Friday, January 21, 2011

Are Groupon Coupons Getting Spammy?


The latest Groupon coupon fad reminds me of the mailing list spam days back in 1999.  Back in the day companies like Yahoo couldn't get their hands on enough lists of emails and would use these lists to pump out advertising offers left and right.  Eventually consumers got smart and had to use spam blockers and finally the Government required companies to offer opt-in email programs.  Groupon is not much different, however, this time they give you a sense of urgency by saying that inventory is limited.  Not only do most offers claim to limit the inventory but they often give you 50% off for a limited time.  Yes, it seems like a good short term promotional tool but how long will it last and what will it do for customer loyalty?

Will Groupon become a victim of their own success always chasing the next deal and lose customer support?  I think coupons should be scare commodity and not available to everyone.  If everyone has a coupon it defeats the purpose of pricing anything and creates a sense of dishonesty amongst your loyal customer base.  I think at the end of the day when this local coupon bubble pops the winners will simply be just good at local display advertising.  I think Google gets this as well and will will likely start see display ads targeted on mobile phones that show offers like this.

Groupon turned down an offer from Google to buy them for $6 billion dollars apparently and it looks like they are headed for an IPO.  I think this is a blessing in disguise for Google and they should be thankful that this did not work out.  The competition in the coupon space is furious and there are literary thousands of Groupon clones that do the same thing.   When Groupon first received funding and their valuation was north of $100M I said it was a great investor ponzi scheme and still think this.  Its a big house of hards that is only held up by the huge pile of cash they have been able to raise.  Its also not surprising to see them acquiring several companies in order to try and consolidate their competition.  I also wouldn't be surprise to see some more controversy surrounding this company get publicized before it tries to go public.  Groupon has lots of "skeletons in the closet" that will come out and at the end of the day the winners will ultimately be small niche local companies like Boomstreet who will be successful.   

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