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Bored or hungry?

Search is great when you ask a specific question, such as “where is the nearest Starbucks?” But what if you don’t really know what you want? Could you use anti-search? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if just the right thing found you at the right time and location, even if you didn’t know you wanted it until you saw it? Sounds a little crazy, right?

I, for one, thought Groupon must have been a little crazy when it turned down $6B from Google. But now, instead of just building on their email offers, Groupon has decided to become a competitor in mobile search. Just last month they bought Pelago, the company behind Whrrl, a Four-square type app that has previously been used more as a customer retention tool. But Groupon must have been more interested in the technology than the company, since the Whrrl app is no longer available.

Instead, according to, Groupon is coming out with “Groupon Now” which will match people with instant deals near their location. A simple idea, with even simpler navigation-  just two buttons: “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored.” (Is it just me, or is that the ultimate indictment of our society?) Groupon’s biggest problem may be one of scale, since instead of one offer per geographic area for their emails, they now need to break down those urban areas into a few blocks in order to send mobile offers – which means Groupon will need a multitude of deals available all over the place.

Interestingly, LivingSocial has already beat Groupon to the punch. They ran an Instant Deals offer to iPhone/Android users – $1 for lunch at more than 120 restaurants in Washington DC, but they had to be redeemed that same day. They sold over 30,000. As Digiday noted, there seems to be an “an appetite for instant deals.”

Not sure this media option will be something for credit unions to consider as long as the focus is on restaurants and entertainment. But if it becomes readily accepted, could a mobile offer be just what you need to reach that on-the-go demographic with a special deal at one of your branches?

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