Groupon: Good for Consumers, Good for Museums
Social couponing sites such as Groupon drive not only media coverage, but also foot traffic for cultural institutions and cultural events that otherwise may go unnoticed. These websites, frequented by a range of demographics, provide low-cost entry to museums, concert halls, food fairs and theater shows. Groupon has been criticized for driving one-time, low-value customers. Yet for cultural institutions that people tend to visit only a few times a year anyway, Groupon makes good marketing sense.
By Sara Weiner, Associate Director Digital Integration & Innovation
Groupon, an online social couponing site, provides daily discounts and coupons for members. Discounts run across categories, from food fairs to Whole Foods, beauty salons to Broadway shows. Users can opt to purchase the coupons, which generally provide discounts such as “2 days for the price of 1 at Brooklyn Museum” or “VIP access to Taste of DC.” Users then print the coupon and use it as specified. Groupon and similar sites are great for a few reasons: 1) they allow consumers interested in trying a new experience to do so at a lower cost/risk; 2) they entice consumers to try things they wouldn’t otherwise consider; and 3) they provide new foot traffic to business that wouldn’t otherwise be on the radar. However, these sites have also been criticized for driving one-time shoppers or discount-seekers to venues that they will not return to. Groupon engenders a one-time experience, but not necessarily a long-term customer relationship.
However, for cultural, art and theatrical venues, ones consumers tend to only visit once or twice a year, Groupon incents relevant patrons to attend an event at a discounted rate. A number of institutions across the country have taken advantage of this model. As early as 2009, the Brooklyn Museum offered a Groupon. More recently Traces, currently on Broadway, engaged with Groupon to sell tickets; the Grammy Museum in LA, a tourist attraction, utilized Groupon to bring in foot traffic; and Taste of DC in Washington, sold coveted VIP and full-day passes via Groupon. Implications and Action items
For museums, theaters, and specifically once-a-year events such as art fairs, concerts and tourist-oriented museums, Groupon provides a media spotlight and a facilitated customer experience. It creates relevance by being timely and top of mind, and drives purchase by offering discounted entry with a feeling of exclusivity. Cultural institutions can leverage Groupon, but should be aware of the following:
- Promote the offer. While Groupon displays all offers on its website, promoting the offer through your own means (newsletters, website, flyers, newspaper) will help spread the word and increase traffic.
- Encourage return visits. To gain more than one-time visitors, consider collecting emails or mailing addresses so you can add visitors to your communications. Special offers and experiences once they have arrived at your venue may also encourage return patronage.
- Know your audience. Groupon is widely used, but attracts a younger and more digitally savvy audience who are looking for deals. Before moving forward with Groupon or a similar site, consider if this is your core consumer base or if it’s a consumer base you want to draw into your cultural community.