There's a faint glimmer on the horizon for daily deals sites, the much buzzed-about businesses (think Groupon) that exploded onto the e-commerce scene last year only to fade into irrelevance a few months later. Apple just signed a deal with Pirq, a Seattle-based daily deal service, to offer deals to its employees through the iPhone, according to TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden. Unlike top dogs Groupon and Living Social, Pirq doesn't require its users to purchase or print out coupons. Instead, they just show up in the Pirq app on a user's iPhone ready to be redeemed. The app uses location-based technology and Microsoft Tag, a smart barcode system, to find relevant deals nearby.
Pirq is a rare new face in the already-diminishing group of daily deals sites. However, it stands to win a huge competitive advantage through its close relationship with Apple. Outside of the new Apple deal, Pirq is only available in Seattle, but TechCrunch says that the employee test is just the first of a four-part process. Eventually, the daily deal service will be rolled out to all iPhone users, perhaps in a native app or through promotion in the App Store. One can't help but wonder about the privacy implications of a deals site that tracks your moves and suggests bargains based on your location, so we'd hope there would be an easy opt-out switch.
Groupon and Living Social do not enjoy this privilege and have actually been working harder to win the favor of small businesses nationwide rather than users. Last week, Groupon won some headlines with the launch of its new Groupon Now program for local commerce, an effort CEO Andrew Mason said would transform Groupon "from daily deal provider to local commerce platform." Similarly, Living Social bought the online ordering system Onosys. These efforts may mean better deals for consumers, but that's only after the companies convince local businesses to offer steep discounts consumers crave, something that's not always in the businesses' best interest.
Nevertheless, we can't help but see the appeal of the Pirq model. Daily deals sites make big profits off of people who buy deals but never redeem them. Then there's the hassle of printing it and whatnot. Imagining an integrated, no purchase necessary deal site like Pirq is rather tempting. However for now, you'll have to move to Seattle or get a job with Apple to try it out.