The last 12 months have been some of the most volatile times in the daily deals space. In 2010, Forbes hailed Groupon as the fastest growing company ever. Two years later, at a $3.6 billion valuation, it’s half the value of what Google was willing to pay for it before it went public. Now, some critics, Forbes included, are calling for Andrew Mason to be removed or step down as CEO.
Groupon’s struggles aren’t isolated. Living Social has struggled to attain profitability and in November slashed 400 jobs trying to do so. There’s even been a shakeout with the white label daily deal software providers, the vendors that help media and others develop the long tail of the deal industry. Two years ago, there were 15-20 providers, including most notably Analog Analytics, Deal Current Network, Deal Pigg, Group Commerce, Nimble Commerce, and Tippr, providing software to local TV, Radio, and Newspaper groups in the daily deal space. At the end of 2012, there were only a couple top providers operating profitably and gaining market share. The rest have closed down, stopped accepting new clients, or diverted resources to new projects.
However, merchants are still in search for a low-cost way to reward regular customers for their purchases. So what should publishers and merchants be focused on in 2013?
1. Marketing fewer deals with higher quality. Daily deals continue to work for some, but not all merchants. In one sample of a major TV deal program in San Diego, 43 percent of the total annual deal sales came from just 25 deals, or about one tenth of the total deals ran that year by that publisher. Deal programs should focus on working with the right type of merchants, not all merchants.
2. Picking the right loyalty program. Many companies are trying to figure out what’s next after an initial new customer is introduced to a local business. Older organizations in this space like Rewards Network/iDine, are seeing a new wave of competitors with some major venture backing. Companies like Belly, Mogl, andLevel Up are putting a heavier focus on making things fun and easy for consumers and simple for merchants to track. The trick that loyalty concepts will need to prove is that their programs bring in new incremental business, not just deal seekers, and are not just garnishing a percentage of revenue from existing customers.
3. Trading advertising for services and products. The daily deal industry started long before Groupon, but back in the 90’s and early 2000s it was a booming trade business. Merchants would trade their products and services for a no-cash required media trade. For example, Jim gives his local radio station fifty $100 gift cards in exchange for $5,000 in advertising credit on air. The radio station turns around and sells those gift cards at a discount and recoups the free air time given. It’s a win-win for everybody (merchant, radio station, and consumer who gets a great discount.) This brings more perceived value to the local merchant because Jim now gets an email blast and $5k in air time.
4. Competing with banks? How financial institutions affect the local offer market will be seen in 2013. Last June the daily deal white label Analog Analytics was purchased by Barclays Group, and JP Morgan Chase just announced the acquisition of Bloomspot. Other financial institutions are sure to follow. These organizations see this as a consumer benefit and won’t need to be profitable as a stand-alone business. Some banks, like Bank of America with their AmeriDeals program are starting to go after this market on their own.
5. Investing in digital coupons. Google Adwords and Facebook’s advertising platforms work great for the large and savvy merchant. Local merchants are still in search of an advertising outlet that costs nothing upfront and only costs money when customers take action. Coupons.com, Coupon Cabin, and Retail Me Not have proven that performance based digital coupons work at the national level and Emarketer reported that 92.5 million people redeemed a digital coupon in 2013. We expect local merchants will start searching and requesting a similar marketing channel in 2013 and beyond.
This blog post was originally posted on our Director of Strategic Partnerships, Kevin Beatty’s website: www.kevinbeatty.com.
Daily deals, local offers, coupons, gift certificates, check-in specials, and the list goes on for ages. Who would have thought that the discount landscape would look like it does today? In 2010 there was 3.3 billion traditional coupons clipped and redeemed. This doesn’t take into account for the multi-billion dollar daily deal industry that crept in like the Trojan horse. Obviously when the economy is turned upside down with financial instability it drives consumers to seek for ways to save. Or it is?
I know that with my direct network of friends, colleagues and business associates sometimes finding a great deal is more than just saving a few dollars. It’s almost a competition at times to see who is aware of the smoking hot deal from the best excursion in town. I’ve been immersed in the daily deal industry ever since I first heard about Woot back in 2004. It wasn’t until three years later that LivingSocial would start: cataloging people’s interests on Facebook. YES, that’s not made up – there was a time. They didn’t enter the deal space until Groupon entered in late 2008. Building Deal Current from the ground up has given me the distinct privilege of building a scalable technology platform that’s helped launch over 200 programs throughout North America. I was there from the first shovel in the dirt and boy as I look back I hardly recognize the space anymore. I’ve learned a lot about consumer trends, technology capabilities, merchant resources, UI flaws, and failure and success consistencies.
