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To Groupon or Not to Groupon: The Profitability of Deep Discounts

  • Benjamin Edelman

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

  • Sonia Jaffe

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Harvard University)

  • Scott Duke Kominers

    ()

    (Becker Friedman Institute, University of Chicago)

We examine the profitability and implications of online discount vouchers, a relatively new marketing tool that offers consumers large discounts when they prepay for participating firms' goods and services. Within a model of repeat experience good purchase, we examine two mechanisms by which a discount voucher service can benefit affiliated firms: price discrimination and advertising. For vouchers to provide successful price discrimination, the valuations of consumers who have access to vouchers must generally be lower than those of consumers who do not have access to vouchers. Offering vouchers tends to be more profitable for firms which are patient or relatively unknown, and for firms with low marginal costs. Extensions to our model accommodate the possibilities of multiple voucher purchases and firm price re-optimization. Despite the potential benefits of online discount vouchers to certain firms in certain circumstances, our analysis reveals the narrow conditions in which vouchers are likely to increase firm profits.

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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 11-063.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2010
Date of revision: Jan 2014
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-063
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