Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Google Offers Launches in Charlotte

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 1/25/2012 No comments
Google Offers is now available in Charlotte. The daily deals, online coupon service that was launched by the search-engine giant last year, added five new cities yesterday: Charlotte, Kansas City, Milwaukee, San Antonio, and Tampa. That brings the total number of cities to 38; 33 of those came over a six-month span in the second half of 2011.

From what I can tell, Google Offers isn't much different than the leading daily deal service, Groupon, or distant second-place competitor LivingSocial. Other large dot-coms, such as Amazon with AmazonLocal, have launched coupon services to try to slow down Groupon, which is available in more than 160 U.S. cities, plus hundreds more in other countries, with tens of millions of registered users.

I signed up for both Groupon Charlotte and LivingSocial Charlotte in 2010 (Groupon first, then LS about six months later). If you aren't familiar with how these services work (where have you been), it's simple. You register for free on their website (takes only a couple of minutes), and each day you'll receive an email that features a greatly discounted offer on a local product, service, meal at a restaurant, ticket to an event, etc. The minimum discount is 50 percent off, but quite often the discounts reach 75 percent off or more. Once you receive the deal in your email, you have three or four days (sometimes longer) to buy it; then you usually have about six months or so to redeem it.

Companies sign up to offer their special deal with Groupon, LivingSocial, and the like, in an effort to attract more business and new customers. It usually comes at a loss for these businesses on that particular offer because not only are they selling that product or service at half off (or more) but the coupon site gets 30 to 50 percent of the revenue that's brought in on the deal. So if a spa, which is a common deal on these things, is offering a massage package that's regularly priced at $100 to the daily deal subscriber for $50, it's probably only getting about $30 after the revenue has been split with the site. But businesses tend to view it as a marketing expense because they often attract hundreds of first-time customers; although a large percentage of them don't return once they've used the discount.

Today's local Groupon deal is 53 percent off at a golf ranch, while the LivingSocial deal is $10 for $20 worth of bath and body products. But there are often more useful offers, such as Monday's Groupon Charlotte deal I'm considering buying before it expires: $50 for $225 worth of complete pair of eyeglasses with frames and lenses.

Since I already receive one email a day from each of these services, I can't see myself signing up for Google Offers or any other similar service anytime soon. I have enough unread emails in my inbox as it is. Google Offers is going to have to show me something different or more worthwhile to make me consider. I would think that people like me who are already subscribed to a daily deal service or two probably feel the same way. But Google Offers still has a pool of hundreds of millions of people to go after--those who aren't subscribed anywhere. Plus the fact that they have an immediate target audience already in their reach through the gigantic number of people who already have Google accounts, whether it be to use their services like Gmail, YouTube, Google+, or others.


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