Groupon's Jason ChildGroupon made lots of headlines in 2010. The online coupon company reached millions of customers, then spurned a multibillion dollar buyout offer from Internet giant Google (GOOG). Now the company is aiming for more -- new products, different markets and major investment.

DailyFinance chatted with Groupon Chief Financial Officer Jason Child, 42, about the company's prospects, online retail and the potential for a market that has grown at a ferocious pace.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation:

DailyFinance: Groupon has become a household name remarkably quickly. Why do you think customers like you?
Child: I'm not certain exactly what it is. I think it's partially the price point of the deal. We offer discounts that are unprecedented. It could also be that people see deals on Groupon as soon they wake up, and they can see exactly how popular they are. Looking at that probably helps them determine if it's something they want, kind of a wisdom-of-the-crowd mentality.

Who are your customers?

We've got about 54 million subscribers worldwide today. We skew slightly more toward women then men. A little over half are now outside the U.S. Out of the 54 million subscribers, a little less than half are North America and the rest are international.

Generally, it's just people looking for a good deal. We don't have demographics beyond that.

How was Groupon able to grow so fast?
Group buying itself isn't a new concept by any means, but now you can combine the group-buying model with the Internet and social media. People are checking their apps on their iPhone or their email or logging on to their Facebook account. There are just so many more touch points for the consumer now than there used to be. When you have a very compelling offer, you really have a lot more opportunity to create something special.

Also, the global economic slowdown has forced people to look a little harder at the value they get for whatever they're spending their discretionary income on. I'd say that's the economic aspect.

What does 2011 hold for Groupon?

We're in 41 markets worldwide. We were only in one market less than a year ago. Our view is we will continue to expand the number of markets we operate in, and we'll continue improve the product. We're going to continue to expand the model beyond the deal of the day. It could be deal of the day or deal of the hour or even "what do you want to do today?" There are a lot of directions to go.

Groupon turned down $6 billion from Google. That's a lot of money. How big do you think Groupon can get?

The opportunity is massive. I don't see any limits. When I look at some of the other big Internet players, I don't see why we can't be as big as any of them.

Can you be as big as your previous employer, Amazon (AMZN)?
We absolutely could be. Whether we will be depends on a bunch of factors. But we definitely could be.

So far, Groupon has resisted going public. What are the disadvantages of an IPO?
The disadvantage is there would be distraction from running the business. Right now, I spend my time on evaluating a variety of ways to spend money to gain more subscribers, gain additional merchants and grow the business. If we're a public company, I have to spend time thinking about Sarbanes-Oxley, fair disclosure requirements. I have to think about balancing the need to report sufficient information to investors without giving too much to competitors.

I don't know if "distraction" is the right word, but there's a significant amount of overhead and responsibility involved in being public. At some point, when the benefits of going public outweigh the costs, we'll make the decision. But we haven't made the decision yet.

You've worked for Amazon and Groupon. What do you think is the biggest difference between online retail and buying something in person?

The most obvious difference is the product or service isn't immediate. You're not going to touch that product before you buy it. It's not something you purchase at the location. That's why those companies who have used a discount model have been able to do better. It seems to me that consumers expect that if you buy something that's not immediate, there has to be a discount.

Is there still room for growth in online retail?
Absolutely. If you look at some of the most Internet-penetrated countries, like South Korea, something like 15% or 20% of all retail is online. In the U.S., it's 7% or 8%. So there's a significant opportunity for online retail the U.S. and other major markets around the world.

The number of merchants using our daily deals or the other services is still a very small fraction of the businesses that are out there.

Have you ever used a Groupon?
Of course I have. The last groupon I used was for a restaurant in Seattle last week. It was a Buenos Aires grill, an authentic Argentine steakhouse. It was fantastic. I think I had the bife al chorizo. It was $25 for a $50 groupon. I took my family of four. With food and a bottle of wine, I think we spent something like $150 . We saved $25 on that.


Also See: Will Groupon Survive Its Tibetan Ad Crisis?




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12 Comments

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tincup2005

I enjoy reading replies to stories but I am irked by jerks who post links to sites and especially people who post comments that have nothing to do whatsoever with the subject matter of the story. I'm made it a point to completely reject their comments and take a counter approach to their point just because they are so stupid.

February 08 2011 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Peg

I much prefer Restaurant.com. They run 80% off specials and I often get $25.00 certificates for only $2.00.

February 08 2011 at 8:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
elmwoodlore

Jason should do the IPO and get his exit stratgy ready. There are competitors being formed every day due to few entry barriers, especially at the local level.

February 08 2011 at 8:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

The rich keep getting richer and the middle class and the poor keep getting poorer. The last two years more so than ever. Still think Obama and the corrupt Demoncrat thugs are the answer? There is a reason the elite, rich man, George Soros and his corrupt, evil, rich cohorts are supporting the unions and the corrupt Demoncrat politicians. After being brainwashed by our Socialist Government Educational system, are you smart enough to understand why?

February 08 2011 at 6:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert & Lisa's comment
Hello Bob

Robert & Lisa, why are you still living?

February 08 2011 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jimmy

I don't believe that they said that the Tibetian are be so oppressed like Groupons commmercial suggest since Chinese spend billions of dollars trying to improve Tibetian's infrastructures and Chinese populations in truth is dwendling in Tibet due to altitude sickness. Many business (including brothels) are Chinese own and most of the ladies who work are actually Chinese since Tibetians believe selling flesh is extremely shameful. That said, there are still the fact that the Tibetian's quarter of the town still remains the eyesore in the town of Lhasa and Tibetians are still a 2nd class citizen without much opportunities which stems from discrimination in educations and business opportunities. Solution? Go to Tibet as a tourist and help them. Tibetian singers are one of the best in the world. Check out Soinam Wangmo and Tsewang Dorje which can be found in youtube: arguably one of the best tenor and suprano of the China..

February 07 2011 at 8:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
cheercurlz

I missed their super bowl ad. Why was it "offensive" ?

February 07 2011 at 5:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
underdogg182

After their extrememly offensive Superbowl ad, I'm guessing Groupon will be losing customers instead of gaining them.

February 07 2011 at 4:31 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Janet

Sign up for Groupon and get inundated with SPAM. I know from sad experience.

February 07 2011 at 11:21 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Janet's comment
dc3smokejumper

Janet...Agreed! I've tried this twice and gotten a computer virus both times. Maybe some Tibetian hacker is seeking revenge! A lousy system...and a rip-off! Bottom line? Why take the chance? There are several other safer systems on line.

February 08 2011 at 11:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erink91321

I see Limits on almost Everything by Summer . Just do the Math

February 07 2011 at 10:39 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Niels

Groupon is a great concept but if they want to grow, they can't define their market as "Generally, it's just people looking for a good deal. We don't have demographics beyond that." Great retailers (like Amazon) know their customers extremely well. For Groupon to become more than a promotional channel, they are going to have to deliver knowledge about customers to the companies offering groupons. A possible home run? Figure out which subscribers are influencing everyone else.

February 07 2011 at 7:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply