LivingSocial is today announcing some services that it hopes will help bring old users back into the fold, and to maybe bring in some new interest in the process. The daily deals site has raised nearly $1 billion but has been hit with claims of waning interest in its business model based around offering consumers discounts on local goods and services.
The company is launching Daily Gem, a new daily deal focused on premium/high-end products; it’s (finally?) adding a feature for users to get more deals localized and personalized to their specific interests. It’s also adding LivingSocial FlexSM and LivingSocial SelectSM programs, which are essentially more ways for merchants to use the LivingSocial platform to get the word out about deals faster and more effectively.
Well, at least faster than before: “LivingSocial will have your deal up on its website and mobile app in as little as five days,” the company notes.
The new features come at a key time for LivingSocial, which has not had a stellar run of late. Despite its eye-watering amount of backing, the company has seen hundreds of layoffs, writedowns from key investors like Amazon, the departure of many key staff (it’s yet to announce a new CEO and just yesterday we saw that the CFO John Bax announced he would leave at the end of this month) and sales of large international operations in an effort to downsize and make itself more manageable.
(A LS spokesperson tells me there is no news to share yet on the CEO front, but current CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy has said he will stay on until a replacement is found.)
But despite its past problems, LivingSocial still claims to be pulling in annual sales of “a billion in turnover and several thousand employees and one of the fastest-growing companies D.C. has seen.”
The Daily Gem feature — launching first in North America only — seems to be in response to a move from Groupon a year ago to make a bigger deal of high-end, premium experiences, with the launch of Groupon Reserve.
The idea here is that offering more of these deals alongside the more pedestrian mani-pedi offerings (excuse the pun) brings in consumers with more disposable income and potentially more rewarding margins because of the nature of having higher-ticket items. It looks like LivingSocial is also now going after a similar idea. A promo video, featuring nearly parody-level “posh” Robin Leach, tries to keep the affair from feeling too fancy.
Meanwhile, it’s kind of surprising that it’s taken this long for LivingSocial to launch emails with more personalised offers.
“LivingSocial has always offered deals customized by location and a consumer’s favorite ways to travel and shop,” the company notes, referring to its website and apps, “but now more personalized deals will arrive directly to their inbox.”
Given how so many of the emails from companies like these have fallen the way of the spam filter, it’s about time that LivingSocial try to find ways to spark interest in them again — especially considering that, despite the volume of junk we get today, email remains one of the most effective ways of leading users to e-commerce sites.
Although daily deal businesses have had a hard time of late — Groupon, the leader in this space, has put a lot of investment into transforming its business into a more well-rounded local commerce competitor, complete with point-of-sale systems and more — it’s not an area that has been left for dead.
The founders of Woot — a tongue-in-cheek daily deals site that got acquired by Amazon years ago — have left and formed a new e-commerce site, Meh. And Groupon, despite its moves into mobile commerce and more, continues to make the bulk of its revenues from its marketplace. Diversification is a familiar move in the LivingSocial playbook, too, with the company’s expansion from local offers to travel and more.
So ultimately, you could argue that this is not a scramble, but rather LivingSocial trying to keep doing what it has been doing, but simply in a smarter and more targeted way.
“We know that no shopper or merchant is exactly alike, and our new personalized deals and customized promotional offerings will enable us to deliver more value than ever before,” said Jake Maas, EVP, business operations at LivingSocial, in a statement. “This is just the latest step in our efforts to refine our services to better connect merchants with the shoppers that want their deals.”