Being an economist, I think that there is so much attention paid to the deal on sites like Groupon, and other social marketing sites that we often lose site of what is really valuable being exchanged and that is information.
From the customer’s point of view, sites like Groupon should be where they are able to “try” for a low trial price, usually less than 50%. It is wonderful to get a deal, but for the most part, it is an opportunity to try different foods, parts of the city, activities that you would not try for full price. Some will turn out to be wonderful experiences and some you will only try once. If you are always looking for a deal on these sites you ruin the joy of discovering something surprising. If had to pay full price, I would likely have patronized places that I am familiar with, where I knew what I was getting for my money. Groupon, LivingSocial and other sites have allowed me the opportunity to try many other opportunities that I otherwise would not have, and my life is richer for it.
From the proprietor point of view, the lower price give them wonderful exposure and a chance to get their message and find new customers and new market segments. This type of market research would often cost a company a lot of money and expertise, probably beyond the reach of many one store locations. However, with Groupon, LivingSocial and others, I have been able to find many of these sites. Groupon and other sites lets the proprietor try and go down the demand curve and see where they meet resistance. This type of information is a wonderful thing. Yet, I read often that proprietors are disappointment when they are only able to attract customers that mostly patronize the establishment anyways. This is very valuable information for the owner, who probably spent many hours thinking about expanding. Instead at being upset about the experience, he or she should be happy for the information, which could save him or her many hours, and a lot of money.
While many articles have focused on the exchange of cash for service or product, the real gem in Groupon, LivingSocial and other sites is in the information exchanged. I think that if customers and proprietors see the deal as that, there would be must less anxiety over the deal getting it right. The way I see it, both the customer and the proprietor are better off for the Groupon experience before the transaction is evaluated.