How hot was Groupon? Founded in 2008 as a website for selling marked down goods for retailers and restaurants, the online coupon company triggered an email daily deal frenzy. In four years it became a 12,500-employee public company with 36 million customers in 48 countries. Forbes dubbed it the “Fastest Growing Company Ever.” Google offered to buy the company in 2010 for around $6 billion, but Mason decided to take the company public.
How far has Groupon gone from hot to not? Facebook’s rocky stock market ride is nothing compared to Groupon. Since the IPO in November of 2011, there have been a series of bad earnings reports and revisions. Share prices have fallen by around 80 percent as of late August.
One of the time-tested share price boosters for companies in trouble is doing deals and Groupon is on the move.
To start the year Groupon and Deutsche Telekom (NYSE: DT), owner of T-Mobile, said they would collaborate to offer Groupon’s local deals to Deutsche Telekom’s subscriber base across Europe. This was the first carrier deal for Groupon, and an interesting mobile data and mobile commerce play for T-Mobile.
Two other deals quickly followed. Groupon obtained a mobile startup, Hyperpublic, which makes geolocation technology, then quickly announced the deal for Kima labs, which makes mobile barcode reading app Barcode Hero and mobile payment app TapBuy. But can Groupon deal fast enough?
Clear the Deal Path
Groupon’s story needs to be even clearer for the best future partners to deal with Groupon in a big way.
The breadcrumb path is not hard to see- Groupon is moving from a new customer acquisition and advertising platform to a more complete small-business solution provider for revenue generation. Integrating point of sale services into the platform increases the utility and frequency for transactions.
Groupon needs to be taken seriously and these types of deals help. What is incomplete is the larger strategy and until that materializes, Groupon will continue to be the whipping boy of Wall Street as well as a risk to prospective partners.
Some things to consider for Groupon:
1. None of these deals stands alone. By increasing the clarity of the overall strategy, the additive value of each deal becomes more apparent to potential partners and analysts. Of course business strategy should be handled with discretion, but the core growth tenets should be declared so that each deal is seen as a contributory choice, not a unique event.
2. Set the metrics expectations. Jeff Bezos and Amazon went for a long time without making much profit progress, racking up losses quarter after quarter. However, he kept the analysts, customers, partners and employees rallied around metrics that clearly indicated what could be expected in the future. For Groupon, profit is not the only metric. There are many metrics that can be selected to chart the course of confidence in the future of the business strategy. Those need to be elevated in the conversation from a “Gee, look at how many people bought our offerings,” to “Because we have increased our base customer purchases from x to y, we see a trend towards…” The story in the data is for Groupon to analyze and tell if it wants to increase confidence.
3. Help people see the multipliers. Leverage is the oft-used term and it is the question a company who has seen an 80 percent drop in share price needs like oxygen. Stakeholders need to see how adding deals one, two, and three produce a result of 5-10x.
All of these recommendations are about clarity. When people do not see a clear path, they will jump to a negative conclusion. Goofy personality and merry-making aside, Mason needs to laser sight the strategy for all who are in the Conga line.