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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Apr 25, 2012 - 9:02:54 AM


DI discounter InTown.com works its magic with a dollar
By Jennifer Johnston
Apr 25, 2012 - 9:00:28 AM

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A Vegas magician headlined one of the shows we saw aboard our spring break cruise. I’m typically very unsettled by such performers, as I have trouble both suspending logic and stomaching human quartering (even the trickery-type). But it turns out the coolest thing the slick illusionist did had no bells, whistles, or fog: he borrowed a dollar bill from an audience member, rolled up his sleeves, got the theater cameras to zoom in on his hands, folded the dollar into eighths, and re-opened it to reveal a one-hundred dollar bill. He turned a George into a Benjamin before our very eyes.

As cool as this was, it was fleeting. He turned it back into a buck before returning it to its hopeful owner. We have a resident here on Daniel Island who can do amazing things with a dollar, and make it stick. Steven Dolloff is the majority owner of InTown.com, a new coupon and incentive website. The concept is relatively simple: merchants pay InTown a dollar to list a deal, and customers pay a dollar to purchase the rights to use it.

Dolloff calls it the “craigslist for deals,” primarily because merchants sign themselves up and list their own special offers in a matter of just a few minutes. Once registered, listers are given their own dashboard, where they can maintain their deals, track consumer traffic, and watch for trends. The only real parameter is a maximum deal duration of 7 days; everything else is up to the merchant. They can offer a percentage discount or a freebie with purchase, a same-day redemption or up to 60-days to expiration, and one deal at a time or multiple deals on any given day. It’s all merchant-driven, and extremely flexible. With the ability to target slower sales segments or times, merchants are able to isolate deals to really maximize revenue.

For the consumer, it’s even easier. Anyone can sign up for an InTown account, and then browse the site for the deals they want. The site is remarkably user-friendly, with search options to narrow down by zip code, merchant category, deepest discount, ending soonest, etc. Once they locate a deal they like, they simply click to pay one dollar for that coupon. This week, an InTown subscriber could get a free tire rotation and brake inspection with any oil change from Glasspro Pit Stop for just a buck. Or they could part with that dollar for the right to buy one piece of jewelry and get the second half-off from Monkee’s of Daniel Island.

Clearly, this model is all about that one clam. Dolloff has been an entrepreneur for nearly two decades, and became intrigued with the city-specific deal sites that have been popping up like crazy over the past couple of years. But he saw flaws in their model, and felt that they were very consumer-centered. “With those other daily deals, the coupon is for half-off, then the website takes half, so the merchant ends up with just twenty-five cents on the dollar,” Dolloff explains. “I wanted to flip everything, make it easy on both the consumer and the merchant.” And it truly is. By listing the deals themselves, businesses are able to “bait their own hooks.” And customers can take the bait at will; even if they don’t use the coupon, they’re only out a buck.

This spirit of old-school affordability inspired InTown’s marketing visuals as well. From their retro cast of print ad characters with hilarious speech balloons to the color palate that mimics the hues of paper money, the feel is that of vintage value. To really drive the concept home, InTown will soon debut the Buck Truck, a vehicle outfitted with plexiglass sides and interior strobe-lights, web-cam, and money-blower. InTown subscribers (or InTown Facebook “likers”) can win the opportunity to grab as many dollars as they can inside the Buck Truck while onlookers watch from outside. This true deals-on-wheels vehicle will be stopping at local festivals and community events; look for the truck graphic-wrapped with a Dick Van Dyke-alike and the word bubble “Holy Moly! Yoga pants for 30% off!” I’m guessing you can’t miss it.

InTown.com was 13 months in the making, and just a few weeks following the launch, they have over 250 merchants. “We already picked up 15 this week!” Dolloff related like a proud parent. Moreover, it was only Tuesday. The company is headquartered right here on Daniel Island with office space on Seven Farms Drive and a staff of six sales, marketing, and social media personnel. They have been able to create quite a buzz in that short time, and are thrilled to have signed on merchants that have never advertised elsewhere. And what about other locations? “People ask me, ‘when are you going to your next city?’” Dolloff tells us. “I say, ‘I’m already there.’ We’re in Myrtle Beach, Savannah, and many other zip codes. We can be in the smallest town or the largest city, since it can be used from anywhere at any time.”
Dolloff may not need a sequin-clad assistant or audience applause to work his magic with a dollar. But in the end, he makes that buck worth a whole lot more than short-lived awe.

Sign up for incentives at InTown.com and visit their Facebook page to keep up with InTown news… and the Buck Truck.

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