Groupon SA to bolster workforce

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SA's most prolific group buying site, Groupon SA, is set to expand extensively in 2012, amid scepticism surrounding the business model and despite various hurdles the industry faces.

According to co-CEO Daniel Guasco, Groupon SA recently expanded its offerings to include travel and product deals on a regular basis, forged “a number of strategic partnerships to solve the traditional challenges of e-commerce”, and is now looking to extensively expand its workforce.

Guasco says Groupon SA is recruiting “in a big way”. He adds that there are various other plans in the pipeline for 2012, but cannot provide any details at this stage. “A big focus for us right now is to add to our top team.” He says the company is hiring for a variety of positions, with an emphasis on sales people. “We are, after all, a sales business.”

The company is advertising 18 positions, primarily for a sales team, including sales consultants and a sales manager. A corporate recruiter, customer service manager, data analyst, accounts executive, Web design intern and entrepreneurial intern are also being sought.

Customer complaints

Since rebranding from Twangoo, in January 2011, the subsidiary of global group buying giant Groupon has seen rapid growth and topped voucher sales in the local social buying space. It has also been the subject of numerous complaints from customers who have voiced their grievances publicly via social media portals.

Generally, complaints in the local group buying industry are rife, but Groupon SA constitutes the vast majority of these. According to South African group buying site, while this could be due to the relative amount of customers and the size of the company, other group buying sites have comparatively very few public complaints. Online customer service site and micro-blogging site Twitter have been used by customers to air their grievances, and activity mapped on these sites is telling as to customers' sentiments.

A 12-month customer and feedback and analysis graph on the information site shows complaints constitute 68% of the activity relating to Groupon on The majority of complaints relate to spam and lack of feedback.

Guasco says, however, that Groupon SA has not experienced issues with customer decline. “We continue to grow at an ongoing pace. Group buying is a relatively new concept and with growth comes teething problems - for example high call volumes.

“For a company of our size, dealing with these kind of volumes, there are always margins for error where mistrust may creep in as we try to scale the business in line with the explosive growth we have been through. We're keeping our focus on maintaining the high quality of our deals and enhancing the customer and business experience with new features.”

Group buying exodus

The group buying business model, which seeks to drive business through the use of real-time, geographical deals en masse, has been castigated and questioned in light of a number of closures and failed attempts. ITWeb reported last month on the most recent of these, Dealify, which closed shop after about seven months of operation. This was closely preceded by Zappon, which lasted roughly nine months, and Dealio, which treaded water for about 10.

“We are not concerned about the future of Groupon SA,” says Guasco in the face of this. He says on the surface, daily deal sites are the same, but in terms of quality of deals and service there are “huge” disparities.

“There is also the question around building a sustainable business as opposed to a fly-by-night operation, which we most certainly aren't - 46 countries later - Groupon is a global operation and most undoubtedly the first and strongest of its kind.”

World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck says the group buying environment in SA is undergoing a confidence and learning curve, and the sites that live to tell the tale are apt to be those with expertise in retail, the ability to build a community, and a sound understanding of the dynamics of group buying, “a rare combination”.

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