x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Discount dealers turn from hefty vouchers book to smartphone apps

Discount voucher dealers are increasingly taking advantage of location-based capabilities found on a smartphone to provide instant access to the closest bargain.

Donna Benton, The Entertainer’s founder and chief executive, says going digital gives their customers options to use their vouchers. Puebla / The National
Donna Benton, The Entertainer’s founder and chief executive, says going digital gives their customers options to use their vouchers. Puebla / The National

Discount voucher dealers are increasingly taking advantage of location-based capabilities found on smartphones to provide instant access to the closest bargain.

The Entertainer is the latest company to launch a mobile application that identifies the closest deal for users, removing the need to carry the hefty book containing its buy one, get one free vouchers.

It joins the daily deals website Cobone and the customer loyalty app Snapp, which also highlight nearby deals.

“We launched the app to give customers options for which way they would like to use our vouchers. Digital is the way moving forward,” said Donna Benton, The Entertainer’s founder and chief executive. “We’ve been in the process of making the app in the last two years and we’ve launched it on a global scale.”

The application marks the company’s first foray into the mobile space. Users will have to pay Dh395 to get access to the vouchers, the same price as the book.

The app is not intended to phase out the book, said Ms Benton, but the company would assess customer behaviour to gauge the necessity of the book in the future as smartphone penetration continued to rise in the region.

“Consumers want spontaneity,” said David Ashford, the e-business and information director at The Entertainer. “Everybody that uses a smartphone is a target. We want to reach the widest market possible.”

According to a report from the American research firm Gartner, there is increasingly “a convergence of location functionality” with social networking, news, information and search and entertainment services. Revenues generated by consumer location-based services were set to reach US$13.5 billion in 2015.

Leigh Matthews, the founder of Snapp, which does away with paper loyalty cards in favour of digital versions, believes customers prefer the convenience of the online world from seeing what is available around them to being able to share their experience or deals with friends via social media.

“Paper loyalty cards are great, they allow us to be rewarded but the limitations are obvious – you forget it, your wallet gets full and the problems for the merchant are greater. They have a very limited understanding of who their loyal followers are, where they are and how often they visit. As soon as you go digital all that understanding and connectivity becomes easier, ” said Mr Matthews.

The Entertainer app is available on Android, Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry 10 and a Windows app is also in the making, set to be launched in January. Mr Ashford is also looking into incorporating social media into the application, whereby users that share the app will receive member benefits.

The Entertainer is also venturing into the retail space, opening a store in Dubai Gold and Diamond Park and a kiosk in Mirdif City Centre, serving as a destination to buy the books and branded merchandise as well as a customer services area.

“It is to expand, for marketing, branding and customer service. We can talk to the customer directly to see what they would like from us,” said Ms Benton. “We’ll see how that goes, Dubai is a good platform to see how it goes before expanding and opening elsewhere.”

The Entertainer has 27 books for 23 destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, working with 6,000 merchants globally. It will be launching its London book in four weeks.

The company is now piloting a services section in its Dubai book. From pet grooming to dry cleaning and car rental, it is working with about 20 merchants across the city to gauge public response.

“We would probably go deeper than wider. We’ll be expanding our footprint in our current markets, whether that is going into more destinations in those continents or setting up third party apps,” said Ms Benton.

thamid@thenational.ae