Facebook Deals: A Groupon IPO killer?
The social network is getting into the couponing game, which could squash startup darling Groupon.
By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace.com
While the tech world has always been fast and furious, it seems that the pace of change has been accelerating lately. Just consider that five years ago Facebook was a small operator. Now the company measures its impact as a percentage of the world's population.
But the challenge for Facebook is to turn its massive platform into gushing revenue and high margins. After all, the company's market value is about $80 billion, and an IPO is likely next year. In other words, Facebook needs to find ways to justify the extreme expectations.
So it's no surprise that it's jumping into the daily-deal business with the launch of Facebook Deals. But will the effort be the cash cow Facebook hopes? If so, will it severely damage the prospects of current coupon king Groupon?
If you're a Groupon fan, it's not time to panic just yet. Groupon, which was started in November 2008, is generating billions. As for Facebook Deals, it's only in the test phase and is being rolled out in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco. This is a good approach, as it can be tough to evolve a local service. Facebook will likely need to set up a staff in each city.
It's also worth noting that there are already many companies in the group-buying sector, such as Amazon.com (AMZN) enterprise Living Social. Even Google (GOOG) has its own service, called Offers.
Yet Facebook has some advantages. Perhaps the most important is that it has an inherently social business. Keep in mind that the daily-deals business is based on people getting their friends interested in an offer. Thus, with Facebook’s huge user base and features like status updates and Like buttons, the company should get lots of traction.
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In fact, Facebook Deals may ultimately be a great way to further improve the community. For example, deals could include local concerts or sporting events, in which friends can buy up discounted tickets.
Oh, and there's something else: Facebook will also use its credit system, which is essentially a virtual currency. This can be used to purchase the goods from the daily deals (so far, they have been for virtual goods in games).
Facebook Deals can certainly be a game-changer. The company has some unique advantages that should make its service a standout. And it could put lots of pressure on Groupon, which has few social features. Yes, this company is also gunning for an IPO. But in light of the fast-changing competitive landscape, it may want to rush the deal. As seen with MySpace, Facebook knows how to destroy its competition.
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