Groupon is doing relatively well on topline revenues and subscriber growth. And it’s got the biggest brand in the deals segment. But if it wants to survive and thrive long term it needs to make deals just one part of a larger suite of products for local merchants.
It tried and failed to branch out with Groupon Stores. But in Groupon Scheduler, which was recently opened up to any merchant in North America, it may have a product that leads to a broader relationship. Scheduler emerged out of acquisition of OpenCal in September 2011.
Former Yahoo Mobile executive David Katz, now GM of Scheduler, said in a blog post that the product is intended to be used by any/all businesses not just Groupon merchants:
Scheduler is the latest addition to Groupon’s suite of merchant marketing tools, which help business owners get more customers and run their businesses more successfully. Scheduler gives business owners an easy, free way to take online bookings from their customers 24/7. Once a Groupon has been purchased, a customer can schedule an appointment in just seconds through their account on Groupon.com. Merchants can also add a “Book Now” button to their website and use Scheduler to manage online booking for all of their services—not just those offered through Groupon.
Having a scheduling capability will reduce some of the friction and frustration associated with trying to redeem deals after purchase (“I’m sorry we have nothing available that weekend”). Yet Scheduler represents a way to reach a broader population of merchants and reposition the company as a more general marketing platform.
Obviously non-Groupon merchants that use Scheduler become Groupon prospects; it’s an advertiser acquisition tool. But it’s also a way for Groupon to present itself more holistically as a marketing and commerce platform for SMBs.
Other than OpenTable, online scheduling for SMBs has a very mixed track record. Many companies and come and gone trying to get local businesses to adopt online scheduling, which makes lots of sense from an efficiency and CRM standpoint. But getting them to actually put “the book” online is another matter.
Consumers are ready and even eager for this; SMBs — not as much. In a decade the penetration of online scheduling among SMBs will be relatively high. But for now, it’s a Sisyphean struggle to get them to adopt.
If Groupon can gain meaningful adoption of Scheduler it paves the way for loyalty programs, as well as a range of potential other marketing services for SMBs.