For most online shoppers, finding a promo code is as easy as Googling the company name and the words “discount code.” But for consumers who don’t want the hassle of hunting them down and making sure they’re active, Philadelphia-based Promofly launched in private beta this week to help showcase promo codes for over 4,000 online retailers. The company hopes to take the frustration out of not having access to the right promo codes at the right time, or finding out a promo code is expired during checkout.
Founder and CEO Nathan Johnson spent six years in brand marketing at Johnson & Johnson before deciding to branch out and work on what eventually became Promofly. “I spent a lot of time in marketing working with retailers and understanding retail promotions. And the genesis of Promofly was kind of combination of thinking about all the different marketing channels that retailers have in-store,” Johnson said in an interview. “There’s all these rich [discounts and promotions] in stores and there really isn’t anything analogous in the e-commerce world.”
Inspired by other popular services that provide simple bookmarklets as a core part of their functionality, like Instapaper and Pinterest, the company has a Promofly button that users drag and drop onto their bookmark bar. After that, they can specify which shopping categories they’re interested in, including accessories, sports, and entertainment. The company has a database of 4,000 online retailers, so the next time users are checking out on an ecommerce site, they can click on the Promofly button to find and then use any relevant promo codes.
Users can browse discount codes by category before they shop, or while they’re on a given site to see if there’s a code for it. “For instance if you’re on Sephora, and you’re checking out on Sephora, when you click the Promofly button it’ll bring you just the promo codes relevant to Sephora,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to take out a lot of the steps consumers typically have to go through to get this, we really just want to make it simple, easy, and even a little fun.”
Johnson said that because they’re used at the point of purchase, it won’t be difficult to monetize, and he said possible business models include contextual ads and affiliate marketing.
There are a long list of companies tackling online discount codes, including RetailMeNot. According to Johnson, some of these sites carry expired promo codes for the sake of ranking higher in Google’s search engine rankings, which consider the total number of codes, not which ones are currently active, as part of it’s algorithm. Johnson said Promofly’s backend system was specifically designed to eliminate expired promo codes. Sites like RetailMeNot also carry in-store coupons though, something that Promofly currently doesn’t support.
The company is planning to develop mobile version, and wants to reach out to retailers to partner with them to offer exclusive codes and content for Promofly. Right now the bookmarklet is compatible with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, with plans to integrate with Internet Explorer. In order to get retailers on board, the company will need to provide just as simple of a backend service where retailers can go and upload their promo codes. Given the rise of bargain shopping, Promofly has the potential to be a matchmaker for consumers who want to take advantage of online savings, but they’ll have to compete with Google searches and promotions on a retailer’s website, currently the most common means of finding discounts.