Maybe even bigger than I thought.
Until this, Groupon hadn’t been doing anything terribly new from a conceptual level: it’s all moderately-targeted deals with a time-sensitive component. Open this checking account now and get a free toaster. Do this now and get a bonus. Stuff like that. This is part of the reason why there have been so many copies out there; it’s not hard to take this idea and do it in-house. (Groupon is arguably winning at branding within tech circles though, and obviously they’re enormous and getting bigger.)
That all said, Now! changes the playing field a bit and it’s something that wouldn’t have existed even 3 years ago. This first version is pretty straightforward, too. It says, “Here’s what I’ve got. It’s not going to last long. Buy it now.”
But let’s look down the road just a bit. Your smartphone knows where you are and knows who you are, right? Groupon and Facebook are amassing good knowledge about you based on purchases and activity. So it seems like a natural progression for Now! to blossom into a highly customized marketing platform. Eventually, those Groupon Now! offers will be just for me. That’ll be based on what it knows I like, and what I’ve bought, and also based on what it thinks I might want to try.
It also seems natural to tie this into some sort of rating system… say, Yelp. That way, Groupon Now! can say, “Ah! Paul! You and a friend went to that awesome biscuit place for lunch today. Did you know there’s another place you might like just a few miles away? And it’s got a $10 for $5 offer right now?”
Foursquare and its ilk are kind of there, but the interaction is slightly different in that it focuses on social instead of the transaction.
This type of cross-site intelligence isn’t hard to harness, technically, and it opens up a myriad possibilities. I’m really pleased that it’s looking like the future of super duper localized, personalized marketing isn’t going to be a bunch of text messages or annoying alerts as one walks by a business. Instead, it’s going to be more subtle and extremely effective. I’ll take that over ads in YouTube videos and OSes any day.