Former Personalized Media CEO Rajiv Salimath hosts a launch party March 1 for his latest venture, Haggle. What Haggle’s about, he says, is letting people use their own data to show venues – starting with restaurants – how they’re a valuable customer, and turn that to their purchasing advantage.
Users can apply today for their shot at getting personalized pricing via the Haggle mobile app through realtime digital interactions with businesses that have also signed onto the platform. By launch that should include some 75 restaurants in New York, with the goal of hitting 100 to 150 there and another 150 in the San Francisco area in the spring.
How it works, Salimath says, is that users give the app access to their social data, which it crunches and gives back to them. “We take all your social and digital data and convert it to real-world metrics that matter,” he says. “We give you the data to negotiate with businesses.” It calculates four scores including social influence, loyalty to a particular spot, history of going to places of that type generally (seafood restaurants, for instance), and purchasing power, and based on those scores a screen swipe for the locale reveals the personalized discount that venue is willing to give the user – which he or she may attempt to further negotiate online. All the user needs to do is show the screen to the wait staff for the discount to be applied to the bill.
Haggle leverages natural language processing as well as sentiment analytics to help with crunching the data that feed its scores. “The basic underlying platform is a bidding platform that uses a lot of NLP and some pricing algorithms for realtime negotiations,” he says.
“Because so much data is available in realtime each transaction should have a personalized price for the user,” says Salimath. “We want to make it ubiquitous.” That includes making Haggle a feature in applications such as restaurant reservation site OpenTable or reviews and rating site Yelp. He hopes, he says, by year’s end to have most transactions go through the Haggle system regardless of what app a transaction starts in.
Haggle owes a lot to what Salimath developed for and learned at Personalized Media, which offered semantic search algorithms that made it possible to find and suggest to publishers’ readers other content, from the source itself, its associate properties or elsewhere on the web, that’s relevant to any word or term they highlight, or to the page at large. “Though the technology was great, publishers were trying to fix theirbasic revenue models and weren’t ready to jump and try,” he says. “And at the same time we had an idea about changing commerce, looking at semantic concepts to understand what users are interested in, putting in layers of sentiment analysis to see what they like or if they are influential about restaurants – taking this whole ecosystem of personalization from the publishing world and applying it to the world of commerce.”
Restaurants are just a first stop, Salimath says, envisioning the platform affecting even giants like Amazon. “Say you want to buy a pair of jeans there. Maybe your loyalty score for The Gap is high, maybe you have a lot of followers who look at you for fashion that builds your influence score, so you get 20 percent off for a pair of jeans,” he says.
And he predicts the app will be as much a help to sellers as to buyers. Take restaurants that have slow weekday afternoons – this can be a way to help fill to those tables. Or with the analytics it can provide back to business customers, a cab service like Uber, for eample, might be able to better cater to individuals always looking for a ride along a certain route. “It doesn’t always have to be just about giving you a discount but giving you a personalized experience too,” he says. “Price is one part of it but there can be other things, too.”