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With Yelp Knockoff, Groupon's Still Searching for Magic Bullet

The deals company tries yet another strategy to get more people searching on its site.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Groupon has an email problem. Customer inboxes are overflowing with promotional emails, so more of them get ignored. Gmail’s decision to filter marketing emails into what’s essentially a separate inbox hasn’t helped.

So Groupon has been trying for a year or more to train people to come to its site to search for deals rather than relying on reaching them via email. Groupon has tried gimmicks. It has tried a website redesign. And it has tried making it easier for small businesses to create deals so it can drastically increase the number of deals on its website to give it a sizable inventory that’s worth searching through.

Today, it said it was going to try another new thing. The company has been canvasing the Web for information about every small business in the U.S. and is creating a page, dubbed a Page, on Groupon for each business whether that business wants it there or not. Groupon says it has already created millions of listings, which essentially look like Yelp meets Google+ Local meets Pages contain basic information like addresses and phone numbers. But the goal is to convince a business to claim its page (or Page) and then update it with more information including, hopefully, a Groupon deal. In turn, the hope is Groupon customers will leave reviews and tips on a company’s page, which surely will get the business’ attention.

“[W]e’re dramatically increasing the number of merchants on Groupon and providing our customers with yet another reason to always check Groupon first,” CEO Eric Lefkofsky said in a canned statement.

This has been a very slow process, with little to show publicly for the efforts thus far. Groupon has repeatedly lowered guidance in its last few quarterly reports and its stock price has been cut in half since the start of the year, as the transition lags. The company reports third-quarter financial results next Thursday, when we will see if things have gotten better.

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