The Groupon-Style Website Trend: Why and How it Works

Lately we've seen a popular trend in discount/coupon sites which give significant discounts in return for promotion. The two biggest of these types of websites are Groupon and LivingSocial. Their concept is to feature local businesses within the member's area, and then provide the member with a huge discount - usually between 40%-90% - meant to get members to try out the product or service.

The Groupon-Style Website Trend: Why and How it Works


In today's article we'll examine this trend website further, from the perspective of the web developer. We'll look at the reasons it works, and how lessons from this effective business concept can be brought to our own lives. We'll also look into how the design works to promote the effective use of these types of websites, and the possible platforms it would be most effectively run on.

The Concept

The goal behind Groupon, Living Social or the like is simple: give members huge discounts in order to get them to try out new services, in hopes that they'll return in the future at full price. The websites themselves earn a profit by featuring the companies, who give out a small fee to the website in order to get exposure from local sources.

One important feature to note also is that each deal has a very small deadline in which it is purchasable at that price. By doing so, members must "buy the deal" in 24hrs or less, 48 hours or less, etc. otherwise it expires. This can help to get old deals out the door, influence more members to make the purchase, and keep new deals coming in fresh every day.

Why does the concept work so well?

  • People love a good deal - it's like paying for advertising space regularly for companies, but members are more inclined to take action if they know they can get it cheaper. A good deal may also even be more effective than getting the same service completely free. A "free" deal may make the company seem less valuable, or otherwise the deal seems "too good to be true." With just a hefty discount there is a medium, and the buyer feels smarter for taking advantage of the deal.
  • A short timeframe creates a sense of urgency. The deal won't last, so if they want it, they have to get it now. There is less time for logical decision making that would prevent them from not purchasing the deal.
  • Many luxury items are featured - products and services that we don't need, but want. Spa services, nice restaurants, vacations, etc. are the deals that are featured. This goes from the usual - many coupons and discounts today are for essential items.

The concept is a smart one, and it is quickly becoming a trend. Many new sites just like it are popping up every day, some with slight variations, and others within drastically different niches. Whatever the features, though, the concept is still a strong one because it is a win-win situation for all: the website, the businesses, and the members.

Next we'll look into some best practices for creating a similar site, and specifically design features that make the big ones work so well.

Design Considerations

What design considerations go into a site like this? Let's now look into some design-related trends we see among these types of websites — from usability and user experience techniques, to purely visual aesthetics.

Bright Color Schemes

Many of these types of sites have relatively bright color schemes. Furthermore, their color schemes usually hold a lot of variety and strong contrasting colors as well.

Why does this work, and why is it effective for a site like this? Coupon sites like this are all about grabbing the deal at the last minute. This translates into a sense of urgency, and even has a game-like appeal. The bright variety of colors keep this intensity light, and the user feel accomplished, and like they're doing something good for themselves when they purchase a great deal.

Wowcher

Large Backgrounds

Large backgrounds may be mostly for aesthetics with sites like these, but the coupon sites that do host large background images usually have one thing in common. Since many of these deal sites are location-dependent, the large background will feature an image of the local site the website is currently set to.

Beautiful skylines and scenery can surely be a great motivator to get website visitors out on the town — especially if it's nearby and they can save money while they're at it!

Voucherwow

Content-Heavy

Deal sites are also often very content heavy, at least on the front page. Other deals are commonly featured, as well as content and calls to action that persuade visitors to become members. While there is a need for heavy cross-promotional content, there is also just a wide variety of needed content that is not promotional too, of which is suited best if all is integrated into each page.

A lot of content, however, means there is a big need for organized content, which can be considered a design trend in itself. Fortunately, the navigation structure for these types of sites is simple, with primarily three site sections: sign up, featured deal, past/other deals. This of course goes along with any secondary content as well such as an about page.

Eversave

Simple Sign Up / Calls to Action

Simple, effective, and highly visible calls-to-action are placed on the site to encourage new visitors to sign up. Some even use a modal box upon opening, although this can be a bit invasive for some users. Others, though, use smart placement and design techniques, as well as content strategies in order to encourage users to sign up.

