The Future Of E-Commerce: Groupon Becomes Social Shopping Network

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With less than 24 hours before a possible deal with Google may be announced, Groupon has revealed plans for a hefty expansion to the deal-based site, including a social network to call its very own.

(More on TIME: Google To Buy Groupon For $6 Billion?)

The initiative includes two new innovative features: Groupon Stores and a personalized Deal Feed, both of which promise to reinvent the way we buy online. Building on Groupon’s daily deal, the site will now collaborate with willing merchants to host their own deals on Groupon’s site, meaning that instead of just a few deals to chose from, users could have their pick of hundreds. Starting today, merchants in select cities can create their own Groupon deal distribution through the new Groupon Stores feature. Businesses will create a store page, much like Facebook, and interested Groupon users can opt to follow that specific store, which will show up in their individualized Deal Feed – a cross between Facebook’s News Feed and Twitter.

The premise is this: Groupon users will “follow” stores they’re interested in receiving deals from, plus some deals that Groupon itself will recommend to you based on your previous deal history and location. Meanwhile, Groupon Stores will only receive a 10% commission on all sales, a huge decrease to the 50% it takes to be the day’s featured deal – and it’s certainly the right move for Groupon. Because of its boom in popularity, merchants wishing to offer up a deal to users must wait for months because of a backlog of demand. Though the featured Daily Deal will still exist (for now, it seems), broadening the scope of the site was the only way to go. “Personalization, Stores, and the Deal Feed are our attempt to re-imagine things,” Groupon wrote on its blog. “How would we have built Groupon if we started with hundreds of thousands of relationships with the best merchants in the world, millions of customers, and a world-wide operation with thousands of people helping merchants create deals?”

(More on TIME: Groupon Starts Grouponicius Deals For The Holidays)

And while the expansion seems lofty, it makes perfect sense. Competitor deal sites sprung up to capture Groupon’s run off, so why not invite everyone back in at once? The only question remains is which Internet empire will run its logo up Groupon’s flagpole? We’ve heard Google and Facebook have both been seriously pursuing the site, with Google’s rumored offer of $6 billion pushing it out as the current favorite. If an offer is accepted tomorrow, Google would finally have a social empire to call its very own – unless of course the mythical Google Me becomes a reality.

Either way, Groupon is paving the way for the future of e-commerce – a world where customers don’t go looking for deals, they come to us.

More on Time.com:

Does Google Me Exist?

Yahoo! Clues Teaches You About Searching Online

Why Facebook Deals is Bad News for Foursquare

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