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Zerda launches app pilot in Red Wing

Zerda, an app founded by a Rochester doctor that hones in on deals, discounts and open appointments at local businesses, launched a community-wide pilot in Red Wing last week. (photo illustration)

Zerda, the phone application that took first place at the Red Wing Ignite Technovation competition, launched a communitywide pilot in Red Wing last week. The app allows businesses to connect customers with discounts during lulls in the business day and fill canceled appointments.

“We keep the deals fresh by limiting deals to 72 hours in advance,” said Zerda founder Dr. Brandon McCutcheon. “Therefore, Zerda is an ecosystem where users can go to find great last-minute and short notice deals at a discounted price.”

Zerda entered a partnership with Red Wing Ignite earlier this year after pitching a beta version of the app near the end of 2015. Neela Mollgaard, executive director of Red Wing Ignite, said the partnership will offer mutual benefits to both local businesses and to the app’s developers.

“We’re able to get real customer and market validation in a short time frame and they’re able to improve their product for a national market,” she said. “As a pilot in Red Wing, Zerda will be able to scale quickly in bigger cities and that’s really the the advantage of our small town. We’re a microcosm of the real world.”

For McCutcheon, a neurosurgeon based in Rochester, Ignite’s previous work with businesses in the community offered an attractive incentive to establish Red Wing as the location for Zerda’s pilot launch.

“Neela and the rest of the Ignite team have tremendous connections throughout the Red Wing business and general community which are very important for launching an app like Zerda,” he said. “Since we have both a user-facing and business-facing app, one of our major challenges is finding both users and businesses simultaneously. It’s a chicken and egg problem. Therefore, as we’ve seen with other platforms like Uber and Groupon initial traction really starts locally with a high-touch process that requires a lot of interaction with both businesses and users.”

Mandy’s Coffee & Cafe is among the local businesses participating in the Zerda pilot. Owner Mandy Cardinal hopes to use the app to draw more customers in the afternoon, when business tends to slow down.

“I like the idea that it’s based on slow times, so you can push out a promotion when you want to see more traffic,” she said. “It kind of reacts to what’s going on with your business versus just throwing out a general coupon to the public. It’s a more specific type of discount that you’re looking to give out at specific times.”

Other businesses participating in the pilot are Indigo Salon, 17 Street Home Design, Shear Perfection Salon, Oliver’s Wine Bar, Staghead Gastropub, Noesen & Associates P.A., Healing Hands Massage & Wellness and soon-to-open River Blu Salon & Day Spa.

Along with the scheduling options and discounts, Zerda developers are working on a number of additional features, including schedule integration, automatic deal recommendation, and automated dynamic pricing based on historical demand.

Zerda is available for download on iPhones at the Apple App Store in two versions: Zerda, for customers, and Zerda Business for business owners.

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