Tag Archives: amazon

Next Steps For Groupon As Andrew Mason Departs

It was just a matter of “when,” but Groupon has finally relieved Andrew Mason of his CEO duties after a quarter in which Groupon widely missed its mark because of its very high expenses and serious international issues, despite growing 30 percent year over year. Vice Chair Ted Leonsis and Executive Chair Eric Lefkofsky will run the company until they find a new CEO for Groupon or perhaps, even sell it.

Groupon, of course, has been written off in some circles as a big fad that ultimately dis-served its SMB merchants– something we have never totally accepted. But the ongoing possibilities for Groupon are wide ranging.

The company isn’t currently sustainable, with its heavy sales-laden staffing (whoever said local is scaleable?) But just as #2 Living Social’s investors saw that it was more prudent to inject $110 million to keep it going for its next stage, Groupon, which is at least three times larger, is better off staying juiced for now.

It has massive merchant and consumer email lists, and a wide selection of B2B, scheduling, processing, mobile and loyalty technologies – plus a growing travel business, as well as a lower margin, Groupon Goods business. If its investors wanted to stay the course, it could certainly continue its march into Amazon-like ecommerce territory.

The elevation of Leonsis and Lefkofsky to acting co-chiefs has a lot of possibilities in itself. How about a couple of interesting, not-so-crazy scenarios? One is that Lekofsky could finally merge Groupon with his newer investment in Belly, the Groupon-like, Chicago-based loyalty play that has just celebrated its one millionth member.

More enticingly, in terms of scale, Leonsis could influence an acquisition of Groupon by American Express, which he serves as a board member. Amex has just opened up an ecommerce store as part of Amex Sync and needs to feed it.

Or Groupon could be sold to Amazon, which is investing heavily in the local deals space; or it could even be sold to Google, which had once offered $5 Billion for it. Perhaps Marissa Mayer at Yahoo will make a run for it. She was a major instigator of the Groupon negotiations as a Google exec.

As for Mason, he may not have been the ideal CEO of the relatively soul-less, deals department store that is currently Groupon. But he’s funny, and authentic, and has been a great spokesman for the “What do we do this weekend that is wild and offbeat” lifestyle that catapulted Groupon –and the deals space — into local’s biggest phenomenon ever.

Sometimes, Mason, reminds us, business isn’t merely about business. It’s about helping people live their lives. This is especially true at the local level in which Groupon has been a shining star.

Andrew Mason after his groundbreaking BIA/Kelsey Marketplaces keynote in March 2008

The Return of Same Day Delivery via EBay Now

When eBay purchased Jack Abraham’s Milo.com in December 2010, it caused some head scratching. While retail Inventory is helpful to track goods availability and has some value in developing location-based promotions, it seemed an unlikely anchor for eBay’s SMB and local ecommerce services.

Abraham’s upgrade of his title to head of EBay Local last year, however, indicated that changes were afoot. And this week, eBay has finally unveiled the fruit of his labors: eBay Now, a same day delivery service that builds on inventory to take it to the next logical step.

The service, following in the footsteps of first generation local services such as Kozmo.com and UrbanFetch, has launched in San Francisco with BestBuy, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Target, ToysRUs and Walgreen. It is mostly aimed at luring major merchant accounts to eBay’s broad range of merchant services.

Deliveries are $5 and available for orders over $25 from 9-9 during the week, and from 9-6 on Sunday. Three free deliveries per customer are available during the test. Other Milo customers that might jumpo in include Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe’s, Sears and J.C. Penney.

Strategically, eBayNow positions eBay against other ecommerce heavyweights seeking to provide a suite of etail services, from promotions to search to transactions to hosting…specifically Amazon (although Amazon indicated this week that it will not be providing a similar service.) Long-term, Google and others that are developing transaction marketing services could also compete. Uber, the Web-based limo reservations service, is also experimenting with delivery, although it isn’t clear whether the limited delivery services that have been introduced are merely meant to promote the limo service while cars sit empty.

