Mobile answers service ChaCha continues to find itself on TechCrunch’s radar. A tipster points us to this article published on a local Indiana business news site, which reveals the heavily VC-funded company is expanding if not slowly changing its business strategy with the addition of a digital coupon service dubbed ChaChaCoupons.
ChaCha CEO Scott Jones tells the local business newspaper that ChaChaCoupons is a ‘logical extension’ of its core service, which allows users to call or text questions on mobile phones and receive answers from human guides quickly and free of charge. He adds that the service currently attracts about 9 million unique users per month through mobiles and its website, but forgets to mention that the model doesn’t appear to work out all that well for the startup. ChaCha has cut guides’ payments quite a few times since its inception and was forced to lay off a significant part of its staff earlier this year.
Anyway: ChaChaCoupons aims to make it easy for people to search for local companies and offers by business type, area of the city, alphabetical listing, newest deals, and more. Like most online coupon services, visitors can print coupons at their desktop or send them to their mobile phones to be redeemed at their favorite businesses. They can also send a coupon via text messaging to a ChaCha in-store coupon printer.
At launch, hundreds of local offers are on the site with special coupons and discounts in some 13 categories ranging from beauty to restaurants. Conceivably, ChaCha will be expanding the service to more regions and cities across the United States in the future.
The new ChaCha service has also been integrated with the company’s text VIP lists where users sign up to get cellphone offers and news from their favorite businesses. Users can choose to instantly join an advertiser’s VIP List by either text or online at ChaChaCoupons.com, giving local businesses a way of retaining their loyal customer base.
In all fairness, I actually agree that this could be a worthy extension for the regular ChaCha service that the company could turn into dollars, which it is hard-pressed for. That said, ChaCha basically raised approximately $62 million for a mobile answer service, and I can’t shake off the feeling that this new addition is actually the company desperately trying to do new things because its primary focus turned out to be, well, worthless. Time will tell if all this branching out can help the company’s investors get something out of the startup in the long run.
On a sidenote, I had a good laugh when I looked up the most recent question from a mobile phone that was featured on the ChaCha website. It was: “where do squirrels poop?” and I’ll let you check out the guide’s answer and more in the comment section on your own, for shits and giggles (pun intended).