WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Look online for offline success

This week Facebook debuted a new deals system in Australia that allows retailers to promote discounts to users by having them “check in” through the iOS app. The system was already available in the United States but has now finally become available locally.

Already a number of larger brands including 7-Eleven and Westfield have jumped on board, providing discounts for users who check-in. Proponents are already saying this is a good way to bridge the divide between the growing use of online deals and the struggling bricks and mortar sector.

If you’re an offline retailer, the launch of these types of check-in products should give you some hope. There are ways to get people into your stores without having to constantly discount, and one of the benefits is that you can create these deals on demand.

Investigate some services that will allow people to find deals online for offline stores. It doesn’t have to be just Facebook, but start creating online-only offers for offline-only stores.

Second time’s a charm

This week the international sports broadcaster ESPN bought FootyTips.com.au, run by two Melbourne entrepreneurs who built the site over a decade ago.

The business has been through a lot. It was originally bought by Tattersall’s but the relationship soured and the founders bought the company back. It’s since expanded and offers tipping competitions by not only football but other sports as well, and has diversified into new technologies including iOS and Android apps.

While the founders won’t reveal a purchase price, it’s a good outcome for the business that has already been bought – and bought back – before. And it serves as a good lesson to other business owners to not give up a business if your original plan isn’t working out.

Be sure to read SmartCompany tomorrow for an interview with FootyTips on how it managed the ESPN acquisition process.

Don’t sweat the name

Last month it was found that Groupon settled with Scoopon over the rights for the Groupon.com.au domain name and the Groupon Australia trademark. It ended months of speculation over whether the dispute would ever come to a close.

And this week Groupon changed over the StarDeals brand to Groupon.com.au – but barely anyone noticed.

If your business is good enough, and your product line-up strong, your customers won’t necessarily care if you need to go through a name change. The Groupon incident serves as an example – the name of your product is important but it is by no means the most important element of your offering.

How much is your customer worth?

Online retailers hate glitches, especially when they allow customers to access products for cheap. It’s a public relations nightmare when you have to tell customers that the discounts they thought they were receiving aren’t actually valid.

But last week Ruslan Kogan did the opposite – he spent nearly $50,000 valuing those discounts. It’s an unusual approach to a fairly common problem and won him some admiration from fans.

If you suffer a glitch on your retail website, or something else goes wrong which is in the customer’s favour, don’t just automatically say no. And don’t just think about the financial impact, think about the impact on your reputation.

You don’t necessarily need to honour tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of products, but Kogan’s example is a reminder that the usual choice isn’t necessarily the most beneficial one.

Buying your way to a bigger slice

Google announced earlier this week it would buy Motorola for $US12.5 billion. It was a largely unexpected move but makes complete sense given Google’s push towards domination in the smartphone space.

Now that Google controls a major manufacturer, it has a lot of clout that it can use to set standards among other mobile phone makers. And it’s been able to acquire a trove of patents that will help it win royalty payments.

Keep in mind that in your own business, you don’t always need to build everything from the inside out. Do you work with a manufacturer, supplier or other service that could bolster your offering? If so, consider buying them if they’ll make your life easier and give you a better grasp on the market.

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