Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Enough of New Group-Buying Websites

We all love group-buying websites. It has been very helpful when trying out expensive and unknown establishments by allowing us to pay at the fraction of the original price as compared to when visiting them on a normal day. It’s also easy to purchase, since most of us have computers and internet connection nowadays.

Admittedly, group buying has become one of the fastest-growing online businesses in the Philippines. We Filipinos love to shop, eat, drink, and beautify, and for a discounted price, we do it plus love it even more.

Since group-buying websites launched a couple of years back, one site pops out after another, promising great deals to consumers. And after putting up high hopes by offering raffle incentives for referrals, some of these sites eventually just disappear and lose business.

Even at less than 40 active sites we have in the country today, don’t we find it already too many and too similar? Group buying is definitely useful for both consumers and companies, but the sites are operating in a very similar manner and offering the same services over and over again. Even the website designs have looked so alike; it’s as if there is no more better way to present the deals.

I say enough of new group-buying websites. Go find another business. Why? There is a huge investment on such online business – both monetary and human capital. Advertising, marketing, and designing are the top areas where expenses are being allocated into. And the profit? I’m not so sure if non-top ranking sites are even making profits. For some, I believe profit has been put aside. The high operating costs and brutal competition make it very difficult for them to catch up.

If we look into it in depth, do group buying sites have a high business value? For me, it’s a win-lose situation. Buyers get what they want – a new form of shopping and great way to save from discounts – while merchants have to clear their stocks or try to gain popularity by providing big discounts.

What has to be done? Those planning on creating a new site should just focus on planning for another business venture. On the contrary, present websites that are currently running the competition should make necessary adjustments to last.

Rather than just selling cheaper products, why not add more business value by providing local services to customers? It may be that the group-buying industry would love to see more of localized services, not objects. This could include paying for a deal online and providing offline services afterwards, such as dining reservations, renting apartments and cars, booking tickets, etcetera.

Several countries around world are experiencing the winter in group buying. It started out as a good business value utilizing technology and the Internet, but has later on stagnated due to lack in business value. Searching the web for trends and long-term ventures should be an unending process in order to keep up with the needs and wants of online consumers.

This article is my 45th contribution to Manila Bulletin -- one of the Philippines' leading broadsheets -- published on November 28, 2011 (Monday) in the TechNews Section. You can view the PDF version here.

Photo Source: All Grown Up


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