Promo code and sales aggregator for online shops
PromKod.ru: “People are starting to think that these sales are just a hoax.”
Today we’ll be talking about another interesting project hosted on Selectel servers: “PromKod.ru”, which publishes promo codes and sales for online shops. The project is the brainchild of Andrei Priobrazhenskiy (CEO) and Sergei Butsenko (CTO). Andrei talked to us about where they get their discounts, how Russian customers differ from customers abroad, and how Russian online shops are ruining Black Friday.
What’s your project all about?
We tell customers what discounts available at different online shops. The project exists in several countries; the first version started in Russia in 2012.
Are there different projects for different countries?
No, they’re localized versions for France, the US, Turkey, and Ukraine, but they all have different bases.
And where has it been the most successful?
In France and Russia.
I think we’ve just got a good team and good management. They’ve been able to get a solid foothold.
Each market is essentially a set of shops. Some place have more, like in the US, where there are tens of thousands, and other places have less; Russia has around a thousand stores that customers are interested in.
Starting out when there are tens of thousands of stores is difficult. The American market is really competitive; it’s hard to get a foothold, unlike Russia.
How’d the idea for the project come about?
There was a strong project, RetailMeNot. I was there client at the time we were analyzing what line of business to get into. I was immersed in the western segment of the Internet, used their coupons and discounts. I got interested in launching the same kind of project on Runet (the Russian segment of the Internet).
But there were competitors, Biglion and companies like that.
Biglion is a bit different. They use coupons whereas we use promo codes. You spend money on coupons to buy something specific at a discount. Our system is different: you instantly get a free discount, and this can be done right before making your purchase. Take an online store like Wildberries or Lamoda; they give out promo codes to attract new customers or for a specific collection they need to sell. You get a bigger selection than with coupons.
Did you start with Russia?
Really, we started with America, but there were complications. A big store base requires a big team, and there were only two of us. That’s why the first serious market was, yeah, Runet.
And how do you get started?
We analyze the competition, the number of stores, the customers. Then we decide whether or not to enter. There’s England, for example, which has lots of stores and customers, but again, you need a big team. Then there are smaller markets: Czech Republic, for example. There, it’s the opposite: a limited number of stores and customers. You need to find that happy medium. The project in the states was a tad over ambitious (laughs).
And how does it all come together? Do you just call the stores and ask for a discount?
No, no. We work through affiliate networks. In Russia there are a lot of networks: admitad, doubletrade, gdeslon, and other affiliate program aggregators. They provide these programs to web masters, like us. From one aggregator, we can immediately work with hundreds or thousands of shops. This saves us from having to communicate with each and every store.
This sounds a bit too simple. Do you just need to connect to an aggregator to get started?
You could say that about anything. Just make Google and enter the search engine market. There are nuances (laughs). We have a full team of technical experts and every week or two we have technical releases on the site; we’re not just standing in place, we’re changing.
What are these nuances? Usability?
There’s usability, technical plans, site offers…The mission is to not upset customers; we have to do what we can so that they buy something with a discount or gift.
Are there ever exclusive offers?
Of course. We work with a few store under special conditions, and they give us discounts that you won’t find anywhere else.
In this case you have to work directly with them?
It happens, but it’s not necessary. Sometimes, if we bring good customers to a shop, affiliate network managers will do something special for us. It’s like the store’s way of saying thanks. That and a way to increase joint sales.
If someone now wanted to make the same kind of site as you, would it be difficult?
More difficult than it was for us: competition has grown, more projects with massive bases have started to appear.
Still, users can look for discounts on different sites, right?
Of course. People will take discounts wherever they’re given. In other words, the faster you offer a discount, the higher the chance customers won’t look elsewhere.
Who exactly are your visitors?
Mainly people under 45, active Internet users, naturally. Men mainly look at tech, rent cars, and buy online courses; women more often look at fashion: clothing, cosmetics… And both frequently look for discounts on hotels and airline tickets.
Do users from different countries differ at all?
People found out about promo codes and started actively using them earlier in the West. If out of every hundred customers, thirty use promo codes here; then there it can be up to eighty.
How are their buying habits different?
In general, they’re about the same, but in the West, they buy more software. People over here though are starting to understand that software should be licensed, and sales are growing.
Do Russian stores act the same as their Western counterparts?
Over there, sales events like Black Friday are more popular. And discounts in stores reach up to 50%. Our users often notice that that a store will sell something for 1000 rubles, double the price before Black Friday, then amidst all the hype, try to sell it for 1200. That’s a trend I haven’t noticed in Western stores.
It’s all honest business?
Well, not a hundred percent, but it’s more honest (laughs). Our market’s also getting more civilized; it’s making the switch from developing to developed. There are less schemes like raising prices, but some places still work like that. What’s surprising is that sometimes these are major chains. Instead of taking advantage of the day to make a profit, it’s after prices; they’re cheating their customers, themselves, and the event as a whole. People are starting to think that these sales are just a hoax.
By the way, during Black Friday, the price of the ruble dropped; there was a spontaneous sale without any online shops. The results surpassed Black Friday 3-4 times.
They just bought everything in sight?
First tech and then more expensive things. When there was no more tech, yeah, everything in sight. It reminded me of the 90s, when you had to put your money somewhere.
From our services, you use the Virtual Private Cloud. Is this because of those sales?
Yes, we needed a server for a fluctuating workload, but that’s not all. One of the conditions was that we were constantly growing—one hundred, two hundred people, and then a thousand, then ten thousand—and we needed an infrastructure that could grow with us. The VPC was perfect. It’s where we also keep our data and launch test servers.
Have you been using it for long?
Since 2012, since the very start.
And why did you choose Selectel?
We made our decision from client recommendations. We haven’t had any issues since then. At that time, there weren’t many people who had even heard of “the cloud”. And in terms of tech, Selectel was on a good level.