I’m continuing to review some of my favorite deal of the day sites – some you’ve heard of, some maybe you haven’t. I’ve already highlighted the two bastions of this flash deal industry: Groupon and LivingSocial. Now, I’m focusing on some of the smaller daily deal sites. On tap for today? Plum District.
Unlike Groupon and LivingSocial, which aren’t geared toward any specific demographic, Plum District was created for one particular population: moms. The reason is simple: women – and moms in particular – hold the buying power in many American families. A 2010 infographic by Time magazine illustrates this very clearly; women are responsible for nearly 60 percent of all online retail dollars spent, a whopping 85 percent of healthcare decisions, and nearly half of all consumer electronics spending. Another study found America’s nearly 75 million moms control 85 percent of household purchases – that equates to more than $2 trillion dollars annually.
Plum District’s Background
Plum District grew out of the Groupon craze. A group of private investors sought to create a Groupon competitor, and brought in former I-banker Megan Gardner as the company’s first CEO. A graduate of Smith College who holds her MBA from Harvard (I believe that’s pronounced “Hah-vard”), Gardner’s been with Plum District since its launch in May 2010. The company expanded its online presence in late 2011, when it acquired DoodleDeals and Chatterfly, a mobile platform designed for the digital loyalty and neighborhood rewards genres.
Based in San Francisco, Plum District currently offers its Plum Deals and Plum Steals (more on those later) in 27 U.S. markets. Most of those markets are major U.S. cities, however, many of the deals the company offers are not hyper-local, and could be purchased even if you don’t live in a target area.
Plum District’s Strengths
The company’s tagline is “By Moms, For Moms” – and it shows. Knowing its target demo and appealing to it through the products and services offered, as well as the female-friendly graphic design of its website, are this company’s greatest strengths.
Plum District has two different types of discounts: Plum Deals and Plum Steals. Plum Deals are your standard deal of the day offers, just like you’d find on other flash sale sites. These deals are routinely for 40-50 percent off retail price. Plum Steals go beyond that – they feature once in a blue moon deals (or, rather, steals) that up the ante on urgency, adding to the “gotta have it now” quotient.
Plum District’s Customer Service
Unlike Groupon and LivingSocial, Plum District doesn’t offer any type of refund on its vouchers. As the company’s FAQ page says, “Once you buy a deal, it’s yours to keep.” The company does not clearly outline whether it works with customers who are unable to redeem a deal due to problems with the partnering merchant, and urges customers to contact the company via email with any concerns.
Plum District’s Referrals
Plum District breaks its referral program down into two categories: Plum Dollars and its Three for Free program.
You earn Plum Dollars every time you buy a Plum Deal (you can neither earn nor redeem Plum Dollars on Plum Steals). You also earn $5 in Plum Dollars every time you refer a friend to the site and they make their first purchase. Plum Dollars have no expiration date, unless you allow your account to go inactive; then, they expire after six months of inactivity.
The Three for Free program is similar to the one offered by LivingSocial. After you make a purchase, you can send a referral link to your friends and family via email, Facebook, or text message. If three of your friends buy the same deal, you’ll get yours for free. The Three for Free program isn’t available on every purchase. Additionally, you can’t stack promotions – meaning you won’t earn Plum Dollars for referrals used toward the Three for Free program.
My Plum District Experience
I’ve only made one purchase through Plum District since signing up for a free membership in February 2012. It was actually a Plum Steal – I was able to snag a $50 gift card to Diapers.com for just $20, a savings of 60 percent. I received my voucher almost immediately, and had no problems redeeming it through Diapers.com. The $50 amount was great too, since Diapers.com gives you free shipping on orders of that amount or greater. The one problem? If I hadn’t used the full $50 at once, I would have lost the remaining value.
My Plum District Advice
The items up for sale on the Plum District website aren’t as inherently usable as the merchandise over at Groupon. Plum District really specializes in products and services for moms, not for your household; they include more pampering options – like spa vouchers – and gifts like photo albums. Occasionally, you’ll find deals on mom-centric electronics (cameras are a big seller on the site), but for the most part, this site is better for gifts than every day purchases.
Reader, are you familiar with Plum District? Is this a company you’d likely do business with?