Groupon today took one more step ahead in its bid to be a simple daily deals site, and more of a general go-to place for local businesses and all of their e-commerce efforts: it has launched a new format and online presence called Pages. This is an online directory that will give businesses their own home page on Groupon’s site, where offers, news, user reviews and other information will live — and lets Groupon compete against Yelp, Foursquare, Google, Facebook and the dozens of others that aggregate local listings and provide individual pages for each business in the process.
Groupon says that while it has quietly been building up the service, it has already created 7 million Pages. Now, with the service officially going live, Pages is opening up to all U.S. businesses.
Indeed, this is a volume play and an attempt to widen Groupon’s profile beyond that of a place where people go to redeem a specific deal and never visit again until the next eye-catching deal comes along.
“Pages brings millions of additional businesses to the Groupon marketplace and connects them with our large community of mobile users looking for things to do, see or buy,” said Eric Lefkofsky, Groupon CEO, in a statement. “We’re giving these merchants their own space on Groupon and new tools to highlight their business and bring new customers through their doors.”
What’s also interesting about Pages is that it’s a twist in how Groupon is tapping into its own big data storehouse.
The company has for years been collecting ratings from its users of the businesses and services that come in through Groupon deals. It has tens millions of these — 23 million to be exact — on file. These have mainly been used for internal purposes and also shared with the businesses so that they can get feedback. Now Groupon says that it will repurpose some of these in the new Pages.
“We 23 million tips and ratings to date that we’ve predominantly used for the benefit of merchants,” Dan Roarty, VP of Marketplace, told me in an interview. “Now we are starting to post those tips on merchant Pages. We’re not intending to be a review site or provide six paragraphs of user experience. But it’s a tips based system. If you recommend it, why? Ultimately it helps keep those Pages dynamic.”
Not all of these first 7 million Pages have been created in partnership with the businesses in question. Like many listings services, the basic details are uploaded free of charge.
“Those Pages are now free to claim by the businesses themselves,” Roarty says. “If they want to continue to build them, then they can sign up to our Gnome solution.” Gnome is Groupon’s new, unified merchant portal unveiled earlier this year that includes point of sale solutions, analytics, beacons and more. Roarty says that pricing for this has not yet been announced but will be very soon.
In addition to offering a presence online that will help compete against other local-business aggregators, Pages will give Groupon two other important boosts.
The first is that it will potentially mean a lot more traffic for Groupon, and the second is that it will give Groupon a more consistent touchpoint with businesses beyond that merchant concocting and running a Groupon deal.
These two are interrelated. With the changes in email algorithms and general user preferences away from Groupon’s daily email shots with daily deal offers, the company has had to start to become more creative with how it attracts people and brings more traffic to its site.
One of those ways has been via Groupon’s mobile apps, and these new Pages will be another: Groupon says that with them, businesses will now be searchable not just on Groupon, but through search engines.
In the past, this would not have been as possible through Groupon’s basic deals service, since those are based on businesses listing actual, active deals on Groupon, whereas now they can have a Page regardless of whether they are running a particular Groupon offer.
“Of course everyone wants their pages in Google and that’s important to us,” Roarty says. But even those who are not running Groupons may have regular, recurring specials that Groupon now wants to help those businesses surface: “We see an opportunity to target a value-conscious customer that is looking for value-oriented deals. Maybe those deals are buried on a website somewhere. We want them to be discoverable.”
With Groupon due to announce its quarterly earnings on October 30, it will give us a chance to see just how well the company is doing at the moment with all of its existing initiatives, and consider how important the success of these new business Pages may be in the wider context of the company’s fortunes.