Groupon’s Latest Announcement is a Deal Merchants Can’t Refuse

The daily deals site has announced an appointment management feature designed to increase merchant productivity.

One of many merchant productivity tools offered by Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN), the new tool – Groupon Scheduler – provides merchants with an “easy way to manage their schedules and accept bookings directly from consumers.” According to the company release, “Business owners using Groupon Scheduler can set up an appointment calendar covering all their staff, services and business locations, allowing consumers to instantly book appointments online without having to call or email. The service can be used to take appointments for Groupon features or as a freestanding tool to manage a merchant’s entire calendar.”

While this might not mean anything to the Average Joe looking for a deal on, well, a cup of Joe from Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX), this announcement is still more interesting than the let’s-hype-every-little-thing strategy employed by a certain other daily deals site.

More importantly, the announcement could be somewhat significant to the future of the daily deals giant. If Groupon continues to improve the merchant experience, more and more companies will want to come to the site. As additional companies arrive, Groupon will inevitably see an increase in consumer interest, which will in turn raise the number of registered users. Those registered users are more likely to be converted to paying customers than consumers who simply read about the latest deals in the press.

The daily deals leader has gotten a lot of attention lately for its long-awaited IPO, which finally debuted last month.

Groupon said that its Scheduler tool seamlessly integrates into the Groupon deal process. After purchasing a Groupon deal, consumers will be able to schedule or cancel appointments through their account on Groupon.com. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, Groupon provides immediate e-mail confirmation of each booking, followed by automatic e-mail reminders 24 hours before each scheduled appointment. Further, merchants will now have the option to add a “Book Now” button to their own websites “and use Groupon Scheduler to manage online bookings for all their services – not just those offered through Groupon.”

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“Simplicity and ease of use were top priorities for Groupon Scheduler,” Mihir Shah, a Vice President of Product at Groupon, said in today’s company release. “We wanted to create a tool that would not only make the Groupon feature process easier for merchants, but also help them run their businesses on an ongoing basis beyond their Groupon deal. We’re excited to debut another user-friendly service created by Groupon specifically with small business owners in mind.”

Groupon is pushing the new tool to spas, salons and other scheduled activities.

“We’ve been looking for an online scheduling tool that can also handle multiple employee schedules and services,” Sallie Zvolanek, owner of Wind-N-Willow Specialty Shop and Spa in Sacramento, CA, said in today’s company release. Zvolanek is participating in the Groupon Scheduler pilot program. “Groupon Scheduler does just that. Now that our scheduling is automated, our employees have more time to focus on other priorities. We especially like the fact that Groupon Scheduler automatically sends confirmation and reminder emails for appointments to cut down on no-shows.”

OpenCal, a young startup that Groupon acquired last September, is responsible for developing the technology behind Groupon Scheduler. Groupon said that the tool “can assist tens of thousands of appointment-based Groupon merchants who have been looking for an easy-to-use online scheduling solution and will be offered as a free service to merchants running Groupon deals during this pilot.”

Starting today, Groupon Scheduler will be available to both Groupon merchants and Groupon customers in Miami and Sacramento. To find out when it will arrive in your city, visit Groupon.com/scheduler.

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ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:

If you’re sold on Groupon’s latest “deal” for merchants, consider the following:

  • Groupon’s merchant list is so vast and varied that virtually any one of them could prove to be the biggest beneficiary of Groupon Scheduler.
  • For a more specific option, look to the obvious and go straight to Groupon.

Bearish:

Investors who aren’t sold on Groupon (or daily deals in general) should look to the following:

  • eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) is one of the more traditional venues for scoring a deal.
  • Same goes for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), which just announced another way for consumers to save.

Follow me @LouisBedigian

Full Disclosure: Lightbank, the technology investment vehicle from Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, is one of Benzinga’s investors.

Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.


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