You've seen breathtaking growth over the past couple years, but I (along with many others) see an impending bubble on the horizon.
Recently, I tried using a Groupon for headshots I bought 3 months prior. No dice. The photographer was evasive, didn't return my calls, seemed to be dodging me.
Groupon customer service gladly gave me a refund, and assured me I wasn't the only one having this problem with that photographer.
My Mistake: Waiting 3 months to use the Groupon.
When a business decides to work with one of your companies, they usually do so with the magical assumption that it's going to guarantee them a boatload of new business. When your customers pour in the door and they don't come back, businesses get jaded. I suspect my photographer was one of these businesses.
On one hand, businesses that use a Daily Deals service should stop whining.
After all, every small business dreams at night, "If only I could get people to try my product, they'd fall in love!". You guys are only calling their bluff.
I understand that you're not guaranteeing them profitable new business, what you're guaranteeing them is a shot. A shot to wow the customer, to show them a remarkable experience they can't get anywhere else. That's an amazingly valuable service for the business. I get it.
On the other hand, I'm pointing the finger right back at you.
Groupon used to be one deal each day (something different). A service for adventure seeking people willing to try and be exposed to new fun things in their city.
But with Groupon, Living Social, and other sites on a frenetic race to see who can conquer the globe first, you're like tornadoes leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. You're creating a hyper efficient marketplace that is becoming such a good deal for the end consumer at the sacrifice of the businesses.
Once, a sign of prestige to be featured, now, you seem to be featuring any and every business under the sun.
The number of deals going on at the same time is increasing, with no end in sight.
Now, people are using the daily deals space as a marketplace to get services they were going to get anyway, at half of the price.
There's a real opportunity here.
Opportunities for innovative new sites like Jon's Moolala, to not be driven by the allure of quick scale and growth but to a return to a real authentic focus on customer service.
But that means treating the business as the customer, instead of the end consumer (the end consumer wins no matter what anyway). Here's what I think you can do:
1. Focus on businesses and services that lend themselves to repeat business. Refuse to work with business types where you can't imagine consumers coming back for more (and where you have data to back it up).
2. Pick unique businesses. Screen businesses ruthlessly like Oprah does books for her book club. Find the true undiscovered gems, the special ones that you can't find on every city block.
3. One deal a day. Focus all your time, energy, resources, and most importantly your audience's attention, on just one business.
4. Teach business how to keep the customers that walk in the door. I mean REALLY teach them. This should be at the heart of what you do, not just an obligation, but your core skill set.
Your industry isn't young anymore. You're growing up fast. That's no question. The question is will you mature?