Groupon is testing special deals to its most loyal users, a fee-based service suggested by some of its very own 33 million active members. The new loyalty VIP program not only provides exclusive offers to these members making them feel even more special, but also allows Groupon to groom those key brand advocates to share their experiences and pull in new members.
The tests began last month in Tampa, FL, and have since reached subscribers in 16 additional markets, including Baltimore, MD, Chicago, Cleveland, OH, Washington, D.C., Miami, Minneapolis and Orlando. Each member received an invitation-only email to try out a complimentary three-month membership of Groupon VIP, the subscription-based loyalty program. If they like the program, they then pay $29.99 per year to join.
“We determined which customers to approach based upon purchase history and markets in which they are active,” Julie Mossler, a spokesperson for Groupon, said.
This select group of frequent Groupon users get early access to deals beginning at noon the day before the deals are scheduled to open up to the general Groupon membership, allowing them first dibs on deals that can sometimes sell out quickly. The new service also offers participants the ability to purchase Groupon’s Deal Vault of closed deals that are no longer available to regular Groupon subscribers.
In addition, there is a return policy for these members to exchange a deal already purchased for Groupon Bucks, or credits, which can be used to purchase Groupons at a later date.
Groupon came up with VIP Groupon after asking its members, “If you could wave a magic wand and change Groupon in any way, what would you ask for?” The three main features of VIP rose to the top: early access to deals, the ability to purchase closed deals and anytime-refunds.
Fostering a feeling of being special among top loyalists helps brands encourage the sharing of those experiences among members' friends and family.
"We've always found Groupon customers to be very enthusiastic brand advocates and VIP fits right into this equation," Mossler said. "We have various email and social media—Facebook and Twitter—plug-ins built into Groupon.com and our mobile app to allow them to easily share the great savings and cool experiences with their friends."
Groupon will make a decision to expand the program nationally based on interest and adoption in these locales, Mossler said.
Last month, Groupon expanded Groupon Reserve, its premium and exclusive experiences service, to the greater Los Angeles area. Reserve offers go out to an invitation-only audience and cater to the most discerning customers by featuring unique, higher-priced deals at some of Los Angeles’ swankiest and marquee spas, restaurants and retailers. As an example, last week, subscribers received an email with an offer for a five-course Mediterranean tasting menu for two people and two glasses of wine for only $99 at Whist, located in the Viceroy Hotel, in Santa Monica, CA. Reserve launched in October 2011 and has since served several deals to Groupon subscribers in New York City, Orlando and Seattle.