SMB Digital 2012: Groupon and the Merchant-as-Customer Shift

The opening day of BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing conference provided a stark reminder of the persistent challenges in reaching local businesses. Groupon VP of Global Merchant Marketing Sanjay Gupta offered a different view – a reality check of the assumed reality checks. Call it the “what SMBs think vs. what they do” dynamic. As just one example, “keep it simple (for merchants)…yet they accept complexity for trust and value.”

Gupta’s point: not all merchants are created equal, they don’t think or operate the same, and thus homogeny across categories doesn’t exist. This dovetails with Groupon’s expansion from a daily deals brand into a more holistic merchant services platform. It also underscores the focus that the company is shifting to its merchant customers… not just  buyers.

Sales and account support, a Merchant Center with tracking services, and customer interaction tools are all part of a suite that also includes scheduling, Rewards and moving forward, payment services.

Gupta insists that while Groupon is focused on delivering an effective CRM system for its merchants, the company doesn’t necessarily see itself as the only dashboard that SMBs will use. “We want to be the dashboard in the areas in which we play.” Ultimately, Gupta’s goals are more transaction-oriented than just controlling a dashboard – delivering merchants capabilities that they’re unable to secure themselves, and of course generating revenue and growth.

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