Article | Marketing Letters | Forthcoming

To Groupon or Not to Groupon: The Profitability of Deep Discounts

by Benjamin Edelman, Sonia Jaffe and Scott Duke Kominers

Abstract

We examine the profitability and implications of online discount vouchers, a relatively new marketing tool that offers consumers large discounts when they prepay for participating firms' goods and services. Within a model of repeat experience good purchase, we examine two mechanisms by which a discount voucher service can benefit affiliated firms: price discrimination and advertising. For vouchers to provide successful price discrimination, the valuations of consumers who have access to vouchers must generally be lower than those of consumers who do not have access to vouchers. Offering vouchers tends to be more profitable for firms which are patient or relatively unknown, and for firms with low marginal costs. Extensions to our model accommodate the possibilities of multiple voucher purchases and firm price re-optimization. Despite the potential benefits of online discount vouchers to certain firms in certain circumstances, our analysis reveals the narrow conditions in which vouchers are likely to increase firm profits.

Keywords: voucher discounts; Groupon; experience goods; repeat purchase; Online Technology; Marketing Strategy; Marketing Communications;

Citation:

Edelman, Benjamin, Sonia Jaffe, and Scott Duke Kominers. "To Groupon or Not to Groupon: The Profitability of Deep Discounts." Marketing Letters (forthcoming). (First circulated in June 2011. Featured in Working Knowledge: Is Groupon Good for Retailers? Excerpted in HBR Blogs: To Groupon or Not To Groupon: New Research on Voucher Profitability.)