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Groupon Gets You to Use Its Search Bar, So Wall Street Can Get What It Wants

Groupon's Whole Foods deal may have been a gimmick, but a gimmick that worked.

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.

One of the biggest challenges Groupon faces right now is the decreasing effectiveness of its email campaigns — also known as “push” marketing. Inbox saturation coupled with changes to how Gmail filters promotional emails has pushed the deals company to try to retrain its customers to come to every day on their own to search for deals.

The transition to this search-driven “pull” marketing approach, though, is in its infancy and moving slowly. Groupon said that just eight percent of its North American traffic searched for a deal in December, but those who did spent 50 percent more than those who didn’t. Wall Street is anxious for the transition to speed up.

“Searchers are great,” CEO Eric Lefkofsky said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “We just need more of them.”

So yesterday, Groupon sold a $5 deal for a $10 digital gift card to Whole Foods. The catch? Groupon told deal seekers that they had to type “Whole Foods” into the search bar atop to be eligible to purchase the gift card.

Sure, it sounds gimmicky. But more than 100,000 people bought the deal, meaning Groupon did get a good amount of new exposure for its site’s search function. No one can be sure how many of those people already knew about the search function, but the odds are a small percentage. And no one can be sure how many of those people will come back to search for deals on their own in the future.

But, at least for a day, Groupon promoted its search bar well. Wall Street will be watching for results.

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