Groupon’s daily deal in Paris this morning was 50% off a 40 euro coupon for Amazon.fr, Amazon‘s French website.
This is interesting for two reasons: all the acquisition rumours swirling around Groupon and reports that Amazon wants to make an investment in LivingSocial, Groupon’s biggest competitor.
Amazon is the king of e-commerce but has been caught flat-footed by the new wave of social/group buying commerce companies like Groupon and flash sales sites like Gilt Groupe.
It acquired little-known daily deal startup Woot but that hasn’t moved the needle much. Amazon is no enemy of making big acquisitions when it gives them a leading position in a big category, like shoes and fashion with Zappos, and toiletries with Quidsi/Diapers.com.
So, could this deal be a test run for a much bigger, global partnership between Amazon and Groupon? Prelude to an acquisition? Discretely kicking the tires on group buying sites to see how they work from the inside?
Earlier today, Henry Blodget speculated on a possible Amazon-Groupon merger:
Amazon buying Groupon would make sense–probably more strategic sense than Google buying Groupon. But we doubt that Amazon would shell out the $5 billion necessary to do it. Amazon’s market cap is $75 billion to Google’s $190 billion, so the relative cost to the company would be much higher. Amazon is also not as desperately in need of a new growth engine as Google is. So we suspect that if it came down to a bidding war, Google would win.
Of course, we may be reading way to much into one little deal. Amazon’s French website has been behind, as book prices are set by the government in France, and French startups are really strong in e-commerce (Vente Privée, one of the most valuable startups in Europe, is the original social, flash sales company). So maybe Amazon France is buying a Groupon for the same reason everyone else is: to promote their business.
On the other hand, the sneaky nature of this foreign, discrete deal has us suspicious. When Groupon does a deal with a big brand like it did with The Gap earlier this year, we hear a lot about it. This time, the silence has been deafening.