Groupon Is a Local Business Engine, Says Embattled CEO Andrew Mason

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Photo: Aaron Fulkerson via Wikimedia Commons

In an on-stage interview in San Francisco in which he declined to address questions about whether he would stay on as Groupon CEO, co-founder Andrew Mason described his company as a local business engine that will build shareholder value over the long term.

“We think of ourselves primarily as a local e-commerce company. We aim to achieve the kind of revolution that Amazon did, but only for local businesses,” Mason said.

Groupon doesn’t worry about competitors in the mercurial daily deals business, according to Mason.

“We think more about who’s going to come at local commerce from an angle other than daily deals,” he said.

Contrary to conventional wisdom that there’s little barrier to entry in the local deals market, Mason emphasizes that Groupon has used “brute force” and its 12,000-employee size to connect with mom-and-pop operations across the United States.

Mason also took exception to another bit of conventional wisdom that says that small business owners are not a good customer base for technology companies because they aren’t tech savvy.

“They’re willing to use tech when value proposition is really clear. A lot of us that are early adopters get a kick out of trying new things. Small business owners don’t have time for that,” he said.

In an effort to boost its value proposition for merchants, Groupon launched its own payments infrastructure in September, taking it into a hotly contested area where big players like eBay and Square compete.

Mason described the move as a natural extension of Groupon’s mission.

“The way we’ve gone about it is, What’s the biggest pain point that merchants have today? We decided that payments was the right choice,” he said.

Groupon promises the lowest fee rates for credit card transactions for all companies offering Groupon deals. Mason said the company can use its size to secure those rates.

Mason also said that the company’s mobile customers spend more money than its desktop customers, a bragging right as tech companies struggle to successfully monetize their mobile users.

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