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Mobs Rule

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Move over, coupons. Step aside, Groupon, LivingSocial and the rest of the discount/deal mousetraps. In the early days of cash mobs, individuals rallied to show support for independent merchants, strengthening local retailers with a quick infusion of cash and customers and building a like-minded community of consumers.

A new take on crowd sourcing pairs a free app with cash mobs. The Plurro app helps organize friends, family, colleagues and even strangers to “mob” a favorite retail spot. The idea is the bigger the crowd, the bigger the discount.

Crowd power
The name Plurro is a variant of the Latin e pluribus unum — “out of many, one.” “The phrase … captures our mission, which is harnessing the power of the crowd to generate promotions/savings [customers] want,” says Plurro founder and CEO Kim Muhota.

If a group of coworkers, for example, decides to go out after work for drinks, one can initiate the cash mob via the app while the others join, also through the app. A guaranteed base discount of say, 20 percent, can rise to 30, 40 or even 50 percent as the crowd grows. And crowd size is key — once the mob reaches 10 participants, Plurro does the legwork of contacting the establishment (they need 24 hours in advance to arrange the first one) to negotiate the deal.

Once the cash mob is started, “The location-based app alerts users in the area when a cash mob is going to occur,” Muhota says. “That way if you are only with a couple friends or by yourself, you can still get in on the action if there are other like-minded consumers in the area looking to save money.” All participating mobbers receive a Plurro mobile ticket to redeem for the discount.

Customer incentives go beyond the discount, as top Plurro users can earn points for starting and attending mobs as well as following the business. In an effort to keep the cash mobs real, users who join a mob but don’t attend the event lose points.

Driving traffic
Retailers can plan their own cash mobs to drive traffic during slow periods or to call attention to seasonal promotions or a new store opening. Discounts are negotiated and set in advance — again based on the number of mobbers. The same 24-hour advance is required to take care of behind-the-scenes details, but subsequent cash mobs can occur immediately.

Second Time Around, an upscale resale shop with locations in 11 states and the District of Columbia, held a Plurro cash mob in August at one of its 10 Manhattan stores. “Our first cash mob was a great, fun learning experience. It drove a lot of buzz for a location we had been trying to drive new business to,” says Jeanne Stafford, Second Time Around’s director of marketing.

“We had shoppers mention they had heard of our stores but had never been in, and the Plurro cash mob gave them the push they needed to come check us out,” she says. Despite a huge rainstorm that day, “We had a decent turnout that included some influential fashion bloggers who were buzzing about the event and published several blog posts, resulting in some great exposure.”

Second Time Around is already planning a follow-up event. “We’ve been looking at what we can do to drive even more traffic, including modifying the length of time and day of the week,” Stafford says.