How Dating’s Personalized, Localized Future is Good for Groupon

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Groupon’s long awaited IPO was wildly oversubscribed, according to AllThingsD – by a factor of $10. The stock priced initially at $20 per share, well over the target pricing of $16 to $18. Considering all the bad press Groupon has endured and slings and arrows from wary small businesspeople and grumpy old CPAscalling for an imminent bankruptcy, that’s a rousing reception. I’ve got two words for why people are betting so big on Groupon: Local dating. Bear with me here, people.This past week the august New York Times penned a piece on rapid adoption of local and mobile online dating applications for people who want to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right Now right now. As in, looking for people available for a drink or a bite in the next two hours and dispensing with all the online chitchat and back and forth traditionally part of Internet courtship. Most of the legacy dating startups now have a mobile app with local matching capabilities (OKCupid and many others) and some new startups (Grindr, HowAboutWe) have emerged specifically to serve his market. Some of the younger startups are taking the free (as in free beer) model by charging users nothing and selling ads on the side.

Local commerce is already becoming more personalized, more localized and more real-time. I now search for coupons before I go out on a Friday night.

How does this impact Groupon and investor ardor for the daily deal site? Well, we all know that Groupon has moved quickly into localized and personalized deals. And the rise of advertising-driven mobile and immediately-local online dating sites (and their rapid adoption and acceptance) points out yet another amazingly perfect application for a timely deal offering. Searching for a date on the train home from work? Great? Well, these four bars are offering two-for-one drink specials to couples who come in and flash the coupon or QR code. Or Vito’s Italian Risotteria will throw in a 25% meal discount if you buy some vino. Piacerre!

What I am getting at here is that investors are betting on a brighter future for Groupon based on two things. First, local commerce is already becoming more personalized, more localized and more real-time. I now search for coupons before I go out to eat on a Friday night. I may not find one but I search. I never did before. And I respond to offers from places that I love and would vigorously respond to offers in real time. Pizza at A16 on a Monday night? Done and done.

And Groupon is moving in that direction. Second, the rise of mobile dating and the movement to a handset-dominated view of the world introduces huge opportunities for local marketing driven through the handset in real-time to accommodate last-minute whims and wishes and changes in plans. As people become more accustomed to filtering their last-minute lives through the digital lens, then the opportunities to reach them in this transactional state — almost like when they are searching on a search engine —increases. Granted, Groupon is not a mobile dating site. Yet. But this exercise just underscores how ripe the opportunities are for Groupon and how much the trend is wind at their backs — a fair wind that surely investors love to feel blowing across their wallets.

Alex Salkever’s Personal Fight column appears every Friday on Street Fight.