Daily Deals sounds like a no lose situation. Your business crafts a great deal and presto you have tons of new clients. Sounds like a plan but, as it turns out, it’s not so simple.
When the owner of the Hillbrook Inn went looking for ways to boost business, she turned to a new and increasingly popular tool: daily deal sites like LivingSocial and Groupon.
The 10-guestroom bed and breakfast near Charles Town, West Virginia, listed a one-night stay on LivingSocial in March for half off the usual rate. Owner Carissa Zanella and her staff weren’t waiting long for responses.
“It was a mad rush,” said Zanella. “We had two computers and three phones and employees waiting to answer. We were answering nonstop, to the point that we had messages backed up on our machine.”
The Hillbrook Inn’s experience is not unique. As daily deal sties continue to grow in popularity, businesses are turning to them as a way to bring in new clients. At the same time, however, some merchants feel overwhelmed by the rush for discounts and are questioning whether the bottom-line boost is worth the logistics headache.
Once Zanella’s surge of new bookings subsided, it was clear to her that she wasn’t fully prepared for the sudden rush of interest. Before the deal ran, Zanella found herself questioning whether it was going to be worth it. Now, she said she believes LivingSocial should provide small businesses with more information on what to expect.
“I don’t feel they gave us enough information on that,” she said. “It happens so fast. I expected people to call, but I did not expect buyers to not look at our website before they purchased the deal.”
The inn sold 498 one-night stays in the six days the deal was listed. But as people kept calling, its cramped, two-desk office began shrinking under the growing paperwork. Rooms began to fill up, and hopeful vacationers were told the Hillbrook was booked solid on the date they wanted to redeem their voucher.
Marie Griffin, communications director for LivingSocial, said the company does try to manage merchants’ expectations. “Once we have crafted that deal, we essentially give them a little welcome kit,” she said. “What that welcome kit does is help prepare them for what will happen once the deal runs.” Griffin said the kit includes tips on how to prepare websites and phone systems, along with different options for accepting the LivingSocial vouchers. It also suggests businesses have a meeting with staff and prepare them for the spike in interest. “You may need to bring in extra help,” Griffin said. “You are going to have higher call volume, higher traffic to your website.”