Hukkster Brings Its Bookmarklets for Finding Discounts to E-commerce

8/28/12Follow @jpruth

Consumers may shrug these days when e-mails for deals and sales clog their inboxes, seeing as the Web is inundated with such offers. New York startup Hukkster believes it can help shoppers pinpoint the products they really want, with a “bookmarklet” service that alerts its users when prices drop on specific items they want to buy.

Co-founders Katie Finnegan and Erica Bell launched Hukkster in private beta in May and plan to unveil an updated, overhauled website in late September. The duo founded Hukkster to address the glut of e-mail generated by product promotions and offers that they felt were rather generic. “We wanted the benefit of those deals,” says Finnegan. “We didn’t have the time to sift through it.”

Hukkster users create bookmarklets when they see items they want on e-tailing sites. It’s akin to Pinterest users pinning items they like, but with a focus on discovering discounts. When a Hukkster user creates a bookmarklet, they record the product’s original price and decide if they want to be alerted any time the price gets cut or if a certain percentage gets shaved off. For example, a user could choose to only receive an alert when a desired item gets discounted 50 percent. Bell says Hukkster is a way for consumers to curate the offers and prices cuts they want, rather than having deals pushed to them by retailers.

Hukkster users only receive e-mail alerts when prices for items they want hit the thresholds they set. The company generates revenue through a relationship with Skimlinks, a London-based affiliate marketing network which Pinterest previously used. Skimlinks lets content publishers take a slice of revenue when users click links on their websites to buy merchandise from e-tailers. In addition to that cut, Hukkster also plans to develop analytics services based on data gathered about pricing and product promotions—information the company believes retailers will buy.

Beyond the September unveiling of the revamped site, Finnegan says the company is preparing for the coming Christmas holiday season. Thus far Hukkster does not have any special agreements or arrangements with retailers, however Finnegan says some merchants have had tentative talks with the company.

Bell and Finnegan are familiar with navigating the needs of the retail sector. They met in 2007, when both worked as merchandisers for apparel and accessories retailer J. Crew. The pair worked together again at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, both focusing again on retail.

Eager to get back in the retail racks, at least figuratively, Finnegan and Bell formed the plans for what would become Hukkster. Bell says as they structured their ideas in part by answering the questions asked on the applications to Y Combinator and TechStars. Hukkster has not participated in either accelerator program, but she says the questions helped them focus on the problems their company sought to solve. The pair founded Hukkster last December.

Finnegan and Bell tried out a manual version of the platform in February with a group of women they recruited. They used the web scraping tool Mozenda to scour retail sites for relevant product information, then handled other tasks themselves to serve the test group. “We literally acted as their personal shopping concierge,” Bell says. After they saw the concept gain traction—as sale alerts converted into purchases—they brought a programmer on board who developed the platform for the private beta.

Hukkster raised a seed round of $250,000 in May from backers that include Jerome Griffith, CEO of suitcase and luggage maker Tumi in South Plainfield, NJ, and Chris Fiore, president of Henri Bendel, a seller of handbags and accessories and subsidiary of Limited Brands. Finnegan says her company hopes to close another seed round in the next two months.

Finnegan says Hukkster’s invite-only private beta will continue through September, but with a more robust portal. Ultimately, she believes Hukkster will be embraced by retailers as a tool for better understanding and targeting the discounts they offer an increasingly deals-weary public. “There is an opportunity to provide [retailers] analytics through the data we’re collecting,” she says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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