A Brief Encounter (Part 1)

Greetings from Londons ICO building, in the SMERSH room from 1967s Casino Royale, where the MMA has been holding its quarterly Brand & Agency Briefing. The session was compered by Alex Meisl, co-founder of Sponge and MMA chairman, who kicked off the morning, in classic fashion, with a few stats – including one from Google, that 80 per cent of all their advertisers in the UK have no mobile presence.

The first speaker was Nicolas Hantzsh, Groupons regional director for Ireland – the companys fourth employee in the UK – on its future and going local. But first, it was time for some numbers – Groupon has 160m users, predominantly female, across nearly 50 countries. In the UK, its the 42nd most popular website – higher, notably, than sites such as Play.com.

Perhaps more interestingly, he also revealed that 10 per cent of Groupon vouchers were bought via mobile in the UK – a number far outstripped by the US, at a cool 25 per cent. Thats unusual, as the UK tends to lead the way over our transatlantic cousins in mobile.

Hantzsh soon turned to the future of the site – and was surprisingly frank about the weaknesses of Groupon as it currently stands. The current daily deals newsletter approach is, he admits, too much, completely untargeted, and can cause annoyance. And the Groupon business model means it can only run deals from businesses that can handle large volumes of sales – perhaps a nudge at the recent controversy surrounding Groupon?

But of course, that meant that he had a solution to these problems up his sleeve – and Hantzsch introduced Groupon Now, currently available in the US and launching in the UK in Q3 or 4, which, in his words, “curates your city, shows you nearby deals, and puts businesses on the map youve never heard of”.

Now gives merchants the opportunity to launch real-time deals, to shift inventory during quiet times. Its all done through a streamlined location-based app – as Hantzsch admitted, Groupons current app doesnt take advantage of full mobile, Now seems designed from the bottom up as a mobile offering.

Which is good of Groupon. But should it really have taken this long?