x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

GoNabit takes on group buying challenge

The company is learning valuable lessons and refining its business model.

Dan Stuart is the chief executive and founder of GoNabit.com, one of the first group buying web sites to launch in the Middle East. Jaime Puebla / The National
Dan Stuart is the chief executive and founder of GoNabit.com, one of the first group buying web sites to launch in the Middle East. Jaime Puebla / The National

Dan Stuart is the chief executive and founder of GoNabit.com, one of the first group-buying websites to launch in the Middle East. He talks about how the business has changed in its first year of operation.

For the uninitiated, explain how your site works once someone visits and starts subscribing for free?

We send an e-mail every day with offers from a business. It's typically 50 per cent or more off from a service-based business: beauty, health, restaurants. If you want it, you can buy through the website via credit card. We e-mail you a voucher and you take it in to the business.

What's the catch in terms of redeeming?

There's a short window in which to buy, usually only 48 hours. You might have six or 12 months to use it, but it encourages, and even necessitates, quickened decision making.

The site started in Dubai before expanding into Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait and Cairo. What mistakes did you make early on that you learnt from?

We try to keep redemption as straightforward as possible. The deals that didn't perform as well weren't as easy to communicate. People don't want to have to read for five minutes to figure out what we're trying to sell, or how to use it. Basically what we thought we knew has been reinforced over time: keep things simple and easy to use.

How is your business trying to alter the shopping habits of consumers in the region?

We ask people to pay in advance for services they'd normally pay for later. There had better be a compelling reason … That's why we try to make sure our deals are always compelling from a discount perspective. It's about the value.

Many businesses want to pitch deals through your site, as they share revenues with you every time a customer buys one of their vouchers. How many companies come to you with an offer but get rejected?

About 30 per cent. It could be a great business, but we just won't agree on a [deal] structure. Ultimately it needs to work for the buyer, us and the business. We don't like to deal with excess inventory. We want the deal to be compelling.

You recently launched a new "getaways" channel for travel deals. How else are you trying to compete with regional rivals such as Cobone and Groupon?

Deals are great, but it's not like we invented deals. We put a big focus on quality and not just quantity. We want to make sure we work with businesses people want to buy from, whether big or small. We publish our phone number very clearly on our site and people can send e-mails.

What's in store for the future of sites such as yours?

We'll look at probably expanding the ways and places you can interact with our site, be it mobile [or] making experiences more timely. Right now you buy the voucher and get it a few days later, but what if I want something this evening? I think there's a lot of room there. We launched something called Dubai Family, with just family deals.

nparmar@thenational.ae