Sweet Deals via Email and Social Media

A new discount strategy attracts customers and the curious.

The is the latest local business to go social. As Patch reported earlier this year, a blog, tweets and Facebook “friends” have become standard operating procedure for small business owners eager to reach out to customers. However,  local business have experimented with “Groupon” and "Living Social" to expand the customer base.

A few weeks ago, Tinga in Millburn, with locations in Montclair and Westfield,  had an offer on Groupon, letting customers pay $10 online for a  voucher worth $20 in the restaurant. According to Groupon, the 1,743 people grabbed that Deal of the Day.

The deal "brings people in but we've been asking if they're new customers or repeat customers -- I work here five days a week and I can tell a lot of them are repeat customers," said Millburn store manager Carl Waugh. "So I don't think we're really getting a lot of new customers from it."

, the meal preparation studio formerly in Maplewood and now in South Orange, made its first Groupon offering in late December.  “It is exciting, very exciting,” says owner Mary Smith to be the first in town to try a new business strategy.  

Likewise, Joe Ramaikas of the Cupcake Corral offered a special deal this week, a dozen cupcakes for $12, via Living Social

 of Livingston  who runs the LivingRichwithCoupons website explains how it works from the consumer point of view. “Each day Groupon offers a different deal for restaurants, spas, salons, stores and more.  If you like a deal, you sign up but you have to wait until enough people have "tipped" the deal.  Once it's "tipped" everyone gets it at the discounted price.  If the deal does not generate enough interest, you are not charged,” she says.

Discounts can be generous, Livesey notes. Montclair’s Costanera Restaurant recently offered a $35 menu for $15, for example, and Elevation Burger, also in Montclair, made a foray into Groupon this week, offering $20 of food for $10.

"You are exposing your brand to more people," said Matt Jerkovich, an owner of Elevation Burger. "The hope is that they enjoy the experience and will return."

Living Social ups the ante: when a buyer pays for the offer, she receives a unique code that can be emailed or shared via social media. If three others make the purchase, the original buyer gets the goods for free.

Smith said that she researched and thought carefully before crafting such an offer. A business-savvy friend talked it through with her, and Smith concluded that it made sense. Dinnersmith, she explains, is tried-and-true, with five years experience. At the same time, the Dinnersmith moved to its Irvington Ave. location in late fall and changed its model. Instead of customers assembling their meals from prepared ingredients, they now pick up the components of the meal, chopped, washed, ready to go. Smith decided that Groupon was a way of showcasing the new locale and setup.

Likewise, Ramaikas decided that the time was right, and that Living Social "is a good way to get the word out to new customers."

From the customer point of view, says Livesey, such offers have “great appeal because they have the ability to offer huge discounts on products and services.” She also sees the other side of the equation, noting, “The deals are definitely a great way to get people in the door.”

Smith agrees; her recent experience was a success, with some 600 meals sold in about a day. Customers paid Groupon online, she notes, so the transaction is complete from that perspective. What pleased Smith, she says, is that new customers called to find out more about Dinnersmith. One woman, familiar with the Dinnersmith concept, didn’t do the Groupon offer. Instead, she set up a standing delivery order to her specifications.

Such deals not for everyone, cautions Smith, who knows exactly what her meals cost and what the margin is on each. She considered the proposition for several months before moving ahead.  Still, Smith knew from her own experience as a customer that there are deals to be had; she tried an online buying site for the first time this fall. What did she, a professional foodie, buy? Gourmet items?  Wine?  Cooking equipment?  She smiles. “Pilates.”


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