Where I've Been has turned to ecommerce and is set to bring Groupon's daily deals to travel consumers by pairing them with hotel bookings.
Slated to launch next week, this is what Where I've Been's travel deals and activities will look like:
So, for example, consumers might be able to visit the Where I've Been website, book a room at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel and tack on Groupon offers of a rum tasting at the Old New Orleans Distillery or a Chalmette Battlefield Riverboat ride.
For both the hotel booking and Groupon offers, Where I've Been serves as the merchant of record for the consumer transaction, says Michael Dalasendro, the Where I've Been CEO.
He adds that this is the first time that a company has brought Groupon to the travel industry in this manner.
So-called flash sales, of which Groupon is a leader, have become all the rage, and their integration with traditional travel offerings was inevitable.
For hotels, Dalesandro adds, Where I've Been, with its 3.7 million members -- and email contacts -- can be a new distribution channel.
Where I've Been is a map-based social network where travelers indicate where they have traveled, where want to travel, and then share tips, anecdotes and reviews.
And, that gives Where I've Been some powerful data for marketing purposes as it partners with hotels and Groupon.
Dalesandro says Where I've Been, which has 300-400 Twitter accounts [whereivebeen, wibNY, wibparis, TravelLondon, TravelTokyo etc.], conducts free email marketing for hotels, and segments offers based on where users have traveled, where they want to travel, and their living within a 300-mile radius of the offer.
The company also offers exclusive hotel deals, featuring only one brand.
Where I've Been does a revenue share with hotels and has an affiliate relationship with Groupon, in which Where I've Been earns up to a 50% commission on the daily deals, Dalesandro says.
The Where I've Been-Groupon partnership, however, is closer than your average affiliate relationship.
Groupon founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell created an investment vehicle called lightbank, and provided Where I've Been with an additional $750,000 in funding.
And, the two companies are located in the same Chicago building, although they operate at "arm's length," Dalesandro says.
In addition, Groupon President Rob Solomon, the former CEO of SideStep, sits on the Where I've Been board, although he took the board position prior to joining Groupon. Kayak's Brian Harniman, executive vice president of marketing and distribution, also sits on the Where I've Been board.
In addition to its email and social media marketing clout, Where I've Been offers hoteliers "the opportunity to capture the fastest growing demographic, generation X,Y," Dalesandro adds.
Where I've Been's turn to ecommerce represents an about-face from its initial business model, which earlier relied on banner ads and rich media.
Dalesandro says the ecommerce model represents a new vision for the company, which launched as a Facebook app in June 2007, to provide personalized travel experiences for consumers and "a new distribution channel for hotels."
In other news, Where I've Been has published a free API, which would enable "third parties to gain access to Where I've Been's established user base of millions of social travelers," the company says.
"We are allowing other companies to tap into our social database," Dalesandro says. "We want to be the social travel layer of the Internet."