Savings.com Courts Social Penny Pinchers

Savings.com, a site for online coupons, has relaunched with new tools that encourage shoppers to vote and share information about special deals.

Before the site relaunch, consumers submitted 10 to 15 deals a day, said Savings.com CEO Loren Bendele. The number has gone up by 50 percent since the revamp.

The site features the day’s top coupon, plus “new popular” deals based on the number of votes or staff picks. Brands paying for exposure appear in the “Partner Store” section.

This afternoon, the top coupon offered 40 percent off all orders at Crabtree & Evelyn online. Other coupons provided 20 percent off for orders $100 and more at Macy’s and $5 off Major League Baseball tickets at StubHub.

Discount hunters can also search for coupons by category, such as apparel, finance, and travel and gear.

Vertical search engines like the one found at Savings.com offer a promising business model, according to industry experts. Vertical search engines can focus on a narrow category and build out tools to serve a specific audience — in Saving.com’s case, that’s penny pinchers.

However, the shopping vertical faces competition from Microsoft Bing’s search tool that features stores, such as Wal-Mart, Drugstore.com, and Sears, that provide a percentage of cash back to consumers based on purchases made.

Bendele, when asked about the Bing cashback program, said it does not pose a threat to the coupon site. “When I first started [at Savings.com], we had a cashback element. I removed it,” he said. That’s because consumers surveyed said the tools they wanted from a coupon site were a big discount upfront, followed by free shipping, and offers that enabled shoppers to buy one item and get another one free.

He also doesn’t view Bing, Yahoo, or Google as competitors because they drive traffic to Savings.com. “People will still tend to go to major search engines and start their search. Since we give [shoppers] a good user experience and we rank high in organic and paid search, they come to us,” he said. “Having a business model based on a second click is not a bad business model.”

Still, Savings.com must build its audience. It had 1 million unique visitors in June 2009, according to Compete.com. In contrast, RetailMeNot had 6.4 million unique visitors in June. It also offers tools that enable shoppers to share coupons with friends. Three months ago, RetailMeNot teamed up with direct-to-consumer coupon companies like ValPak.com, RedPlum.com, and Restaurant.com to offer a printable coupon feature, according to a spokeswoman.

Savings.com allows consumers to vote for their favorite discounts:

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