Pirq expands mobile social marketing platform for small biz

The Seattle-based startup plans to take its mobile rewards and loyalty platform for local businesses nationwide.

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It takes a titanium-clad set of cojones to use "instantly amazing" as your tagline, but hey -- when you're a startup, bold is de rigueur.

Seattle-based startup Pirq has, until now, largely focused on bring mobile deals to Seattle-area businesses -- specifically, restaurants and other local shops. The idea: encourage customers to be more loyal by offering them discounts, perks or other incentives via their mobile phones. (It's also a good way to drum up business during slow hours, days or seasons.)

This concept is immensely popular and hyped right now -- Groupon and LivingSocial are already experiencing backlash, with backlash-to-the-backlash coming next -- but Pirq is trying to differentiate itself by focusing on the data. 

In its own words:

Pirq's current SmartYield program automatically and intelligently adjusts mobile deals in real-time to maximize a business’s off-peak and peak hours, which helps deliver new customers and increase profit for the business. The new additions to the SmartYield program include a digital punch card as well as a new frequency component, which complement Pirq' existing yield management program.

Today's announcement takes the Seattle-Bellevue experiment and scales it to the rest of the United States.

Here's how it works:

  1. Step one, implement a "digital punch card" that tracks loyalty (and gives rewards) via a mobile app.
  2. Step two, try to increase customer frequency by making targeted offers directly to customers' mobile phones -- for example, shortly after a visit.
  3. Step three, standardize success by setting deals at specific times of the day to increase off-peak business.

In a crowded market, can CEO James Sun succeed? It comes down to business basics: if he can find a way to offer something of true value to small businesses, he'll be well on his way. The high-profile flameouts of Groupon et al are a double-edged sword: "deals" may be a term tinged with too much hype, but the market is still anybody's to win.