Groupon acquires experiential marketplace SideTour

Faith Merino · September 18, 2013 · Short URL:

Is the company finally giving its coupons business a makeover?

Looks like Groupon has put on its shopping shoes. The company has made its second acquisition in little more than a week in the form of SideTour, a local event and activity marketplace. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Launched in August 2011, SideTour is one of a new batch of startups that are focusing less on deals and discounts and more on experiential packages. The site, which is currently live in Washington D.C., Philadephia, Chicago and NYC, specializes in unique activities and events for smallish groups (usually averaging 12 attendees). The activities span the gamut of food, drink, art and architecture, history, and more.

For example, if you live in Chicago, you can learn how to make mole at an Oaxacan cooking party. Or you can learn how to craft artisanal body products at a local farm. 

While Groupon had been making one or two acquisitions a month throughout 2010 and 2011, its buying rate in 2013 has been much more sluggish. 

The company’s acquisitions under Eric Lefkofsky definitely show a different angle as the company attempts to rise from the ashes. Groupon’s coupons business has been dying a slow death, forcing Groupon to rely increasingly on its unsustainable Goods business. The company has been experimenting with different ways to draw customers (“pulling” them to the platform instead of pushing them through emails), but first and foremost, Groupon needs to spice up its product.

Personally, I can’t remember the last time I bought a groupon. I don’t need discounted facials, mani-pedis, and restaurant deals every week. Essentially, the strategy worked too well: I found the places I like and I’m sticking with them.

LivingSocial, on the other hand—I’ve probably bought four or five deals in the last year, and they’ve all been for unique, local activities: a family pass to a pumpkin patch, brewfests, kids’ learning activities, etc.

SideTour currently offers more than 500 events with more than 400 hosts using the platform. Hosts include chefs, artists, Olympic medalists, casting directors and sommeliers.

“This acquisition is about continuing to provide our customers with more choices,” said a Groupon spokesperson.

SideTour will continue to operate independently for the time being and Groupon will distribute the events to its 43 million active users. 


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