Bryan and Alice Payne’s first high school date was at Burger King, and he paid with a two-for-one coupon.
It was a match made in heaven, and the now-married pair has been looking for deals ever since.
“We try to find deals on everything, whether we’re going to restaurants, groceries, stores,” says Bryan Payne. “It was always fun, but several years ago it started becoming less and less fun.”
There were so many online deals scattered in so many places -- from mass emails to multiple websites -- that finding them was becoming too time consuming, he said.
“We thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could find an app for everything brick-and-mortar nearby,” Payne says. “But there wasn’t anything out there, so we thought maybe we should just do this ourselves.”
In 2014, Payne founded Skout Deals, which offers a free location-based deals app.
Here’s a look at the Austin-based company.
What they do: The premise is simple: “We want to take all the deals from all the brick-and-mortar merchants and let you automatically find deals on items nearby,” Payne says. “Or you can save what you’re looking for -- a certain restaurant or a pair of pants -- and we notify you when there’s a deal.”
Today, Skout Deals offers more than 50,000 deals a day from more than 1,000 merchants ranging from small local retailers and restaurants to national brands including Target, Trader Joe’s, Costco, PetSmart and Pizza Hut. In August, Skout Deals signed a nationwide partnership with Walmart and Best Buy.
For a deal to be uploaded on the app, it must offer a minimum of 25 percent savings, Payne says. In the case of Wal-Mart, Skout Deals’ software analyzes 240,000 items a night before choosing what deals to promote.
Who uses it: Skout Deals has 100,000 members nationwide, including 13,000 in Austin.
The company makes money from merchants, with rates ranging from $69 to $199 a month. There is also a free plan that includes one deal a month and no analytics or social media promotions.
Who they are: Payne is a veteran yearbook industry executive, where he was a pioneer of online yearbook creation web apps. He was most recently president of Picaboo Yearbooks, which sells online yearbook software.
Investment: Skout Deals has raised $1 million in two funding rounds. The company’s lead investor is Oak Stream Investors of Dallas.
Biggest challenge: “There are two challenges,” Payne says. “No.1 is getting our brand out there and No. 2 is getting merchants interested.”
To reach consumers, Skout Deals is pumping up its paid search and social media efforts. The company recently sent 52,000 emails to University of Texas students touting all local deals near campus.
It has also changed its approach in pitching to small businesses. “Originally we just went in and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this great new product.’ But it’s extremely difficult because they’re so pressed for time.”
Now Skout Deals targets small businesses with a free 30-day trial that includes social media and analytics on how the deal performed.
“We share all the results, and by doing that, we’re really starting to see the response rate change,” Payne said.
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