Groupon CEO: All Is Well! Nothing to See Here! Carry On!
Andrew Mason says Groupon is “better positioned than any other company in the world to plug local commerce into the Web,” but you wouldn’t know it from the daily deals site’s latest earnings: A fourth-quarter GAAP loss of 12 cents per share — 10 cents more than Wall Street was looking for.
As Groupon’s shares tanked in after-hours trading, Mason fielded questions from analysts on the company’s earnings call, but didn’t do much to explain how the company is going to scale its core online-coupon business. Instead, he did all that he could to paint a happy face on today’s sad results, tossing out sound bites that glossed over the issues troubling the company:
“It’s hard to believe just a short time ago we were a deal-a-day business.”
“Record billings growth this quarter is a clear signal that customers love Groupons!”
“Our vision is to be the operating system for local commerce.”
Sadly for Mason, that last statement may be even harder to believe than the first. Thanks to its Groupon Goods offering, the company — which is seeing slowing growth in its coupon business — is now competing with juggernauts like Amazon and eBay in a sector where margins are thin. That’s not going to be easy, though Mason — whose tenure as Groupon’s CEO remains iffy — did his damnedest to say otherwise.
“We don’t need to, nor do we want to try to out-Amazon Amazon,” Mason said. “When we first started this business, the sense of urgency of a deal being available for only 24 hours might have played a role in peoples’ purchasing decisions. [But we believe that's] less of an influencing factor today. The reason people buy Groupons is not game mechanics, it’s because of the real value that these deals provide. We believe the potential of a local marketplace business, where you can fulfill demand instead of shocking people into buying something they had no intention of buying when they woke up — which we built a full business on — is a much bigger business opportunity.”
We’ll see next quarter, I guess.