Amazon Gets into Maps and Directories Via UpNext

Amazon has reportedly purchased UpNext, the five year old, 3D mapping and directory service that now provides “clickable building”-oriented maps for over 50 cities, including 23 that are enhanced in depth. The service has experimented with a number of features, including transportation guides, events, happy hour deals etc. While the purchase price hasn’t been reported, UpNext raised $500,000 in 2011.

For Amazon, the acquisition represents a dive back into the mapping and directory wars it abandoned several years ago when it pulled the plug on its A9 directory. We expect UpNext to be integrated into Kindle Fires and other mobile media; and to leverage the map and directory capabilities for Amazon ad sales, Amazon Offers, and small business support. We also expect it to compete generally with Apple and Google, who are pursuing their own paths in local maps and directories.

We’ve been following UpNext since its inception in 1997. At that time, co-founder Danny Moon launched it with several high school friends as a project in his Entrepreneurs class at Columbia Business School.

I noted that the maps/directories were “cool, but unless you want to torture yourself, you’ll probably want to use a 3D Virtual Cityscape for less than 15 percent of your local lookups. Watching the innovation in the space, however, is thrilling. The applications are already fun, and getting more useful all the time.” The experience, of course, is likely much better today.

source: Addictive Tips

Amazon’s Daillaire: ‘It’s Advertising, Day 1’

Amazon doesn’t usually speak at industry gatherings. But that was before it needed to reach out to the advertising community to sell display ads on its sites, ads on Kindle, national and local offers on Kindle, and extend its promotional reach on third party sites. Hence a luncheon keynote today from Seth Dellaire, VP of Ad Sales, at The San Diego Ad Club’s “San Diego’s Interactive Day” ( a big SoCal event with 825 agency types).

Dellaire gave a great briefer on Amazon’s culture, suggesting that its mentality is very compatible with progressive digital marketers. Amazon “tests and measures everything,” he noted. It also goes to great pains to “find the right conversation” with its ratings, reviews and feedback. The conversations aren’t “real time” like Twitter, but very relevant, he said.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has always infused Amazon with the mantras that there is “always something new to create,” and “everyday is like your first day. If you don’t have the focus, you will be left behind,” said Dellaire. “This is now ‘Advertising, Day 1.’”

The effort to sell ads and offers on Kindle, for instance, has been met with derision in some quarters. But Dellaire says it fits in perfectly with all of Amazon’s other efforts. A recent campaign to promote The Lorax film on Amazon, for instance, got the full treatment: A movie trailer for the Kindle Fire, display ads, a cross promotion with the Leap Across America charity, and adjacent promotions for Dr. Seuss traditional book titles.

The result exceeded goals for sweeps, video streams and social activation benchmarks, said Delaire. More concretely, it resulted in a 25 percent increase in unaided awareness and a 5o percent increase in the likelihood of parents wanting to take their children to the film. “It helped us create a better experience for the consumer and was a win-win all around.”

Products in Kindle ads are generally 5x more likely to be purchased, Dellaire added. But Amazon has had to make several iterations of the ad units to achieve these kinds of results. “The first thing we heard back was that it needs to be clickable” to take advantage of its immediacy,” he said. The second was that Amazon had better focus on its capability to target. Some people don’t want to see an ad for football video game,” he said. “We are becoming more efficient” in this kind of targeting.

A greater emphasis on mobile is also inevitable, said Dellaire, noting it is consistent with Amazon’s mission to promote convenience and discovery. “It is getting harder and harder to separate the consumer from the device,” he said, noting all the channels that people have to access Amazon and other Web sites.

Dellaire takes strong issue, however, with the criticism of Amazon for encouraging “showrooming,” where consumers go to brick & mortar stores such as Best Buy to physically check out a product, do a price comparison and then order from Amazon. Amazon gave $5 credits last Christmas to customers that did it. In fact, it goes both ways. Many consumers go to Amazon to check out reviews and then buy from local retailers, he said.

San Diego-20120615-00271 (3)

Milo.com Positions Itself as Anchor for EBay Local

Inventory hasn’t yet emerged as a “must have” for merchants, but the strategic importance of tracking store inventory remains undiminished. Merchants will potentially use inventory levels to drive users to specific locations, build promotions to get rid of overage (or remove promotions when supplies are running low).

