It's the little things
I remember my first meeting with Downtown in June 2010. It took place one sunny summer day on the narrow, old street, Skt. Pederstræde, which lies in the centre of Copenhagen. I was scheduled to interview for a 4-month long trainee position for downtown.dk. While inside the small loft space that was their office, I got a great impression of the people behind Downtown, and at the end of the interview, we agreed that I should be Downtown’s first trainee. About six weeks later - which was still some time before I was scheduled to start – I received an email informing me that we now had a new and bigger office on Vesterbrogade.
This is just one small example of how fast things were moving back in those very early days. Since then, Downtown’s rapid growth and expansion has only continued.
The nicest guy in class
Downtown.dk was launched back in 2010, with the ambition of helping the people of Copenhagen (and subsequently the three regional capitals: Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg) enjoy their city even more. Encouraged by the Groupon movement in the U.S., we saw an opportunity to create a similar set-up in Denmark. Or in other words, a website where a large community of city people could go to be inspired by promotions for places to eat, events to see and things to enjoy. All of the founders are city people themselves, with a desire to get out and experience things.
The concept is simple. Every day, we send out an email to our 350,000 members with offers to try different products or services at half price. We take a percentage of every voucher sold and simultaneously help businesses like local hairdressers, sushi restaurants and wellness centres establish themselves and gain more customers. So what we do is a essentially a new type of local marketing. It’s as simple as that.
Early on, we realised that we had entered a market with a lot of “colleagues” who provided similar offerings. We kept our focus on doing the best job we could, and along the way, we continued to develop our concept, which meant that we tried a lot of different things. For example, we introduced a Christmas calendar, we donated profits to charity (Red Cross), we tried different themes like “Mom and Daughter”, “wellness” and so on.
Not long into things, we agreed that our goal was to test out all of our campaigns for ourselves. There was also a period, where different celebrities in Copenhagen tried our products and posed for our pictures. Currently, we have our journalists try out a treatment, product or a meal before we run a campaign. If it doesn’t live up to our standards, we simply won’t feature that offering. We are aware that we have a responsibility to present quality products and services to our members.
Besides that, we think it’s important to bring personality to our e-commerce, so that our members get a sense of who we are. We’re not just a webpage. We’re actual people. For the same reason, we feel it’s very important to have a customer support department, so members can always get in contact with us by phone, email or live chat.
From the very beginning, we’ve taken the time to post pictures with write-ups about each of our employees, giving downtown.dk visitors the chance to see who we are. We have similarly applied this strategy on Facebook, where we often post pictures of different happenings from the office. It could be new employees, sushi for lunch, the girls working in editorial, a birthday cake and so on. We don’t force these things or set anything up, we just take pictures of things as they happen, and then post them. Our overall goal has always been to ‘be the nicest guy in class’ – in every area of our business. We want loyal and satisfied members that make Downtown the talk of town in a positive way.
The deadline is always yesterday
Most of the people responsible for Down-town are serial entrepreneurs. It’s obvious to anyone who enters the office that the company is led by people who are interested in exploring ideas through a vibrant start-up culture, in building communities and businesses, and in watching them grow. The working environment is filled with energy, enthusiasm and deadlines that always seem to have been yesterday. This keeps us on our toes, and it also means that the average age in the office is around 25 years old. As I’m writing this, we’re actually having an old school slushy machine put in the kitchen. The blue and red slush ice (enjoyed free of charge) will likely be the best way to cool down on one of these 30ºC office days! It’s the little things like this, that make Downtown what it is: a dynamic, playful place with creative and interesting people. Creating value is a satisfying daily fix – for us, for our members and for our retailers.
As an e-commerce and a new media platform, downtown.dk symbolises digital progress. All of our members are experienced digital consumers who find their daily inspiration online. Society in general has experienced a digital revolution over the last few years. This means that our customers are always online, and a great number of them follow us from their tablets and smartphones as well.
At the same time, our merchant partners are eager to evolve and adapt to the new digital agenda, seeing value in reaching their customers via a trusted, curated and high-quality community platform. Moving forward, we will see a lot more interaction between merchants and members on downtown.dk. This social engagement will increase the value on both the supply and demand ends of our business. We’ve just joined Instagram, and it already seems to be a success. The plan is to encourage our members to use the hashtag #downtowndk whenever they use their Downtown vouchers, so we can follow their experiences and set-up a community around them where members can share and inspire each other. When it comes to digital process, we always try to keep up with the trends so we can be as relevant as possible for our members and partners.
A bloody red ocean
As has been demonstrated around the world, the classic deal-of-the-day business exists in what is referred to as “a bloody red ocean”. Entry barriers are low, and as with most emerging markets, it’s a hefty battle until the market consolidates. Downtown has been fortunate to stay ahead of the curve, constantly trying to develop and improve its concept and format. We put a lot of energy into the design and usability of downtown.dk and we have improved our vouchers and their ease of use. For instance, we have an app for smartphones, which can redeem our vouchers. It saves our partners a lot of time in front of the computer. The important thing is that when we change something, it has to be for the benefit of both members and partners.
We have been very successful in launching takeoffer.dk as a separate travel and accommodation vertical, and we are gearing up for the next big leap forward by then end of 2013. Our members are loyal and ready for additional daily inspiration. We are looking forward to the challenge of meeting their expectations.
Today, more than 3 years after my first meeting with Downtown, I’m still here and the company is still able to surprise me thanks to its commitment to “bigger, higher, stronger, better”. And of course, little perks like slushies in the kitchen on a hot day don’t hurt either. I mean, why not?
It’s the little things that make us great.
Astrid Marie Renkwitz Madsen