SCW: Could you explain how Eversave.com works?
Our whole business revolves around driving traffic to shopping centers and brick-and-mortar retailers. Consumers today spend about 95% of their disposable income within about 30 minutes of their homes. We view the Internet as a tool to help them decide how and where they are going to spend that money.
Consumers can log onto our site, give us their ZIP codes, and learn about deals and savings offers that are within about a 5- to 10-mile radius of where they live. They can search by store, by category and by shopping location. They can also use Eversave to send out anonymous e-mails in which they request various products and services - general or specific requests for everything from golf clubs to wood-burning stoves. Merchants register with us to receive those e-mails.
A shopper can say how many miles he or she is willing to go to buy an item. Then the merchants in that consumer's area send their responses back to Eversave, which are matched to the consumer requests. For merchants who don't have e-mail, the consumer messages go directly to fax machines.
SCW: What is the turn-around time on that?
It depends on the merchants. Ideally, it will take less than 48 hours. Consumers can go in with a period of time they are willing to wait to get their response: 'I want a response in no more than three days.' The average merchant gets back to us in about 36 hours, which isn't instant gratification. But if consumers want instant gratification, they'll probably have to call up merchants on the telephone or get in their cars and drive to stores.
We also are a direct marketing company. We send e-mails to our members with all the specials and savings available to them in their areas. These are based on their interests and what they tell us they want. They fill out a form saying they want e-mails on golf, cooking or clothing, for example.
SCW: Could you talk some about how Eversave.com was founded?
I founded Eversave in June 1999. I had been out talking with different retailers and shopping center owners about their web strategies and I got about 20 different answers. But the common theme was that they were not going to abandon brick-and-mortar stores.
So I decided that if one could use the Internet to drive people back into physical stores, that would be a very cool application that people would be interested in. I went and built a prototype on my PC and went back to the same retailers and shopping center companies and said, 'Would you use this? What do you think?' I got a very positive response.
SCW: Do you have statistics indicating how many retailers that you're working with now?
For our search engine, we have more than 80,000 merchants signed up to receive e-mails and faxes from consumers looking for products and services. We probably have about 3,000 signed up to advertise discounts and coupons on the website.
SCW: Exactly how does that work. When retailers sign up, what type of fee do they pay?
They pay a yearly fee - anywhere from $150 to $350 - just to be listed on the site. Now, if they want to be included in our e-mails, they pay on a per e-mail basis.
We're working with companies like Kimco Realty Trust, Pan Pacific Retail Properties and Regency Realty. They're helping us sign up merchants in their shopping centers, and they're also giving us a physical presence within their centers so that we can have banners, billboards, flags, stuff like that.
SCW: What do retailers seem to like most about your site?
What a lot of the small ones like about us is that we really level the playing field for them. Eversave gives them a web strategy without them having to build a website. The idea that you have to build a website is scary for a lot of merchants. Building a site is expensive. It's time-consuming. Retailers also like that the landlords are introducing them to this service. That shows that the landlords are looking out for the retailers.
SCW: Do you have any feedback from merchants showing an increase in business as a result of the site?
Yes, we do. There was an article in the Boston Globe recently about a gentleman who runs a tire store and a couple of auto stores. He was quoted as saying that in February, he had seen more consumers coming into his store just from Eversave than he saw in the last three years from his website.
SCW: How many regular users do you have right now on the site?
We are adding about 10,000 new customers per day and we are close to 400,000 consumer members. But we really did not start adding 10,000 per day until around March. We added about 200,000 in March and 100,000 in February. We added about 300,000 in April. So, we are really ramping up very quickly.
SCW: What is the most popular function?
Actually, it is the e-mails we send to people once a week. The response from those e-mails is phenomenal. People really like them a lot because this service saves them from having to hunt through and look for their things. And you know it's local and it's simple. We don't bombard them. We don't send them an e-mail every day. We send them one e-mail once a week or one e-mail every couple or three weeks. We try to be sensitive.
SCW: Eversave was recently named one of the 50 fastest-growing websites in the country. How do you explain this popularity?
We're one of the few companies focusing on consumers' local areas. Everybody is trying to sell stuff online, but we're trying to sell stuff locally. On average, people spend 95% of their income locally and only 5% of their money online.
It's easy to understand that a lot more people would be interested in getting e-mails about things that are local to them. And that is exactly what we see happening now.
SCW: Have you had any major technical problems setting up the site?
I would not categorize them as problems. We have technical challenges every day. Those who say they don't have technical challenges are full of it. We try to work through the rapid growth rate and keep our website moving quickly. Sometimes it's hard. You know, yesterday we had an enormous number of people on our site and it slowed down to a crawl. Meanwhile, I was trying to get on the site to show somebody how it works and the site was not moving. I'm a very impatient person anyway, and I thought, 'Why is this moving so slow?' It turned out that we had a huge number of people on our site printing coupons.
SCW: A good problem to have ...
I guess. But you still want it to move quickly.
SCW: Are there any competing sites offering services like this or have you found a unique niche?
Well, there are competing sites focusing on the dot.com world. But we haven't seen anyone else working to help the brick-and-mortar world. Nobody is partnering with shopping center companies in the same way that we are.
SCW: What are your future plans for Eversave?
We're focusing right now on trying to keep our membership growing rapidly. That's our No. 1 concern. We also have some neat things that we're going to be launching soon, but I would rather not talk about those initiatives right now. Of course, we want to add partners and to continue building our relationship with the shopping center industry. That's very important.
SCW: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
It simply is not true that everyone will be getting everything they need just by shopping on the Internet. I mean, consumers use the Internet to read their news and to find information. They're also going to use the Internet to find out what's happening at their local stores.