Often times, the "sign up" process is as simple as entering your email - the website automatically tracks where you are at. Others, it's as simple as registering your email and usual location.

Call to Action

Highlighted Prices

Of course, what gets users really hooked to these sites is the incredible deal they can get for some pretty nifty services or products. Because of this, these types of coupon websites put the top hierarchical spot - the most attention - on the price and savings amount. Usually the price is featured, and the savings is calculated the percentages, a content strategy that proves to be more effective. (Which seems better to you, "Save $20!" or "Save 40%!"? Often times, it's the exact same amount saved).

Highlighted Prices

Countdowns

Interactive countdowns add a dynamic sense to these sites, as well as make them more interactive. The biggest concept here, though, is that it creates a sense of urgency, and therefore encourages more sales. One more thing to note too is that because more sales are made, social influence also plays into this. Many of these sites, like Groupon below, show how many have already bought the deal, and respectively, how many are left.

Countdowns

Influential Imagery

Imagery surrounding the type of deal involved can be a great influential factor in order to promote more sales. People like to see what they buy, and even if it's only a representative photo instead of a photo literally from the service, the same concept applies. It can also help solidify the brand being featured, which is the primary goal of the business itself.

Chocolate

How is a Deal Site Built?

Now let's take a closer look at these types of coupon sites from a more technical perspective - how can a site like this be built? Like with any type of website, the answer can vary, and really, there probably is no best answer. However, we'll look into a few considerations below.

Large CMS Platform (Drupal/Magento/etc.)

Depending on the coupon site's features needed, a site like this could surely be built quite easily on a pre-existing CMS platform like Drupal or Magento.

The core things a coupon site needs is to be able to easily update deals each day, have a payment gateway for members and businesses, and probably a few custom plugins for things like the countdown, featured, etc. These large platforms could easily cover all of this, with their blogging modules able to easily post new deals every day, and Magento in particular with its e-commerce component. Of course, with any large CMS like this, e-commerce solutions are easy to implement, and the solution really doesn't have to be that complex either.

Luckily, some developers within the Magento's community have developed a Great Deals Group Buying Extension for an out-of-box Groupon clone solution.

Magento

The biggest issue with using a large CMS like this would be creating the portion for local places. It could definitely be done, but would likely take a custom build, which could be costly or time-consuming (if you're a developer) to work around all that large, platform code.

WordPress + Plugins

WordPress can also easily be transformed into a CMS, and can be considered more lightweight than some other options. The easy blogging platform, again, makes it easy to update deals day to day, and there are plenty more plugins available for further features.

One major benefit WordPress would have over another CMS is that it's so much more commonly used and understood in terms of development. It would likely be able to be a lot more versatile on the coding-spectrum, and far easier to find a developer that is willing and able to customize it into a coupon-based site.

WordPress

Theming would also be incredibly easy, and we can already see how certain areas could be 'widgetized' and easy updatable that way.

The Instinct team over at GetShopped.org wrote a WordPress Group Deals Plugin that essentially clones Groupon functionality for WordPress websites. It works with the WP E-commerce plugin and comes with a Group Deals 2010 Child Theme.

Pre-made Scripts

There are also hundreds of pre-made scripts available that are made specifically for coupon sites. While they may not hold exactly the functionality you would need or want for one of these larger time-based coupon sites, they may be a great starting point regardless available for further customization.

Many scripts can be found by doing a quick Google search for "coupon site scripts". Likewise, below are a few below:

Custom Solution

Finally, as with any type of website and script type, a custom solution is always an option. In many cases, this solution can get you all the features you need and want, and in the most organized way possible. However, depending on which features you want - decide carefully on whether a custom solution would be worth it or not as it would obviously take far more time, a larger budget, and other resources.

