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Would you pay to be a Groupon VIP?

The daily deals site is testing a program that lets members pay a fee to get early offers and have access to closed or sold-out deals.

By Giselle Smith Feb 17, 2012 4:52PM

Groupon aficionados know there's nothing like being away from email for a day or two, then learning that you missed out on a huge discount at your favorite salon, that new restaurant you want to try, or a much-needed massage. 


But would you be willing to pay an annual fee to have greater access to the deals you want?


The Chicago-based daily deals site is testing a VIP program that would charge users $29.99 for access to closed or sold-out deals, early access to regular deals and "one-click access" to refunds (for Groupon credit) on expired deals, the Chicago Tribune reports.


Letters introducing the program and offering a free three-month trial were sent to select "best customers," according to Business Insider. A company spokesperson said the service is "aimed at 'Groupon-addicts'" but, if successful, may be expanded to more users.


The VIP program is not available in all markets. Groupon told the Tribune that the program is "quietly testing in a handful of markets," including Tampa, Fla., and Hampton Roads, Va.


Groupon still on top

The daily-deal model is a free service that emails discounts to subscribers -- usually 50% or more off for services and products. Subscribers pay only for the coupons they want. The most popular deals are those for food and drink or spa and beauty treatments, according to a report by Susquehanna Financial Group and Yipit, a daily deal aggregator. (Post continues below.)

Despite increased competition in the daily deals space, Groupon remains the leader,  Digital Trends reported: "The coupon curator market might be oversaturated, but the veteran service has remained the top stop among its various competitors since day one."


Groupon expanded from its original service-based coupons to include retail products (Groupon Goods), travel deals (Groupon Getaways) and one-day deals (Now! Deals). The VIP program is the company's first foray into a fee-based product.


Andrew Mason, Groupon CEO, speaking at an investors' conference Thursday, said the company is seeking to increase personalization, according to the Tribune. "In the next two to three months, we're doing a few things to make (personalization) even better," Mason said.


Perhaps in response to subscribers weary of too many deals, the company will tailor deals not just by geography but also by asking subscribers to indicate what types they like -- and don't like. Presumably that means some of us can stop getting so many offers for laser hair removal, yoga classes or teeth whitening.


Citing the company's 2011 launch of Groupon Rewards (which lets subscribers collect points with retailers and earn exclusive coupons) and the invitation-only Groupon Reserve (offering high-end deals to affluent customers), Digital Trends speculated that this is another attempt to satisfy investors. It said, "Since Groupon management reported a net loss of more than $40 million over the fourth quarter of 2011, the company is likely desperate to boost revenue over the next year."


Groupon competior LivingSocial has been testing a similar loyalty program, called Plus, since November, the Tribune reports.

LivingSocial's service costs $20 per month and provides early access to special and closed deals, the ability to participate in VIP events and $5 in additional credit every month.

What do you think? Would you pay to have more access to daily deals?


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