Last week, I exited my position in Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN). Although it’s been a great performer since last November, the company seems to be struggling in its transition away from daily deals.
In particular, there are quality control issues with the company’s goods and vacation businesses. At this point, the idea that Groupon could challenge Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) or eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) in online commerce seems far-fetched.
Groupon gets away from daily deals
In recent months, Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) has been transitioning away from the daily deals that made it famous. Now, Groupon is attempting to become a deals marketplace, a site for consumers to browse and buy long-lasting local deals, goods and vacations.
The problem with Groupon Goods
In discussions with analysts and investors, Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) has been emphasizing its Goods business. With Goods, Groupon leverages its audience of deal seekers to sell items that would have otherwise been difficult to move. (Examples include refurbished laptops, off-brand smartphone cases and subscriptions to “-of the month” clubs.)
From a business perspective, Goods has some challenges — namely, margins. As Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) has limited expertise in selling physical goods, it must outsource its warehousing and shipping. Right now, the company is only targeting a margin in the high single digits.
But the bigger problem might be the actual process of buying goods from Groupon. Put simply, it’s awful.
To test the process out, I bought a speaker set off Groupon Goods nearly two weeks ago. As I write this, Groupon still hasn’t shipped it. Groupon freely admits that its goods can take some time to arrive (“most items are shipped within 2 and a half weeks”) but that still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible experience for the customer.
I could’ve bought the same item from Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). It would’ve cost me 25% more, but as a Prime subscriber, I would’ve had it within two days. As it stands, I have no idea when I’ll receive the speakers — making Groupon Goods useless for any time-sensitive shopping.
Groupon’s nightmare vacations
Another area of Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN)’s business — Groupon Getaways — might have even worse quality control.
Last week, ABC News slammed Groupon for a vacation deal. According to ABC, a resort in the Dominican Republic was misrepresenting both the size of the discount offered and the quality of its accommodations.
Groupon removed the deal from its site, and issued refunds to the customers that had bought it. However, as Groupon is asking its customers to pony up hundreds or thousands of dollars upfront, a poor reputation could wreak havoc on vacation sales.
Competition from Amazon and eBay
While Groupon Inc (NASDAQ:GRPN) works to become more like Amazon or eBay, those companies are going after Groupon’s core business.