Photopon is turning food porn into dollars.
You can’t scroll through Instagram these days without seeing a close-up of a brioche french toast with berry compote, or a duck delicately positioned atop a bed of greens in plum sauce.
Photopon lets you take these tantalizing bites of food photography and make them into location-based coupons. The startup launched its new iOS app today that takes advantage of the millennial proclivity to snap food photos before eating and share them with the world.
“Happy customers love to give back when they can by recommending their favorite businesses to friends and family, with the hope that they will take the initiative and check it out for themselves,” cofounder and CEO Brad McEvilly told VentureBeat “Distributing these recommendations as Photopons, gives friends a direct “call-to-action” if they like what they see. Likewise, it provides immediate, powerful relevance to a local business and the promotion they’re running.”
Food tastes better after it has been documented. At least that is the only explanation I have come up with for why people continue to take pictures of food and assume that their friends are interested in the morsels they are about to digest.
The general idea behind Photopon is that if people are already sharing food photos, why not attach a deal or offer to that photo, so the businesses benefit as well?
Participating locations present a number of coupon templates, like $25 off an entree or $1 beers. Users choose a coupon, take their own photo, and share the custom version through the app or via email, text message, or social networking sites.
Recipients redeem the coupon at their leisure, and creators can redeem them as well if they choose (to be greedy). Creators also receive loyalty rewards and kickbacks.
Cofounder and CEO Brad McEvilly told VentureBeat that customer acquisition is the biggest challenge local businesses face. Finding new customers and retaining existing customers is crucial for a business to thrive.
Photopon combines the tech tropes of photo-sharing, location-based marketing, and loyalty programs to help local businesses use existing customers to attract new customers.
The movement for social, local, mobile (SoLoMo) marketing gives more control to consumers, who can use their own experiences and social followings to become brand advocates. However, the market for services and apps participating/enabling in this SoLoMo movement is, well, as crowded as Instagram is with food photos.
You’ve got big players like Groupon and Foursquare operating in the same general space, as well as smaller startups like Scoutmob, which delivers local offers; loyalty program Belly; Shopkick, which unlocks in-store deals; SocialTwist, where people can share in order to receive discounts; not to mention efforts from Facebook and Google.
So New Jersey-based Photopon faces some pretty steep competition.
One of the biggest challenges with apps like this is achieving a critical mass of businesses. Adding local businesses onto a platform is a labor-intensive process, but without a high level of penetration, there isn’t much incentive for users to participate.
Photopon sources deals from individual businesses, as well as aggregators like 8coupons, which is smart, but many of the participating businesses so far are large chains like Olive Garden or Chilis.
In my experience — and granted, I live in San Francisco where national franchise restaurants are relatively scarce — people tend to reserve their food photography for unique occasions, not trips to the Olive Garden.
The simple idea of turning Instagram or Foodspotting photos into custom coupons is smart, but for a company like this, the challenge is in the execution.