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Groupon CEO Andrew Mason is trying to figure out the next thing for his company, according to a big profile in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.Here’s the key paragraph:
The CEO’s focus now is on building what Mason calls the “operating system for local commerce”—a suite of software and technology services that would embed Groupon into every facet of every transaction on Main Street. Mason envisions consumers using Groupon as a kind of Yellow Pages to search for new ideas on where to dine or where to find the lowest prices offered by thousands of local businesses. Merchants would use the system not only as a form of advertising but also as a touch point for every sale they ring up and a hook for bringing customers back.
Here’s the thing about this profile. It’s not the first time Bloomberg BusinessWeek has written a “Future of Groupon” profile. It did the same thing back in March of 2011. At the time, Mason was telling us that he was going to pivot towards “Groupon Now,” which was instant deals.
Groupon Now didn’t take off. People didn’t want instant deals. They didn’t go looking for them.
So, Mason is looking for the next pivot for Groupon.
Only this time he’s trying something much harder, and much further from Groupon’s expertise. Here’s an example of what Groupon is working on:
At Cowabunga Creamery, a surfing-themed ice cream parlor in the sleepy suburb of San Carlos, Calif., customers have their credit cards swiped through a plastic scanner attached to an iPad. Groupon developed the device with hardware maker Infinite Peripherals and built a cash register app for the iPad. “This becomes your business computer,” says Bill Cotter, Cowabunga’s owner. With his previous credit-card processor, Cotter says he would have to keep track of receipts and manually add up his daily income to calculate tax at the end of the month. “This does all that,” says Cotter, who has never run a daily deal on Groupon’s site. There are about 500 merchants in the San Francisco Bay area testing the payment system, according to a partner involved in the trial run who asked not to be named because the details aren’t public.
This isn’t like selling daily deals, this is a much bigger challenge. Groupon is going to compete with Square, Open Table, and other, more established companies.
So why isn’t Mason sticking to daily deals? Because he thinks it’s a limited market:
“Right now, we’re just this advertising solution,” Mason says. “If we can come up with an ecosystem that local merchants use to run their business and it’s connected to consumers, then I think that’s a pretty sizable business.”