So, do we buy shares in Groupon? We don’t provide investment advice, of course, but as we consider its prospects from a non-investment angle, we’ll be watching for answers to the following eight questions – none of which, unsurprisingly, is adequately addressed in the S-1.
1. The cost of the average deal is seen to be declining in Boston, and members are seen as buying less (per Yipit’s strong analysis). Is this the result of a decline in user interest, or simply an absorption of a rapid expansion of deals offered, and a broadening of the user base beyond the core base of college-educated women? The answer is very important here.
2. Groupon competes against other players in each of its markets. In the U.S., it beats every competitor in every market that it is in. But some of its international affiliates don’t have a major headstart — and international accounts for almost 54 percent of its revenues. In Montreal, for instance, Groupon is said by Group Buying Canada to be the fourth- or fifth-largest player. How is Groupon doing generally overseas? Where does it lead and where does it lag? As with many international companies, overseas divisions often operate with less scrutiny.
3. Groupon has provided very generous commissions to referral media that send customers its way. Are these kinds of deals going to stay intact as Groupon’s brand becomes more universal? Are they really necessary?
4. Media companies such as McClatchy highlight Groupon as part of their shopping portal, but are also selling against the company with their own home grown deals. What kind of impact will this kind of dual selling have on sales?
5. Consumers have been targeted by Groupon on a personalized basis with specific deals for about a year. But no case studies are hinted at here. While Nearby Deals have been introduced in most U.S. markets, are a high percentage of Groupon deals really being personalized?
6. Groupon has introduced several vertical “deal channels” in the past several months: entertainment, home and garden, and travel. Will these match user expectations for Groupon and have synergies with the basic deals site?
7. Groupon has focused on repeat traffic for merchants, offering an 8-punch, $25 sandwich offer with Quiznos, and a 5-punch, $20 kids playground offer with San Diego-based Kidville. The recent Quiznos offer only attracted 20,000 sales around the U.S. Will these kinds of offers effectively reinforce Groupon’s value to merchants? Or will Groupon see a lot of merchant churn, as some expect?
8. Groupon has long touted its appeal as an advertising medium, sending out millions of emails to motivated consumers. It has been selling banner ads for $10 CPM. But there is no mention of advertising revenue in the S-1. Is this still a priority for the company?