Groupon’s Mason on Strategy, Investment and (Finally) a Way to Stop Those Pole-Dancing Offers

Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason is known for his sense of humor, but during the company’s first earnings call today, it was all business.

Of course, you knew at least a little bit would slip through.

In response to an analyst who asked about the company’s ability to tailor deals to a person’s interests, Mason hinted at new products coming in the first or second quarter.

In addition to being able to get deals based on multiple locations, gender and past buying behaviors, he said, users will be able to vote down deals if they don’t want to receive similar ones again.

So, if you are male, you won’t have to see offers for bikini waxes, or if you are bald, you won’t have to see offers for barber shops.

Mason said, “It allows us to say, ‘Please stop sending me pole-dancing lessons.’ … That’s been a much requested feature.”

Otherwise, Mason quickly and confidently answered inquiries throughout the call.

But he didn’t talk much about future financial expectations, instead emphasizing the company’s merchant services, new investments (such as its mobile products) and new categories (like products and travel).

So far, few details have been shared on the impact of those offerings, including Groupon Now, which is available in 31 U.S. markets and allows customers to purchase deals that can be redeemed in a short time window. Groupon’s travel site has also gotten quite big through the help of its partner Expedia.

Groupon CFO Jason Child explained that all of the investments are really at an early stage, and it’s uncertain how they will be impacted by seasonality or other economic factors.

The strategy remains to invest in the future, Mason said. “The Groupon of five years from now will require investments in technology and innovations. Despite rapid growth, we estimate that we participate in less than 1 percent of all local transactions.”

Still, the forward-looking statements weren’t enough to satisfy investors who were looking for the company to show a small profit.

For the fourth quarter, Groupon reported a net loss of $42.7 million, or 8 cents a share, compared to a net loss of $378.6 million, or $1.08 a share for the same period in 2010.

Mason concluded his first earnings call by saying: “Thanks, guys, this was a lot of fun, and I look forward to many more of these.”

And then the stock was clobbered in after-hours trading, falling nearly 15 percent, or $3.68 a share, to $20.90.

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