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Groupon streamlines customer experience with time-based deals

Users can make a reservation or book an appointment via the Groupon mobile application or at the time of purchase or afterwards. The program highlights a growing emphasis on using mobile to increase customer convenience, particularly to eliminate waits for service.

“People like being convenienced,” said Nicholas Halliwell,  a media relations representative with Chicago-based Groupon. “We’re making it easier for our customers to know exactly when they can use their Groupon before they buy, which creates a better customer experience because they have a guaranteed table at a top restaurant when they want to redeem the offer.

“Plus, we’re making it incredibly easy to use the Groupon once they’re at the restaurant because they don’t have to bring a printed voucher or mobile device in order to redeem,” he said.

Timely engagement
In the program, expanded to all local businesses that accept reservations or take appointments following a successful trial at about 100 restaurants, users look for the book-and-buy button on a Groupon deal and choose the date and time they want to book their reservation.

The program lets users buy a Groupon knowing exactly when they can use a deal before they buy it. Customers in the program are not required to bring a printout or use their Groupon smartphone application to redeem.

“By giving merchants more predictability and certainty around their Groupon promotion, they can staff up accordingly and have adequate levels of inventory to deliver a phenomenal dining experience,” Mr. Halliwell said.

Since the purchase is booked in advance for a specific time, there is no longer a need to present a mobile device or voucher when deals are redeemed.

The program will make it easier for restaurants to fill tables during off-peak times, which generates more revenue for the restaurant and gives it more opportunities to attract and engage customers.

Reservation and appointment deals will expand soon to other popular categories, including salons, spas, classes and activities, the company said.

For local businesses, the technology provides local businesses with control over the exact days and times that Groupon sends them customers – bringing them customers exactly when they want them and need them.

A restaurant sets up the deal by answering a few short questions about its operating hours, number of tables and capacity of unfilled inventory at specific times of day.

A calendar of recommended inventory levels by day and time is automatically generated. Groupon and the merchant eventually agree on total tables per hour of operation each day of the week that they would like to make available for reservations.

When a customer buys and deal and makes a reservation, Groupon sends the reservation to the restaurant for confirmation.  Merchants manage their reservations in their Groupon Merchant Center.

“Many businesses tell us that they were interested in running a deal but didn’t need us to bring them new customers at certain times,” Mr. Halliwell said. “However, even the busiest restaurants have empty tables. Our new platform enables these businesses to place their bookable, time-based inventory into our marketplace and bring in customers exactly when they want them.”

Groupon has been struggling to redefine itself as interest in daily deals wanes and is attempting to recreate itself as more an ecommerce platform along the lines of Amazon as well as by building out its travel offerings.

While mobile is playing a key role in the transformation, the transition is taking longer than expected to make an impact on the business.

Last month, Groupon reported that over half of transactions are coming from mobile, helping to drive a 23 percent increase in revenue during the second quarter of 2014.

User adoption
“This is a win-win for the restaurant and the consumer as long as it reduces friction in the overall customer journey,” said Sheryl Kingstone, research director with Boston-based Yankee Group.

“Groupon has been very successful on garnering user adoption via their mobile app. They have been trying to enable time-sensitive location-based mobile deals for over two years.

“It would be interesting to see if they are embracing location-based services with this newly developed workflow,” she said. “Consumers are definitely using their mobile devices for everything from finding restaurants to ordering to booking reservations and paying. If the process removes the friction of a voucher, then that is one step in the right direction.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.