In the daily deals space, there is Groupon and LivingSocial — and then there is everyone else. But LivingSocial, which is approximately half the size of its larger rival, has begun to really define itself apart from the competition. The company is aggressively expanding into new verticals, while also recently debuting a Seamless Web-type instant ordering service.
The next 12 months look to be a vital period in the daily deals space, as consolidation takes hold and the industry begins to shake out. Mandy Cole, LivingSocial’s SVP of sales, spoke with Street Fight recently about how the company is moving away from the classic notion of daily deals, the importance of mobile, and why developing relationships with merchants will always be the company’s top priority.
You’re expanding beyond daily deals into other areas of local commerce. What are some opportunities you see in that space?
You’ve probably seen some of our other businesses. We have an adventure business. We have a travel business. We have different verticals like families. Our new Gourmet vertical is something we’ve been doing that is really exciting and is a direct reflection of how we partner with local merchants by listening to what they need and then creating something for them. That’s helping us work with high-end merchants. They wanted to do something that’s really around promoting their brand and their shop. Gourmet provides a limited engagement tasting menu that is directly targeted at foodies.
We also recently rolled out instant ordering. That’s a way we can work with more quick service restaurants–really all our restaurants — and give our members the ability to have convenient, local food. It gives them a way to use LivingSocial every day. It’s another way for us to create an additional revenue stream for our restaurants.
There are a lot of daily deals sites. How do you differentiate yourself on a local level?
I would say a big part of it is people. We have a great sales staff in all our local markets, and most of them have a strong background in selling local media. We feel that local commerce is where people are spending their media dollars, and our sales staff is able to go in and build relationships. They sit down with merchants and build promotions in a way that the merchant really understands that they want to get the customer in and coming back.
“We are always monitoring what our members bought and what they are purchasing. We tailor what we are selling at a market level based on what that market wants. That’s another advantage of having local sales teams.”
How important are mobile deals?
A lot of the instant ordering is from our mobile product. We continue to drive more and more traffic through mobile, our iPad app, and our Android app every month. That’s something we certainly are focused on.
Have you changed how the deals are being structured? Are there any trends in what merchants want?
We are always monitoring what our members bought and what they are purchasing. We tailor what we are selling at a market level based on what that market wants. That’s another advantage of having local sales teams. It makes it easier for us to quickly go after things members are asking for or purchasing. Members are happy because we’re responding to what they want, and businesses are happy because we’re bringing them a customer base.
Can you give a couple examples?
On the seasonality side, we had 12 Days of Gifting. We had a big promotion in December, and we were able to pull things that we knew our members would want to give to other people as presents. Valentine’s Day is coming up, so we’re building promotions around stuff you’d want to buy for your sweetheart or that you would do with your sweetheart.
Where is the sales side going in 2012?
We’re going to continue to focus on what we know is working, and continue to focus on how we can win. A lot of that comes down to optimizing and putting our team in the field. We need to give them the tools they need to partner with merchants. It could be in our verticals like family and Gourmet or other tools that help the merchant see the value of the consumer we’re bringing in to them and how the consumer is coming back. Building long-term partnerships with our merchants is our key focus for this year.
Noah Davis is senior editor at Street Fight. He previously covered media at mediabistro.com and Business Insider as well as during multiple stints of full-time freelancing. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, NYMag.com, Wired.com, SportsIllustrated.com, and many other publications.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.