Groupon To Replace Jobs!?

Since it’s introduction in Chicago exactly four years ago, Groupon has spread across the U.S. to Boston, New York City, and Toronto as well. Although it benefits consumers by saving them money daily on local products and services, many have debated the implications it has for local businesses. Whether it actually increases their returning customer base is just one of the issues many businesses have to face when considering offering a Groupon.

Anthony Raso, though, has found a way for Groupon to better organize and increase his customer base. The owner of a car maintenance garage in Toronto, Raso decided to advertise a rustproofing deal on Groupon to increase his local customer base. He soon found himself with too many people calling in for his services, but not enough employees to actually organize and book all of the potential customers. Not being able to increase his customer base as much as he could have drove Raso to eventually take advantage of Groupon Scheduler, a service which allows customers to book their own appointments online. He could also use this service to book clients who called in. The appointments are automatically stored in an online calendar, allowing Raso to focus on providing his excellent services instead of worrying about booking customers.

Raso considered his previous appointment booking technique too time consuming, and called it the bottleneck of his business. Running into problems like double booking and forgetting appointments was slowing down his service time and caused him to not service as many customers as he could. With the help of Groupon Scheduler, he can now maximize his profits by leaving the scheduling of appointments to Groupon, allowing him to focus on what he does best.

Similar to what the paper puppet activity showed us, bottlenecks are constraints that limit the output of production. Throughput gets caught in the bottleneck and takes longer to complete than in any other stage of the product cycle, thereby reducing maximum output. A bottleneck can severely harm a business by preventing it from performing at its fullest potential. Raso was able his solve his bottleneck process by introducing a digital method of booking appointments for his business so that it would no longer take away from him being able to work on his customer’s cars. Eliminating this bottleneck will allow Raso to increase his customer base and his overall profits.

What do you think of this scheduling service that Groupon now offers to businesses? Do you think it is essentially reducing the need for employees whose job it may be to book appointments? Can you foresee any problems that businesses utilizing this service may run into?

Shop Like Your Life Depends On It

With the holiday season quickly approaching us, most people are already beginning to think about who they have to buy gifts for, if not already starting their online shopping. One aspect of the holiday season that escapes most shoppers, though, is their overall contribution to retailers and the economy overall. The holiday season is known to be the most important time of year for retailers everywhere; contributing to 40% of their annual sales in a period of about two months. Thankfully every year around this time, forecasters begin looking at last year’s holiday sales in order to predict as best as they can the holiday sales for this year.

At least ten entities are in charge of making this prediction and this year their predictions range from a 3 to 4.1 percent increase in holiday sales over last year. Each forecaster’s predictions are different because of the varying methods that they use. Most importantly, though, is the fact that all of this year’s predictions are lower than the actual gain in sales of last year, which was 5.8 percent.

Each forecaster takes into account different variables when predicting holiday sales each year. The National Retail Federation, for example, looks at sales from the previous month, the housing market, consumer confidence, weather, and employment levels. A mere increase in holiday temperatures could drastically decrease purchases of common winter items like jackets, scarves, and gloves.

Interestingly enough, these predictions only slightly affect retailers. By the time these forecasts come out, retailers have already ordered their merchandise for the holiday season. Unless there was evidence that consumers would spend much more than anticipated, retailers probably wouldn’t increase any of their orders. Other retailers who are afraid of being left with too much excess inventory this year may be inclined to offer better discounts, or begin discounting even sooner than last year.

With all the different methods of forecasting going on, it may come as no surprise that these forecasts are usually wrong, if only by a few percentage points. Some years the forecasts are very optimistic while in others shoppers spend much more than anticipated.

What do you think are some better if not more accurate methods of predicting holiday sales from year to year? If retailers have already ordered inventory months in advance, why are these forecasts so important? What do you think are the factors that determine high holiday sales one year and lower sales in another year?