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Interview: After Groupon-Merging On and Off-Line Commerce

Groupon  Off-line Commerce  Vis-Ma-Ville  Group-purchasing  Application  Starts Consulting  Marketing Consulting  Startups

In the changing way we interact with e-shops, French e-company Vis-Ma-Ville’s President Jerome Fiancette explains this innovative trend. Through a collaborative consumption system, Vis-Ma-Ville offers many local products and services in France.

Vis-Ma-Ville was created in March 2010 by two partners, Jerome Fiancette and Nicolas Roux, with the aim to dynamise local businesses. Through a team of 10 people, it offers web-marketing solutions, expertise and a payment platform to promote and sell the merchants’ partners’ goods or services in small and large cities. They use the web to find new clients and drive them to local businesses, which is most of the time not easy for them.

Baudo: Where did your idea for Vis-Ma-Ville come from?

Fiancette: “The idea was inspired by Groupon during my trip in Chicago in 2008. From the concept of “One offer, One city, One day,” the associates developed longer-lasting offers on-line for several days (one week for example) to their partners and clients.”

Baudo: What is Vis-Ma-Ville’s specialty?

Fiancette: “The company is currently the only one to offer these longer promotions. In addition, it is also the only one to offer vouchers that are immediately effective. This is an original technical differentiation and two years after, Vis-Ma-Ville is still the only one to apply this business approach; giving more time to chose and convenience for the clients who can use it immediately. We are now counting 600,000 members.”

Baudo: The big joint-purchasing specialist Groupon is currently having troubles with web site traffic deceleration and a decrease in the average purchase (with a loss of about $146 million during the first three months of 2011).

What is your point of view about these difficulties?

Fiancette: “Groupon is what we call a “huge machine” and according to me, their problems might come from a lack of studies and information about their partners and capacities of providing their services. In other words, they are putting so many products and service offers on-line that they can’t study them enough before commercializing. Plus, they have a fraud average of between 7% and 10%.”

He added: “Our company is based more on a communication objective by bringing new clients to our merchant partners while making sure with studies that the offer matches the company’s capacity (in terms of number of employees for example). We evaluate all these aspects directly with our partners and take into account any issues that could emerge by limiting the number of sales. We are more a communication vector between companies and customers.”

Baudo: How do you see the evolution of the group-purchasing industry in the future?

Fiancette: “First of all, I would like to specify that the word “group-purchasing” is only the name given to the industry but doesn’t really suit our activity effectively as it is more a communication operation for the partners and the opportunity of discovery for customers. No matter if we sell one or 100 products or a service– what is good for one is good for a hundred.”

“Regarding the industry, a new trend is appearing: the “Web to Shop.” It means that consumers are spending time on the web and then consuming in the shops. The “group-purchasing” industry is the first relevant step to the “Web to Shop” and many new initiatives are going to come to complete and improve the services offered to the consumers.”

Baudo: Are you planning to launch a new application or concept in 2012?

Fiancette: “Yes, we are planning to launch a free mobile iPhone and Android application which is currently being developed. This innovative application will offer a mobile, geolocated and secure extra to partners and customers. The security technology used to avoid fraud will be based on… bar codes (QR codes for example) and no more paper vouchers will be used which is also good for the environment. The app will be divided into two parts: One dedicated to the partners who will be able to control the vouchers’ validity in real-time (such as “has the voucher that was bought already been used?) through a secure server. The second part of the app will be dedicated to the customers’ use.”

Thus, by using their web marketing tools and expertise, the e-commerce Vis-Ma-Ville brings business to local companies and offers lower prices to its customers by linking Internet and local business. This smart way of consumption is growing and more and more innovative e-companies are bridging the gap between on-line and off-line consumption.

This article has initially been posted by Lena Baudo on January 11th, 2012 on Opinno‘s blog (Open Innovation).

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