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Tim
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I think you're right that it will be hard for businesses to evaluate the ROI of Groupon marketing. But there are essentially no marketing methods for real-world businesses that offer the concrete ROI analysis that is possible in online marketing; the latter is an aberration in the history of advertising and marketing. And even experience over time is challenging, as there are so many other variables changing; repeatability is a mirage in the real world. http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/doing-the-math-on-a-groupon-deal/ is the best article I've seen from the perspective of a business owner evaluating Groupon. The bottom line is, I think, that uncertainty is huge in businesses like this, and the only way to be safe is to have an operating margin larger than your uncertainty. Such businesses are hard to come by, and frequently lose when matched against competitors who are willing to roll the dice with lower margins. Like so many other things, it's likely that the surviving & thriving businesses we see are the lucky ones, not necessarily the smartest ones.
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Jan 24, 2011