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Wednesday 20 April 2011

To Groupon or Not To Groupon That Is The Question

Groupon logo.Image via Wikipedia
Groupon has been, and indeed still is, a business phenomenon. Its growth across the US has been explosive. It is now growing rapidly in the UK. Its message is to use the power of groups to get big discounts purchases of goods and services. In reality it is a careful repackaging of the discount  Coupon.  

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the this company Groupon's business model is "group coupons": If enough people sign up, the deal "tips" into action (because Groupon is so large, and has so many followers almost all deals now tip).  Groupon now has more than 50 million subscribers and aims for 150 million by year-end. Its revenues—about half the value of total transactions—were an estimated $760 million last year and should hit $2 billion or more this year. In addition there are a growing number of "Groupon" like competitors springing up. The market for this type of promotion, currently at least, is huge.

Many companies have benefited from Groupon style promotions but it does present longer term issues for business and particularly smaller businesses mainly because it is purely a price based promotion. Typically Groupon will want you to provide a 50% discount on normal price as a promotion. Groupon will then take 50% of that discounted figure. So a £10 meal nets the merchant £2.50.  The objective is of course to encourage the Groupon diners to come back for a full price deal. The evidence for this is however patchy. A recent study indicates a growing number of "Groupon Customers" who only frequent establishments featuring Groupon deals and will only spend the minimum required. Still with those businesses with high fixed costs such as Restaurants and Spa's, getting additional customers in on slow days in the hope of converting them to full paying customers is relatively low cost marketing approach.

The longer term issue as I indicated earlier is that it is purely a price based promotion which will lead to a reduction in brand loyalty as customers recognise that they can return as new on the Groupon discount.  Leading to a steady fall in the number of true new customers, matched by an increase in the number existing full price customers converting to Groupon customers to obtain the deep discounts.

Evidence is appearing that Groupon is excellent as a tactical marketing ploy, but increasing repetition could have a significant negative impact on a businesses longer term profitability. 

For the smaller business a very careful analysis of the true cost of using a Groupon style promotion needs to be undertaken as getting it wrong could prove very damaging for your business

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