Partnership With Foursquare Is a Natural Step for Groupon

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Earlier this week All Things Digital reported that Groupon and Foursquare were discussing a partnership to push local deals targeted to location-aware check-ins. The media world has been buzzing about the rumor, but neither company has broken an official silence to confirm (or deny) the partnership or discussions.

Perhaps it’s just a foregone conclusion, though, that Groupon would add immediacy and social distribution to its model. In some ways, in fact, it already has. Groupon founder Andrew Mason said yesterday at the e-G8 technology conference that in pursuing those elements Groupon was entering its second act: “We are now moving to a model that is not just these daily offers that we are pushing to people,” he said. The new model involves a “realtime” system based on “serendipitous discovery” which is better for both consumers and vendors… “The daily deal thing was kind of easy compared to what we are trying to do now, which is the hard stuff – what Facebook and Wikipedia have already pulled off, which is finding a way to intercept people’s intent or people’s impulses.”

Groupon may not be confirming a partnership with Foursquare, but it is reveling in it’s own version of location-based deals, Groupon Now, which launched May 20. Groupon Now, still available only in Chicago, uses the consumer’s location to surface discounts typically available for just a few hours. Mason told the Chicago Tribune that Groupon Now was part of the company’s “third phase.” (The first being a single daily deal; the second, personalized deals based on a user’s location, gender and purchase history.)

“With daily deals, we’re pushing deals to people,” Mason said. “With Groupon Now, people are pulling deals. We’re intercepting intent”… Now, Groupon has relationships with thousands of merchants and millions of subscribers — a “critical mass of assets” that enable a real-time deals platform…

Groupon also announced a partnership with Loopt, a Foursquare competitor, to push Groupon deals to users based on Loopt check-ins, the same as the rumored partnership with Foursquare.

Second act or third phase, real-time is a logical and powerful step for daily deals movement and check-in services alike. For check-in services like Loopt and Foursquare, it’s the first real value to the consumer other than discovery of new places and tracking their friends. For Groupon and the deals providers, the immediacy of real-time, nearby deals presents the opportunity to capture a larger share of the user’s wallet than just well-conceived, planned-in-advance purchases. Like the language used in the Groupon Now, interface, I’m “Hungry Now.” That might even be worth more to the merchant than the advance sales they buy now on Foursquare.

An interesting question Groupon hasn’t answered is how it intends to sell the time-sensitive deals. Will is still employ the salesforce to make calls, or, might the immediacy factor open the door to offer self-service for merchants to publish deals on the fly, let’s say to unload the extra three kegs of Goose Island I.P.A. before expiration.