I formed Get the Point in 2006 as a vehicle for a start up. Novel or just stupid, time would soon tell. A green loyalty programme cum green price comparison website didn’t seem to be a bad idea at that time, with Tesco indulging in a new ‘green’ points and price comparators bashing it out in a highly competitive marketplace. The points scheme was initially designed around using the marketing incentives offered mainly by online retailers, but also charities, telcos and energy companies to drive their online sales. Affiliate marketing also has a bad reputation, ofetn failing to disclose said incentives and the override seemingly neutral promoters would have you believe.
My idea was to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour by taking that incentive and giving all or part of it back to the customer as points/cashback modulated and based on the green credentials of the product, the brand, the retailer/supplier. The 3 pronged ranking data for products, brands/companies and retailers would itself become invaluable valuable. We used a simple algorithm and score card to make it possible to help the customer chose greener, choose greener brands, or pay a bit less by buying the greenest product from the not so green retailer. Informed choice. In time we could move on to incentivise just about anything on or offline.
Launched in 2007, with over 250,000 products classified and stored, we had relationships with 100s of retailers such as John Lewis to Marks & Spencer, with a spectrum on the green scale. At its peak the site attracted tens of thousands of visitors monthly, more than we deserved – for the site was still in beta and designed as ‘proof of concept’, while we sought funding for the next stage. The money was trickling in, and the technology worked well enough. However we were finding out that the green consumer is an oxymoron. We found our declared and dedicated green types were immune to traditional marketing messages, even if the information we could provide should have been welcomed. Instead we found there were more people who could be persuaded, who didn’t self identify as green, but were interested in e.g. the great outdoors. Oh and you can guess how on earth we could target our ads so specifically with
almost no marketing budget no marketing budget.
The system was built on Drupal, the enterprise opensource software, which meant that we could reduce the effort and expenditure to get from 0-60 in no time. It took a while to find someone willing to take on the development. At times we had up to half a million products listed, but we found that in a fast moving market products were selling out, retailers databases were not always kept up to date and we found that updating products straight into a live database was a slow process and potentially could have caused problems (though it never did). We felt that the best compromise at the time was to process as much as possible outside of the database. Even so, this would still involve creating some very large and cumbersome xml files, so we needed to automate this in a future version rather than throw more processing power at it, though today this seems less of a problem than it was then.
As the project was privately funded, by 2008 the costs were exceeding the expenditure, the funds eventually dried up – though enough had been consumed in the earlier phases by time wasters and charlatans. We stopped accepting new users at that time but ran it as a demonstration only site for a little while longer, even so it was clear that funding for the next phase was not going to materialise.