San Diego’s Extrabux, With a Boost From Old-Fashioned TV, Sees Online Shopping Traffic Skyrocket
Noah Auerhahn and Jeff Nobbs knew they were onto a good business idea last year, when they won the fourth annual USC technology plan competition. They were undergraduates after all, competing in a contest that was open to all graduate students, faculty and researchers on campus. Nevertheless, Auerhahn tells me that what happened yesterday was “very unexpected.”
The collegiate business partners moved to San Diego last year (after their graduations) and spent the $25,000 they won in USC prize money to improve and recently re-launch Extrabux, a retailing website that combines comparison shopping with cash back and rebate offers. “We always assumed that Cyber Monday would be a big day for us,” Auerhahn tells me. “But I couldn’t say that I expected we would be the No. 1 search term on Google Trends.”
The Extrabux.com website got about 83,000 Internet visitors yesterday, including some 63,000 unique visitors, according to Bob Nascenzi, who recently joined the online retailer as CEO and as a board member. Online searches for “Extrabux” on Google yesterday eclipsed searches that included keywords for such terms as “Tiger Wood accident rumors” and “Chelsea Clinton engagement,” Auerhahn says.
Nascenzi attributes the spike in traffic chiefly to a plug from old media—a televised segment on ABC’s Good Morning America about the latest tools and insider tricks for getting the best online holiday shopping deals. One of the bloggers that ABC consulted, Erin Gifford of Couponcravings.com, recommended Extrabux, describing it as website that enables online consumers to compare prices, get coupon codes, and cash back deals for specific products on their Christmas shopping lists.
Extrabux is able to provide information about product pricing and related information about tax, shipping and handling fees, discounts, and cash back offers through its partnerships with Best Buy, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and other retailers. “We work with 60 percent of the top 2,000 retailers,” Auerhahn says. “Basically, Extrabux is best used by somebody who knows what they want to buy and are searching for the best deal.”
Extrabux, which now has eight employees, has raised about $300,000 from friends and family, and is working to close an additional $350,000 in a convertible loan from the Maverick Angels, an angel investment group based in Westlake Village, CA, Nascenzi tells me.
The online entrepreneurs say they had provided information about Extrabux to Gifford weeks ago, but never received anything from her in response. The televised report, however, triggered a flurry of searches for Extrabux on Google, which in turn triggered additional coverage on the New York Daily News’ website, mashable.com, and other online news cites providing tips for Cyber Monday consumers.
Some rival retailing websites offer comparison shopping and others offer coupons or rebates, Extrabux combines the features of all three. But as some media accounts noted, Extrabux may not be the best discount shopping portal or offer the best rebates, so consumers should check the deals available at other retailing websites as well.
While today’s Internet traffic at Extrabux was down from Cyber Monday’s peak, Nascenzi says the startup uses a variety of techniques to retain its customers: “Once someone joins our site as a member, they continue to use the site not only for finding the lowest price on particular items, but to get cash back and coupons on their everyday purchases,” Nascenzi writes in an e-mail. Extrabux also generates traffic from member referrals and by using search engine optimization to align keywords on its website with the terms that online consumers are using as they search for such things as “iPod Nano, lowest price,” or “Nintendo Wii.”
Auerhahn, who shares an apartment with Nobbs, says online traffic to their website began to spike in San Diego at 4:40 a.m. West Coast time. Auerhahn says his roommate was jumping up and down in his boxer shorts, yelling “Dude! You won’t believe this!” as he followed the wave of Internet traffic on his laptop.