After bottoming out during the past few months, the fortunes of some Group Buying businesses seem to be on the up, albeit a significant number have collapsed or been acquired in the past six months and the outlook remains grave for many more!
The fact that the sector’s nose is slightly up is in part due to the weeding out of weaker and often less scrupulous competitors who often served only to undermine the reputation of the sector as a whole.
In fact out of the 50 largest Group Buying businesses assessed in April, only 29 remain intact just 6 months on. And given only 10% (5) of those businesses were acquired that supports the view that smaller Group Buying businesses are of limited real value. In such a crowded and undifferentiated market lifesaving investment is tricky too given a lack of brand equity, good will or asset strength (off the shelf web sites are common and subscriber base overlap with top-tier competitors is often well over 70%) resulting in the collapse of underperforming and debt laden Group Buying businesses.
A quick browse through the sites of the 29 still standing uncovered indicators of pending doom for some.
Here are the choking canaries of the Group Buying world:
A high degree of niche product deals, such as robotic vacuum cleaners or iPad accessories
No sign of “number purchased”, an essential component of Group Buying that is quickly discarded when numbers are low
Extended Deal deadlines, this industry was founded on deal a day for good reason!
A smorgasbord of deals on one page, suggesting desperate recycling of old offers
Group Buying remains a $1bn future industry in Australia, regardless if that industry seemed to lose its way and stall when it was only half way there. Regaining lost momentum will be down to the leading players showing the way once again with a combination of brilliant marketing and a commitment to helping consumers discover great business products.
The strongest already have their playbook (Living Social, Cudo and Ourdeal) and will extend their positions in the coming 6 months through a focus on back-to-basics Group Buying offers like quality restaurants, high value vacation offers and utility products such as Cudo’s Meat Merchant.
Although I suspect another 15 from April’s top 50 will be gone by April 2013, leaving only a dozen or so standing, I think I already know who they are, I wonder if they do?