How Gap's 'Groupon' Went Crazy Viral

An in-depth look at the group-buying platform's biggest and most successful campaign to date.

The Gap’s special last Thursday on Groupon went viral and was wildly purchased, but it wasn’t merely due to the lucrative 50 percent discount offer. A marketing mix involving social media, affiliates and an ad on Digg supplemented Groupon’s e-mail program in the effort.

Marking the group-buying platform’s largest national effort to date, Gap offered $50 worth of clothing on Aug. 19 for $25 in 85 U.S. and Canadian markets. The campaign grossed $11 million, while sometimes selling 10 Gap “Groupons” per second over the course of the day. By late morning, the company says, it was selling 534 Gap offers per minute – representing its most successful campaign by far. The previous best had been 41 per minute for an architectural tour of Chicago in a deal that was served to only Groupon subscribers in that city.

Groupon spokesperson Julie Mossler told ClickZ that the effort kicked off with an e-mail at midnight Central Daylight Time, while the rest of the list received the offer in a staggered fashion throughout the day. In total, Mossler said, 15 million Groupon and Gap e-mail subscribers got the chance to purchase the offer. She added that her firm benefitted from “a significant increase in subscriber count as a result of the Gap deal.”

Social media significantly helped push the offer. It appeared as Twitter’s “Earlybird Offers” special of the day, reaching the program’s 180,000-plus followers on the micro-blogging site. Gap tweeted about the deal to its more than 30,000 followers and authored a post on Facebook for its 606,000 “likers.” Groupon’s effort was more laborious, as it has dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts for each of the 85 markets targeted in the campaign. So administrators for each market authored a tweet and post – manually, one by one – in order to push the special.

In addition, Groupon’s 1,500 affiliates promoted the Gap offer on their sites. A sponsored, above-the-fold ad appeared on Digg as well (pictured).





“Our customers had been asking us to feature a national retailer, and the Gap deal was a perfect fit for Back-To-School and even pre-holiday shopping,” Mossler explained. “Gap even has stores where Groupon hasn’t launched yet; so, it’s a perfect way to reach new and existing Groupon fans with a deal they won’t find anywhere else.”

Through Mossler, Gap wouldn’t disclose whether the $25 per order loss leader so far looked like a return-on-investment win or not. She said that it’s “too soon to tell….[the] data is not yet in.” Mossler added, “We are working on a number of exciting upcoming national deals and partners but cannot confirm any specifics at this time.”

Lastly, she challenged the well-reported idea that the huge response to the Gap deal caused Groupon’s system to crash.

“Our servers never actually crashed,” Mossler said. “What was different was that we were diverting traffic to a couple of fall-back pages during high-demand periods. At one point, we were selling [five times] the normal number of Groupons. We are confident that all consumers who wanted to purchase the deal were able to do so, despite some minor hiccups throughout the course of the day.”


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