The Web site aggregates more than 250,000 local deals from across the United States and the United Kingdom. The service allows consumers to sign up to receive information on deals through daily emails, as well as alerts via Twitter, in more than 20 cities.
If the map that allows consumers to search by ZIP code, Type, Category or Keyword for daily specials looks vaguely familiar, that’s probably because Thota led development on Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, now known as Bing Maps. Consumers can choose restaurants, events and attractions or shopping, and can even filter deals by interests, such as “kid-friendly” or “romantic.” The heat map also lets consumers visually identify the regions in which they can find deals.
The Dealmap’s parent company, Center’d, a local search and discovery company that organizes and distributes content based on sentiment analysis technology, pulls data from review sites and blogs such as Citysearch and Yahoo on about 5 million businesses across the U.S.
Companies already tap into that data. Then last year, Center’d’s chief technology officer Thota, and Center’d’s chief executive officer Dulski, realized the benefits from aggregating some of that data to build a Web site offering deals from local companies. That set the money-saving social site in motion.
Aggregating data from hundreds of sources provides a variety of challenges because few companies format the structure of the data feeds similarly unless the company requesting the data can monitor the sequence of the numbers, names and more. It took months to reformat feeds and clean up the expired deals, taking the information through natural language processing applications that helped to automate the system. This allowed the group to understand the text and parse out good from bad data.
The technology allows the deals to update frequently, Dulski explains. “We thought business data had to be updated frequently, but with deals some literally expire by the minute,” she says. “Groupon, for example, has an expiration countdown clock, which requires us to update the data in real-time.”
The deals come from national providers like CitySearch and Goldstar Entertainment and other event ticket offerings. They also come from more than 100 daily deal sites or newspapers and blogs, as well as deals from Foursquare.
The hard work has paid off. The Dealmap now makes it easy for consumers to discover previously hard-to-find deals. Many are not advertised and only promoted by the local businesses. The function will become available on its mobile applications, too. Plans are in the works to launch mobile apps for the Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry.
Game-like features allow businesses to upload deals, while consumers get rewards for sharing the offers and using the site. People can attain status levels, collect badges, and receive free gift certificates by becoming what Dulski calls a “Deal Hero” — someone who helps others save money.
The site offers a dashboard that keeps track of points consumers earn from being a Deal Hero. It will also track top deal submitters — people who have submitted the most deals. The Dealmap will eventually separate states and cities as the site and number of participants grows.
For publishers that want to integrate the aggregated deals, The Dealmap publishes APIs that enable developers to access the information from its Web site. Five launch partners have already signed up to use these APIs to integrate The Dealmap’s content to enhance their services. The Dealmap gets a revenue share on each transaction.