Since Groupon launched in 2008, the Chicago-based company has gathered 1.4 million users in the city and surrounding suburbs. It’s also inspired new startups offering deals to customers throughout the North Shore.
The Highland Park-based WeDeal launched in April. The site offers daily deals, and users get $5 off the discounted price if they get a friend to buy too.
“I was born and raised here in the North Shore,” said founder and CEO Jordan Heller. “At the time that I launched here, there was no deal-a-day site in the suburbs focusing on the North Shore. Groupon was operating in the city, but most people in the suburbs weren’t going to go into the city for a massage.”
When WeDeal started it had just 900 subscribers.
“I was scared to death because that’s not very many people but it turned out OK,” Heller said. “Right away we got a buzz going and it’s helped us grow quickly.”
The site now has 40,000 users throughout the North Shore and western suburbs. It’s also gotten new competition.
The Northbrook-based PayLessNow launched in October, offering deals primarily in the North Shore. PayLessNow enables users to buy deals and print out the coupons or display them on their smart phone to redeem. Deals also stay up longer than one day, either expiring at a set time or when a certain number is sold.
The site typically offers about 250 deals at a time. It also works closely with businesses to ensure that the deal is only available in a designated geographic area.
“We’re growing little by little,” Berg said. “On the merchant side, response has been great. On the consumer side, it’s just a matter of getting the word out there. We don’t have the budget of Groupon.”
Groupon began offering deals in the North Shore last summer. Some of its recent deals have included discounts at restaurants in Evanston, Wilmette and Winnetka.
“We want to make sure we’re offering deals for folks that are in their own backyard,” said Groupon spokesman Chad Nason. “By offering deals in a lot of the suburbs, it gives people who live out in Deerfield or Northbrook the opportunity to get out there and try those things.”
Chicago-based YouSwoop has reached out to the suburbs. It expanded into Highland Park in October and plans to offer deals throughout the North Shore by March 15. It intends to launch a new section of the site called Suburban Swoop, which will cover Deerfield, Winnetka, Glencoe, Northbrook and Evanston. Customers will be able to choose to receive e-mails about city deals, suburban deals or both.
“We’re meeting the demands of our members,” said YouSwoop CEO Michael Redisch. “A lot of them said, ‘Hey, when are you coming up north? We’d love to get more relevant deals for our area.’ ”
Redisch said the site distinguishes itself from competitors by limiting the number of people who can sign up for a deal, ensuring that users have a good experience and that merchants aren’t overwhelmed. He also said employees work to get to know the customers and local businesses in order to better serve them.
“We know that there are several smaller players in the North Shore and Groupon,” he said. “The same way we compete with Groupon in the city is the way we’ll compete there.”
Competing for deals
Heller said WeDeal is not afraid of the competition.
“My salespeople and I have deep contacts because we’ve lived here in the area,” Heller said “We’re going to get deals that no one else can get, including Groupon.”
Nason said that Groupon’s subscriber base is mostly college-educated single females in their early 20s, a demographic that he said is very appealing to many businesses.
“A lot of competitors don’t have the numbers or the size,” Nason said. “Of course, everyone knows what Groupon is. We only work for the best businesses in the towns.”
Groupon has also been working to improve its offerings. The site started off with one deal each day. Now users can plug in personal information to ensure they get deals that would interest them.
“There are a lot of clones out there,” Nason said. “There are over 500 in the world that do this. But if we keep giving our customers the best experience then all the businesses and subscribers will want to keep working with us.”