Groupon's time-based booking allows businesses to offer deals that act as reservations, allowing merchants to fill off-peak hours and lure new customers.
Thanks to Groupon, off-peak hours might just get a little bit busier for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Today, the company unveiled its new time-based deals feature, which allows businesses to offer coupons for specific days and times. Once the customer has purchased a deal, he/she can now make reservations through the Groupon mobile app or on Groupon.com. Since they’ve pre-booked appointments for a specific time, there’s no need for customers to present vouchers or mobile devices when the deals are redeemed.
In a press release, Rick Bayless, owner of Frontera Grill in Chicago (one of the SMBs to pilot the new functionality), said that Groupon is "making it really easy for us to fill tables during off-peak times, which generates more revenue for the restaurant and gives us more opportunities to attract new customers and turn them into lifelong fans."
Currently, Groupon is only offering time-based deals at restaurants. Marketing consultant Craig Jacobson says that the new offering is "a clear winner" for businesses participating in the program. He also believes other SMB owners and consumers could benefit.
Groupon research shows that 78 percent of its users visiting a business for the first time would not have visited if not for the deal that they had bought, highlighting what Jacobson calls "the risk of couponing." He says that "by discounting your 'money' (product or service)" for customers unfamiliar with the business. you "devalue its perceived value and have trouble charging full price later." However, giving people the option of sampling services at non-peak times is an effective way of encouraging new customers to interact with the brand while also enabling management to remain in control of matching the deal to the needs of the business.
While the new booking feature should benefit SMBs looking to fill their company's off-peak hours, it could present a problem for those who have implemented Groupon's Gnome platform. Gnome is an iPad-based point-of-sale system with an integrated CRM module meant to accept both credit cards and Groupon vouchers as well as help businesses track customer purchase history and preference. But with time-based booking, customers no longer need vouchers, making Gnome unnecessary.
A Groupon representative says that the company plans to "eventually integrate Gnome with the new time-based deals platform, and merchants will be able to post this type of inventory in real time through the device." But as of right now, the two features remain separate.
By the end of the year, Groupon hopes to extend time-specific booking beyond restaurants and offer the service to all appointment-based businesses.
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Emily Alford is a reporter at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Yahoo, and The Daily Meal. She has a PhD in English from Florida State University.
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