Friday, November 30, 2012

Can Discount Websites Survive?

Consumers love deals and that very nature would make one believe that a business offering discounts and deals would be well received.  We love knowing that something that should cost $20 only costs us $10.  It's a win for us as long as we are willing to pre-pay for it in order to use the coupon at a later date.  And yet, for businesses like Living Social and Groupon, the appeal doesn't translate yet into a winning business model.  "Online deals company LivingSocial is cutting 400 jobs worldwide, or about 9 percent of its work force, as the deals market continues to face challenges."  And Groupon faces similar challenges as discussions over replacing their CEO have been questioned as their results also suffer.

So is this a sustainable business or will Groupon, Living Social and others lose their investors and their profitability?  The problem is clearly not with the consumer; who wouldn't like to pay less for something.  The problem may lie in the retailers offering these discounts.  Not only must they reduce their profit margin to attract customers, they must offer additional monies to these sites to promote these discounted deals.  Their costs then only increase as their profitability falls.  In addition, these retailers must determine if these deals attract new customers to their business or simply give their current customers a deal.

As a consumer, I love a good deal; as a business model, it is hard to imagine retailers regularly using these discounters.  Thus the constant searching for more prospects to use the service must get more and more difficult.  At the same time, the business model could be replicated inside these retailers own websites.  Build out loyalty programs, offer discounts on your site, and not worry about a middleman like Groupon and Living Social.  Want to see an example of it, go to Lord & Taylor or Justice websites; must wife never goes to these stores without a coupon. 

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