commit” to deals nearby, and scan a Microsoft Tag with their mobile devices.
The deal is redeemed on the spot.

Many
merchants have complained about delayed or duplicate redemption of daily-deal
coupons as well as a lack of repeat business. Pirq’s model tries to eliminate
these hassles. It also controls traffic flow to a business by limiting the
hours during which deals are offered and redeemed.

Pirq’s new
app benefits the company as well: While deeply discounted deals often have
companies like Groupon borrowing against themselves, the instant redemption
feature of Pirq protects Pirq as well as merchants.

In contrast
with ChoozOn, which tailors deals to users based on their brand preferences,
Pirq focuses on proximity-based deals, taking advantage of GPS tracking through
mobile devices.

Making use of this smartphone feature
is the latest trend in the daily deal and app world: Even Groupon’s founders
are hopping on board, investing in WhosHere, a social media app that lets users
text-message nearby strangers.

Shopping from phones is another
emerging trend. “By 2015 consumers will spend about $119 billion on goods and
services bought via their mobile phones,” says James Sun, CEO of Pirq.

An Amazon Exploration

An Amazon Exploration

Beware of the dogs. Two thousand of them.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
 
When I heard that Amazon.com is now offering tours of its buildings in Seattle, I couldn’t wait to sign up. After all, I had worked in its gigantic warehouse in Georgetown many years ago and was curious to see what the company was doing with the small amount of extra space that used to be known as South Lake Union.
 
I imagined an action-packed adventure of a fulfillment center, or the excitement of a warehouse filled with random stuff. I worried about the likelihood of an overtired employee wandering zombie-like through the hallway and threatening to eat my brain. 
 
Instead, there is office space.
 
And there are dogs. Lots of dogs.
 
At the Van Vorst Building (426 Terry Ave. N), I saw techies in their natural habitat, sitting in an easy-chair-filled lobby under posters celebrating Amazon’s early successes. There’s also a souvenir from a failure — an ice cave bear skeleton that was purchased on the long-gone Amazon Auctions. Plus, there were two of the 2,000 dogs registered to accompany their owners to work. 
 
Guide Allison Flicker offered tidbits about Amazon’s corporate history during the one-hour walking tour that provides peeks into six buildings. Like the fact that every building is named after something significant from Amazon’s past, including the last name of the company’s first customer, Wainwright, and the company’s first dog, Rufus. (Are you reading this, Rufus Wainwright?)
 
 
My favorite stop was the Brazil Building (400 Ninth Ave. N), where each floor represents a country and has displays of local currency and items popular in that particular region. At a stop on one floor, Flicker took us to a room filled with free advance copies of new book releases.
 
Fresh from a free-book high, I never saw the near-ambush by a little yappy dog as I floated down the hallway. A small fence and a fast-moving owner quickly thwarted the attack. 
 
My trauma was soothed at our final stop in yet another building, where a demonstration of a robotic arm used in the distribution centers yielded more swag — a recharger and a selfie stick. 
 
As the tour ended, I even got a free banana from the bananista at Amazon’s year-round banana stand. What more could anyone ask for? 
 
Amazon Tours
Free. Ages 6 and older. amazonhqtours.com.