Site Helps Retailers Tout Local DealsBy Evan Schuman | Print
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ShopLocal.com, a service of three top publishing companies that also has support from AOL, charges retailers to let consumers hunt for promotions in their own neighborhood.One problem that retailers have with the World Wide Web is that it's so ... well ... worldwide. A group of newspaper publishers tried to address that issue Thursday with the launch of a Web site intended to match consumers looking for specific products with local retailers that have those products on special promotions.
The problem the site is tackling is straightforward: Consumers looking for a particular product often want to just see local merchantsand especially local merchants who have current specials or coupons on the desired product.
The sitecalled ShopLocal.comcharges retailers no more than 40 cents per consumer per day for that connection, said David Hamel, chief marketing officer at CrossMedia Services Inc., which manages the site.
"We'll tell retailers what people looked for, what they found, what particular items they looked at, and we can even tell them what they looked for and didn't find," Hamel said.
Initially, the site will be limited to displayingon a ZIP code basisitems that are on special sales, but Hamel said the site soon will be able to display all of the retailer's products and integrate information such as hours and possibly inventory.
This way, if a customer needs to find a retailer that is open after 5 p.m. or on Saturday or Sunday, the site could display just those that are appropriate. Or if the site knew that only four retailers actually had the desired item in stock, it could have the option to limit to the display in that way as well.
The concept for the site grew out of the display advertising that the publishers' newspapers have been doing locally. One result of that background is that the site will accept any good digital graphic file and will make it into an online ad, removing the need for a retailer to create an online-only ad for a promotion that may last only a few days.
The company talks of a 40 cent rate per user per dayinstead of per click or per session. The premise is that consumers may visit the site several times during the day before deciding to drive to the retailer. The retailer would pay 40 cents no matter how many times that day the consumer visited the ad.
But with AOL and some of the nation's largest newspapers behind it, the potential number of visitors could quickly blow out a retailer's online budget. Hamel said they will allow retailers to set a ceiling on their budget amount "so the ads can either be pulled down or the [retailer] can find some incremental money."
With the large number of tire-kickers surfing Web stores, isn't it a big risk for a retailer to agree to pay for visitors who may never buy anything? "It's just like buying a newspaper circular," Hamel said. "There's a leap of faith."
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com.
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