ParkBench is a Toronto startup that’s provides local businesses with the opportunity to market their services directly to their communities while giving Torontonians a fresh way to explore the shops, restaurants, and services in their area.
Cofounders Grant Findlay-Shirras and Amanda Newman say that the site is a fusion of local search, social media, and geo-targeted deals—but at every corner, the platform is incentive-based.
Interested in trying a new restaurant in your neighbourhood? Download a coupon on ParkBench.com to get a deal before you go. Been somewhere great and want to tell people about it? Find the business on ParkBench.com, write a review, and get a reward.
“Businesses want to engage more with their customers. That’s what makes us unique—we’re the first place where, if you write a review and contribute to the community at large, you’re going to get something in return,” says Findlay-Shirras.
ParkBench provides businesses with their own profile pages, which feature everything you’d want to know about a local company, such as hours, location, pictures, and description. A business can offer coupons—known as "Prevoupons"—to new customers on their profile page, and motivate locals to share their opinions with "Revoupons," which reward reviewers.
“Most businesses hate the traditional review and deal sites—they want loyal, local customers, not people who will travel across town to get a discount on something and never return,” says Newman.
The dual coupon system solves the problem of impartial reviews on the web, the Canadian startup believes.
“There’s a real disparity with the number of people who write reviews online versus the number of people who read reviews online,” explains Findlay-Shirras. “Less than two per cent of people are contributing to content on the internet, but 92 per cent of people read those reviews. With ParkBench.com, we’ve solved that problem because 60 per cent of our users are contributing with posts, so it provides a much more balanced view of what a business is like.”
ParkBench has launched in Liberty Village, King West, Queen West, The Danforth, The Annex, and Little Italy, with "another half dozen neighbourhood pages coming soon." Roughly 300 businesses, from restaurants to dog walkers, are using the platform. The website has issued over $1 million in savings since it was founded in March, according to ParkBench.