These days, the daily deal sites are in no short supply. You can practically trip over a rock and stumble into a daily deal on the street. $6 for $12 worth of hoagies? Why not? But a new online shopping website takes a decidedly different approach to encouraging shoppers to spend their hard earned cash. Instead of deals and discounts, Zestii, which launches today, offers cash back.
You’re probably thinking what I thought at first glance, too: why bother? These rewards programs all work the same way: you have to spend oodles of money to get some consolation prize that isn’t worth a fraction of what you just spent. A daily deal program like Groupon, however, draws you in with the offer of only spending a few bucks to get a more substantial value.
But Zestii co-founders Brian Quinn and Jonathan Wu pointed out that unlike daily deal sites, Zestii isn’t necessarily about discovery. It’s about shopping at your favorite brands’ sites and getting real cash back—as much as 12% of your total—with minimal effort. From that angle, it makes perfect sense. For example, if I just happen to prefer 7 For All Mankind jeans, I can register with Zestii and start shopping to get 5.6% cash back for every purchase I make. And there is no limit to how much you can spend or when you can shop.
To get started, you simply register at Zestii and browse the more than 200 retail partners on the Zestii site, which offers a breakdown by brand, product, and stores. Maybe you’re not really looking for a specific brand, but anything to do with babies and kids (your kids have exploded through their last set of clothes and you need to hurry up and replenish your supply). Zestii offers general categories, including Baby and Kids, Electronics, Food and Wine, Health and Beauty, Apparel, and more, and each category shows the retailers that Zestii has partnered with, as well as the cash-back rewards they’re offering. In the Baby and Kids section, for example, Diapers.com offers 1.4% in cash-back rewards, while Baby Bunch offers 12.6% in cash-back rewards.
Users can save their rewards for as long as they want to, and when they choose to cash out, Zestii issues a payment via PayPal.
Partners include everything from Sephora and Nordstrom’s to Soap.com, and Quinn and Wu explained that the partners track users purchases and report their earnings back to Zestii, which receives a credit from each partner when a user makes a purchase. The two co-founders said that Zestii makes money by keeping a cut of each credit, which they say amounts to about 20% of each reward amount that a partner credits to Zestii. Quinn and Wu pointed out that their main competitor, Ebates.com, takes a 50% cut.
So far the biggest challenge that the company has faced is the fact that users forget to use the service. In other words, they register, use the site a couple of times, and then later on, when they want to make another purchase, they forget to go through Zestii. So the Zestii team has addressed this issue by developing a tool bar that users can download, which reminds them when they land on a retail partner’s site that they can get cash-back rewards by shopping at this partner’s site through Zestii.
The company hasn’t raised any money yet and has been entirely self-funded to date. The team currently includes Brian Quinn and Jonathan Wu, along with a blogger they hired as they plan to begin beefing up the site’s content offerings.