Since the recession, haggling has made a big comeback. If you're committed enough and lacking all self-awareness, you can get a reduced price on just about anything. The only people who won't be talked down are canvassers. "Really? You only want to give twenty bucks to save the whales instead of fifty? What do you have against the whales?" For your information, cetaceans make me uncomfortable. It's personal. But that's not the point.
While other startups have attempted to harness the resurgence of haggling via group buying platforms (i.e. Groupon, LivingSocial, et al.), Netotiate (as in "negotiate" but with a 'T') is putting a new spin on the more traditional form of haggling by making it possible for individual Web users to negotiate with merchants directly.
Netotiate, which launched its new consumer-to-merchant haggling platform Wednesday, says it has something to offer everyone. Consumers will be able to get the items that they want for less without having to drum up a crowd of like-minded buyers, while merchants--particularly mid-sized sellers--can compete with the larger, more recognizable retailers.
For example, let's say you're in the market for a nice watch for the little lady (because you're behind the times and think watches are still relevant). You can go to the Macy's or Nordstrom websites and pay full price, or you can find the same watch on Netotiate.com and submit your own offer anonymously. The merchant can then accept or reject your offer, or send back a counter offer.
While sites like Groupon and LivingSocial have been criticized for attracting the one-time cheapskate customers, Netotiate is targeting a more savvy, price-conscious consumer who does the research before committing to the sale.
So why use Netotiate over some other reduced-priced marketplace, like Overstock.com? I bet they have lots of nice watches.
"Like Overstock.com and other online marketplaces, Netotiate.com allows consumers to browse products and compare prices," CEO Amir Farhi said to me. "But unlike any of these marketplaces and comparison shopping sites, Netotiate also allows the consumer to negotiate (netotiate) anonymously with any of the negotiating merchants, getting a better deal without competing against other shoppers (i.e. auction) or relying on others (via group deals) – it’s a direct consumer-to-merchants 'make me a deal' mechanism."
And what do merchants get out of it? For one thing, they can actually compete with the larger retailers, but there's the added draw of low acquisition costs, since smaller merchants don't have to shell out the money needed for advertising. Farhi says there are already a dozen merchants on Netotiate and many more in the pipeline.
The company raised a $1 million Series A round back in June from Boston's Cedar Fund and other private investors.
Netotiate is headquartered in Newton, Massachusetts, with R&D offices in Tel-Aviv, Israel.