By Sarah Yee
Northwest Asian Weekly
Online marketing may be a foreign idea to many merchants in the International District. However, in September, the Phnom Penh Noodle House, Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House, and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience gave it a shot.
These merchants from the ID were featured on DealPop.com for the “International District Week.” DealPop is a new service from WhitePages.com, launched in July of this year to give local businesses a channel to draw in new customers, who may just be surfing the web for directories.
Kevin Nakao, the chief operating officer at WhitePages.com, explains that DealPop benefits local businesses and offers them access to the advertising channels that are usually used by big corporations such as AT&T and Jaguar.
“We have all these people going to [WhitePages.com] looking for plumbers, restaurants, and other things. So we have all that data, and it gives us a first-hand view about what’s popular. We also get business data on address changes, meaning that people need to know about [the new stores]. That’s why we thought about doing DealPop. It is a way for small businesses to get exposure on WhitePages,” said Nakao.
WhitePages, a company based in Seattle, is currently one of the top 50 websites in the United States and reaches 20 million users a month.
“[The Phnom Penh Noodle House deal was] one of our bestsellers. I had no idea that Cambodian food can be so popular,” said Nakao.
When Phnom Penh Noodle House was featured on DealPop, customers could purchase a $10 voucher for $5 through the website. Dawn Cropp, whose family owns the Cambodian restaurant in the ID, noticed that this strategy worked out better than their advertising efforts in printed media.
“It helped us bring in new customers. Some of them came in on [baseball or football] game days, not aware that we we’ve been here since 1987. Out of the coupon users, I’d say 30 percent were new customers,” said Cropp.
When the family included 10 percent discount coupons in newspaper advertisements in the past, only a handful of customers redeemed the coupons. To the contrary, the family saw the sale of more than 200 vouchers on DealPop.
Cropp confessed that it was not easy to convince her father about online advertising and paid coupon concepts.
“It made [my father] nervous because it seems like we are giving money away. However, coupon-users usually bring in friends and family. It’s better than advertising. When people purchase a coupon, they will use it,” said Cropp.
“It has been a very challenging year for small businesses. The last thing that we want to do to any of them is to say, ‘Hey, spend a lot of money on advertising.’ So we flip the equation around. Rather than having businesses spend money on advertising to be on our website, we actually offer them a deal,” said Nakao.
WhitePages and merchants share the revenue that is generated from the coupons sold on DealPop.
“Businesses do not have to pay upfront. A lot of these merchants are very short on resources. For example, Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House has to focus on making sure the hotel looks great and getting good teas. They don’t have time to do the social media things that we do,” said Nakao.
“We try to make it easy for people, so we integrated [DealPop] with Facebook. Facebook is almost like a universal passport for getting on the web now. [This feature makes consumers] more likely to share the deals with other people, too,” said Nakao.
DealPop representatives are working with CIDBIA (Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area) to reach out to more merchants in the ID.
“It’s free to sign up. Consumers are never obligated. It’s just a great way to discover new places and restaurants. You need that extra incentive once in a while,” said Nakao. ♦
For more information, visit www.dealpop.com.
Sarah Yee can be reached at email@example.com.