While far from universal, many national retailers are beginning to use various inventory services, including eBay’s Milo.com, Gannett’s ShopLocal, Local Corp’s Krillion, Wishpond , Sale Locator, Retailigence and various other services.

eBay’s purchase of Milo.com in December, 2010 as an anchor for its eBay Local unit really caught our attention. We caught up with founder and eBay Local head Jack Abraham this week.

Abraham sees a world where Web product search and physical store visits converge. “You’ll make your decision on the Web to come into the store,” he says. Three key areas being targeted for inventory-based marketing include electronics, home & garden and apparel. Each of these areas not only relate to product sales, but possible service extensions as well, such as for contractors.

The move towards inventory-based marketing, however, is happening slower than Abraham would like. Nevertheless, he cites a growing number of relationships, and remains confident that it will happen, perhaps via media partnerships. A Milo deal with Find n Save, the shopping product from eight major newspaper companies, is a start in this direction.

Meanwhile, Abraham is seeking to leverage eBay’s role as a tech partner for both national and local merchants, comparing eBay favorably to Amazon, with which it has an increased rivalry. “Unlike Amazon, there is someone on their side that wants to help them,” and who “reaches them at the decision point,” says Abraham.

While Amazon Stores has a huge body of merchant customers, it has recently run afoul of some merchants with its price comparisons feature. Indeed, some merchants believe that working with Amazon is a Trojan Horse likely to end up driving customers to its own site. eBay doesn’t have warehouses” to sell goods against merchants, notes Abraham.

Filing: Living Social Lost $558 Million in 2011

Living Social, in a battle with Groupon and other deal providers to gain (and keep) market share, lost an eye popping $558 million beyond its $245 Million in net earnings, according to a regulatory filing by Amazon.com, which owns 31 percent of the company. The filing was written about in today’s Washington Post.

The Post article notes that Living Social has 4,900 employees, and claims more than 60 million members worldwide in 647 markets across 25 countries. Its vouchers grossed $750 million.

Here are the accounting details. Its vouchers grossed $750 million, giving Living Social net earnings of $245 million. It had operating expenses of $686 million. It also had other expenses associated with various acquisitions and stock compensation of $117 million, resulting in the $558 million loss.

In our view, companies such as Living Social (and Zynga and Groupon et al) aren’t really tied to earning immediate profits. The gamble is whether their massive spending leads to a solid foundation for growth –and profits– going forward.

The Amazon Influence: Living Social Beta Tests Premium Membership Program

Amazon’s a sleeper bet to really shake up local commerce . But what does that look like? For sure, we see the pieces being assembled…the focus on Amazon Stores, the $175 million Living Social Investment, the Kindle Fire rollout, the expansion of Amazon Prime to include access to a range of content, the build up of Amazon Transactions. But it isn’t totally clear – perhaps not to Amazon, either.

To us, we’re looking at local being organically integrated into general commerce, rather than ghettoized. But we keep returning to Living Social. And to the Prime membership model. Today, we see it more clearly.

As he was checking out a Blue Nile Cyber Monday deal on Living Social, Washington Business Journal reporter Bill Flook uncovered a possible new direction: a premium Living Social membership model being branded as “Living Social Plus Beta.”

For $20 a month, members would receive $25 in Deal Bucks and for the first time, a chance to break into some expired deals (“priority access to closed deals”).

For Living Social, the membership opportunity is clear: they can guarantee at least one purchase a month from well- heeled consumers (Blue Nile is a diamond site). Deal a day participants currently purchase about four deals a year. Moreover, while they are giving away $5 of credits a month, the actual cost is much less since Living Social only needs to come up with the commission amount before the discount.

What’s interesting to us is that Living Social might be going in this direction, and that it’s points and Rewards program that it recently announced with Next Jump isn’t part of the equation. Maybe they are hedging their bets.

Will premium memberships be the new “first class” for consumers, and especially, local consumers? If that’s the case, it has great ramifications for sites not only like Living Social and the deals space, but Amazon, and Angie’s List, too. We’ll see how much it catches on in 2012.