July 22, 2010, 4:38 PM

Web retailers test a free daily deal platform

Gordian Knot is offering the Dealo service for free.

Daily deals are one of the hot topics among online retailers these days. Gordian Knot is offering a free platform called Dealo designed to make it easy for web merchants to offer limited-time sales by the hour, day, week or any other time span.

The company, the parent of e-retail sites PlumberSurplus.com and OutdoorPros.com, launched the service in early June and has been testing it with several merchants. Gordian Knot hopes to sign up many merchants to use the free service so that it can later develop a site that will present limited-time offers from many merchants and generate affiliate fees for pushing sales to participating retailers, says Timothy Jackson, co-founder and managing partner.

Dealo is designed to be easy for merchants to set up and use, Jackson says. It is an on-demand platform, which means Gordian Knot hosts the technology and e-retailers need only add a few lines of code to their web sites to connect to it. Set-up was designed for use by non-technical personnel, giving them options for background colors, the shape and location of buttons, uploading images, how deals are to be communicated to the retailer’s customers, even whether the retailer’s Dealo site should display a bar showing how many sale items remain.

Brandi Coulombe, e-commerce manager at GRHarley.com, says it took about 15 minutes to set up her Dealo site and that the site, Harley.Dealo.com, is generating sales and buzz.

GRHarley.com, which sells apparel and accessories to Harley-Davidson motorcycle aficionados, is offering sparkplugs this week on its Dealo site, but mostly has offered apparel, usually 50 or 100 items per deal. The deals typically sell out within a few hours, Coulombe says.

“You think a shirt deal will be up for a day, and after an hour you’re down to men’s extra small,” she says. “Our customers are getting really into it. We get calls from customers asking,  ‘When is the next deal going to start because I’m leaving the house and I don’t want to miss it?’ It’s been pretty exciting for them, and for us.”

GRHarley.com offered a deal an hour during a 24-hour period over the July 4 weekend. But it currently is offering only one deal a week while it works on integrating orders from Dealo into its order management system. “We want to go back to a daily deal and, during certain events, an hourly deal,” Coulombe says.

Jackson says Dealo makes it easy for retailers to promote deals through Facebook and Twitter, via e-mail and text message. Participating retailers can see what deals they have in their queue, and move deals up or down as easily as consumers reorder their Netflix queues, Jackson says. A widget is being created now that retailers can put on their own web sites or social network pages so they can continually show whatever deals they’re currently offering.

Jackson could not say when Gordian Knot would launch the affiliate site that would aggregate deals from the Dealo merchants that choose to participate. For now, he says, the focus is on getting Dealo right. “We’re building this for free to defend against others, and to lower the barrier to entry so we can get a lot of merchants into the program to find out what they want and what they don’t want,” he says.

The ultimate vision is to create a site that would aggregate deals from many merchants. Then Gordian Knot could take an affiliate fee when a consumer clicks from that site lead to purchases at retailers’ sites.

Once that site is created, Jackson says he plans to offer a mobile app so that consumers can see in a single place the deals being offered by many merchants, and choose which deals they want to follow on their mobile phones. “It would be just one app for all the Dealo sites,” Jackson says. “The consumer can go in and choose which ones to follow and we’ll just push those. But once they’re in the app, consumers can also search for other deals and see the most popular ones.”

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