Five years after its launch, daily deals company Groupon is finally giving business owners an automated way to launch discount promotions. With the introduction of this self-serve option, Groupon is looking to vastly increase the number of deals on its website as it attempts to move away from a reliance on email marketing and toward a giant marketplace of deals that shoppers will visit regularly.

Groupon is also betting that the tool, dubbed Deal Builder, will help attract new local business customers that the company wasn’t previously serving.

“This allows us to open up our marketplace to a much wider array of businesses it never made sense economically for us to serve,” said Dan Roarty, Groupon’s vice president of product development.

Some of those unserved businesses may only be capable of selling a few deals, making it tough for Groupon to rationalize dedicating one of its employees to oversee, Roarty said. Others may be businesses located in geographic areas where Groupon doesn’t have a presence.

Roarty said the move is not at all aimed at shrinking Groupon’s sales force. Instead, the company thinks the new tool will free up Groupon’s current sales staff to focus on its most valuable customers.

So why has it taken five-plus years for Groupon to get to this point? Roarty said the company only wanted to offer this product when it could be confident that it could recommend the right set of template deal types and ideal discount percentage to different types of businesses.

Now it thinks it’s ready. Still, if a merchant has a question during the sign-up process, he or she will have the option to chat with a Groupon rep by instant messaging.

For the most part, Groupon will automatically take a 50 percent cut on the deals, though that could depend on factors such as whether the business has previously run successful promotions with Groupon, Roarty said.

The move is not without risks. For one, there’s the chance that some merchants will create promotions that their business can’t handle, leading to bad experiences for both the business and the customer. Such screw-ups were one of the biggest criticisms of Groupon in its early days. That said, Roarty said someone at Groupon will have to approve every deal before it goes live.

If successful, Groupon expects that the new tool will result in a whole lot more shopping selection on its website and mobile apps. And if the company is really to cut its dependence on email — a necessity now that Gmail banishes its promotions to what is essentially a separate inbox — the increased selection will be vital.




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