We all know that mobile phone adoption will continue to play a large part in our lives. My mom is now addicted to her iPhone 4S and actors are getting kicked off airplanes because they can’t put down Words with Friends. Estimates show that already 90 Million people in U.S. own smartphones. I’m assuming by now you think my prediction is that every daily deal program will have their own mobile application. That’s NOT entirely the case however. Although I do believe mobile will continue to play an important role in the local commerce space it needs to be done correctly here. Just to have an app to have an app is a naive move. Geo-targeting, LBS, and NFC will be a must if you want to actually have people use your apps. If you don’t know what LBS and NFC are – well, do some research and rethink your concept. LBS is location based services and NFC stands for near field communications. These technologies eliminate the need for users to turn on their phone, click the app, and hope to find a deal local. We’ll see more and more deals will be PUSHED directly to consumers. Foursquare’s recent launch of Radar is the first step in the this direction. Today it’s primary function is to automatically push notifications directly to users as they enter the vicinity of a location they previously marked off on their ‘To-Do List.’ With foursquare’s partnerships with Gilt, LivingSocial, Zozi, AT&T Interactive, and Scoutmob you can be assured that push notification deals will come about in the 2012. Aggregation apps like Yipit and 8Coupons will certainly implement push notifications for the deal programs they aggregate.
Borrell Associates recently did a survey to small and mid-sized businesses and the results showed that they’llincrease their online ad spending by 29% this year, compared to 4.5% increase for their offline ad budgets. If SMB’s are going to increase online advertising where are they going to spend it. My prediction is that they’ll spend it with platforms that will yield the most positive results with quantifiable metrics that are easy to implement. If they need to think about how to use your service or how they’ll track it’s effectiveness, you’ve already lost them. Daily deal programs will need to place significant emphasis on consumer retention tools. How can you automatically connect a merchant with a customer who purchased a daily deal previously to their business? Additional marketing tools such as targeted online ads, follow up email campaigns, repeat offers and appointment management apps will all become necessary components of the landscape. Groupon announced their appointment scheduler today.
Last fall, the top 2 categories for daily deals were Spa & Beauty and Restaurants, which contributed a combined 53% of industry revenue. Not surprisingly a year later, the combined shared of these categories has fallen to 36%. This is actually despite the fact that revenue from these 2 categories increased by 549% over the same span of time. This is due to the trends we’re seeing that anyone with a product, service or widget can essentially use the daily deal concept as an additional promotion. We’ve already seen several new verticals open up in 2010. Groupon Getaways, Living Social Escapes, and Gilt’s Jetsetter really have paved the way for travel and tourism deals. In August 2011 alone Groupon Getaways generated $9.6 million of revenue and LivingSocial Escapes kicked out $6.7 million. My thoughts are that in 2012 we’ll begin to see Home & Auto, Nightlight & Entertainment and Concerts & Events really take off. The question is who will lead the way? Live Nation and TicketMaster have yet to really leverage the deals vertical (despite LiveNation’s existing partnership with Groupon).
Affiliates and ad networks play a critical role in all online advertising but the deals space haven’t seen it develop quite yet. Of the clients I’ve worked closely with we’ve established affiliates relationships that are driving close to 18% monthly revenue. Groupon and LivingSocial both have affiliate systems but they’ve never released the financials generated through those strategies. Daily deal aggregators will continue to build their email databases as the desire to only receive one email will continue to trend high. In markets like New York City, where there’s over 150 deal programs, how does one filter through all of the noise? Smart filter technologies will continue to show up on aggregator and affiliate sites – as personalization will reach an ultimate high in 2012. Distribution channel partnerships can change the game as well – so look out for affiliate marketing programs like Commission Junction signing key partnerships in the industry.
There once was a time where it was normal to purchase a physical gift certificate for someone. Maybe you would drive to their favorite restaurant and pick up a nice envelop with a worth $50 certificate inside. Again, those times are of the past. Regardless of how easy it may or may not be to redeem daily deal vouchers, I still believe that we’ll see simplified methods of redemption. From QR code capabilities to credit card automation – a faster universal system is upon us. All major credit cards will be required for this system to really take flight. You may or may not be aware of the partnerships that American Express has secured from their Facebook Link Like Love campaign to their foursquare sync program. Consumer purchasing behavior metrics will come out of this automation and can really fit well with the merchant marketing needs of the future.
In all of the data I have access to what we’re finding is that consumers are not entirely brand exclusive. CityPockets reports that 54% of daily deal buyers have bought 11 or more vouchers across multiple sites in their lifetime. Consumers are merchant loyal, but not brand loyal. The reason is there’s really no added benefit to purchase the same merchant deal from Gilt City vs KGB Deals. Groupon at one time tried to implement a badge system and they’re in the process of resurrecting that concept as well. In 2012 you will see more and more programs develop consumer loyalty programs, VIP programs, subscription services for higher discounted offers and more.
When you dive deep into this industry (as with any other) you’ll see that there’s many moving pieces. The most financially secure and foreword thinking groups will be first to implement the above mentioned predictions, but they will come true sooner than later. If you’re a consumer of deals you can expect to save more on services, products, concerts, and travel more than ever. If you’re a merchant you can expect to receive data on who really are your customers better than ever before. This will allow you to spend your online and offline marketing dollars wisely. And daily deal platform owners – well, it’s your job to satisfy both of those groups while trying to remain different so you don’t get swallowed up by the competition. I see their being clear and sunny skies ahead in the deal space….just wait.