Daily deals sites seek long-term relevance to consumers

Hinging on the success of companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, large numbers of start-ups, media brands, and established companies are diving into the daily deals space.

Hinging on the success of companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, large numbers of start-ups, established companies, and media brands are diving into the daily deals space in an attempt to tap into the market's eager-to-spend consumer base.

But as the sector becomes increasingly flooded, companies are realizing the importance of fine-tuning their communications tactics to stay relevant among consumers confronted with a myriad intriguing deals every day.

Daily figures

• Number of active daily deals sites has risen from 184 at the start of 2011 to 345 at the end of May, while 112 have closed

• Groupon ($64.7m) generates twice as much revenue as LivingSocial ($31.6m) and 10 times as much as other rivals

• LivingSocial's revenue grew 33% in May while Groupon's was up 6%. Other brands are gaining share, but remain a small part of the market

• BuyWithMe, Gilt City, and TravelZoo are estimated to be the top three competitors to Groupon and LivingSocial

Source: Yipit's May monthly report; based on daily deal offers conducted in the top 30 North American markets

Innovative leader
Groupon, leading the daily deals sector with nearly 50% market share, maintains success through a mix of media relations and communications, many designed to highlight its focus on innovation to both consumers and merchants.

"We have so many new products, services, and features," says Julie Mossler, director of communications at Groupon. "PR is a critical arm in marketing that."

The company sends out some press releases, but also uses its blog to disseminate information in a more personal and friendly way that consumers can interact with. Mossler attributes much of the brand's success to its focus on honesty with consumers and an avoidance of corporate speak in press releases.

Groupon considers social media crucial for communicating and staying relevant. But rather than developing a social media plan, as many large companies would, it prefers to tailor social outreach to ideas that feel relevant at the moment.

Groupon feels strongly about carrying out campaigns based on unique ideas that speak to the brand's promise and values. For example, the company's "Live off Groupon" campaign, where Josh Stevens lived off only Groupon goods for a year and won $100,000, generated a large amount of press and became a phenomenon in which both employees and consumers developed a strong interest.

"We look forward to doing more things like that," Mossler says. "Things that make consumers take notice and let them have fun with our brand."

Media brands that enter the daily deals space are in a slightly different position than standard consumer-facing daily deals companies, as they typically have a large or devoted audience upon launching and can leverage that when tailoring communications around the deal offerings and their brand in general.

Digital lifestyle publication Thrillist spent five years developing content about top bars and restaurants in select cities and delivering it to a dedicated consumer following. It also provides Thrillist Rewards, with a ready-made strong relationship with its following of young, professional men and the businesses it covers.

"Everyone is speaking the same language and trusting each other," says Flavie Bagnol, VP of communications at Thrillist. "Our audience gets the best experience possible."

The company focuses on providing a crafted consumer experience to keep people engaged, while also hoping they will share deals and refer friends.

"We offer rewards based on what we've covered editorially," Bagnol adds. "It's relevant to our audience of young professional men in New York, Los Angeles, and, soon, San Francisco."

Thrillist places equal importance on communicating with vendors so they are prepared for a high volume of consumers, which helps maintain their continued interest in participating in Thrillist Rewards.

Identifying a niche
Communications for niche deals sites can be even more focused, explains Stacy Bender, president and founder of BHG PR. When handling PR for jdeal, a daily deals site for Jewish consumers, media relations was tailored to focus on the site's niche appeal.

BHG also pitched jdeal's co-founder Jodi Samuels as a source for bylined articles in tech publications, which allowed her to comment on relevant and newsworthy topics while showcasing jdeal as a niche company in the daily deals space.

"We kept it fresh, niche, smart, and targeted," Bender says.

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