For example, if you'd like a detailed membership system with the coupon site like seen for some in the showcase below, rather than just getting an email address, then there are plenty of prebuilt scripts and CMS's that have the functionality already built in, and that are already fully secure and build for an easy user experience. Building a complex system like this would leave more room for error.

On the other hand - if the solution you desire obtains the same core concepts as the coupon sites but would be radically different in terms of features, then your easiest option may be a custom solution after all. Perhaps the desired final outcome of the script is way too off from anything prebuilt, so working around it would be more of a waste of time, not to mention disorganization within the website and back-end system.

The same concepts apply for simpler versions - how easy is it to customize from a prebuilt version, or is it so simple that it doesn't need all that bulky code? There are many things to consider when deciding between building a custom solution or customizing a prebuilt CMS, and it will really all come down to what features would be necessary on the site.

Showcases

Below is a small showcase of these trendy websites. One can see the design trends in action that we've mentioned. Be sure to take a look at how each approaches this website concept, and how each implements it for the most effective strategy.

Groupon
Groupon, a collective shopping website offers you great deals on restaurant, spas, gym sessions, skydiving and other activities. Every day it features a deal and offers huge discounts up to 50%, 60%, and 70% off; these deals becomes valid only when enough people sign up for the same event and only then will you get a coupon.

Groupon

Deals Go Round
Deals go round is a market place for selling and buying day deals. You will find all the best discount deals of your favorite cities like Atlanta, Austin, Boston etc.

Deals Go Round

Go Nabit
Go nabit is UAE based marketing business that provides you necessary details of discount deals from local businesses. This site is only for day deals you will find discount deals from beauty to best places for see and eat and helps to get benefits on your purchase.

Go Nabit

Wowcher
Wowcher is great place to get discounts on great food, drinks and services. You can enjoy great times with your friends and family.

Wowcher

Voucher Wow
Voucherwow is the best site to find discount deals on beautifying treatment and you will get $129 valued personal facial with dead sea minerals for $29.

Voucher Wow

Living Social
Washington D.C. helps you to get one 50% off coupon from the best restaurants, spas and more every day. To know their daily deals you need to submit your email address.

Living Social

Charitable Coupons
Now you need not worry about your dog's bath because Kansas offers you a coupon of $25 for $ 50 for dog's bath and grooming services.

Charitable Coupons

Crowd Savings
Crowd savings is an opportunity for you to save up to 51% on you glass. You can design your wine glass within 30 minutes choosing different shapes and colors in this one on one workshop.

Crowd Savings

Twongo
Twongo offers typically a day deal of 50 to 70% off on the best places to eat, shop and play in Raleigh Durham.

Twongo

Scoop St.
Scoopst helps you to get celebrity treatment at personal training institute. That offers you two personal training sessions and a nutrition consultation for only $40 and it also provides you fine tuned, customized advice and programs for maximum results.

Scoop St.

Ever Save
Ever save helps you to get best for less and it features a day deal from best places to shop, eat and see with 50% to 90% off.

Eversave

Smart Cruiser
Smart cruiser.com is a discount cruise website that displays its real time availability and highly discounted web pricing and through this site you can book and pay cruise vacation of your choice including, air arrangements, shore excursion and trip insurance in a fast and uncomplicated way.

Smart Cruiser

Tippr
Trippr is right for searching the details of collective bargaining that provides you the best day deals of the town and the site is able to provide 100% price guarantee.

Tippr

Deal
Deal.com.sg constantly seeks better ways and bargains to satisfy savvy shoppers and remains unrivalled in providing both customers and merchants with the experiences they never knew they could get in Singapore.

Deal

Conclusion

Everyone's interested in the new trendy type of website of the time, but as designers and developers, we can surely be interested from a more unique standpoint: how does it work, why does it work, and how can I do something similar? Even if you don't go out and create a coupon site clone for yourself or a client, the idea itself is a very effective one, and lessons for the web can be taken from it to create successful websites in other niches.

What sort of trends do you see, and how could you implement them into another type of website? How would you go about creating a site like this, both design and development-wise?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Onextrapixel.