Dubai: Discount coupon sites will no longer be the preserve of start-ups in the UAE. The Emke Group, operator of LuLu supermarkets and hypermarkets, has confirmed plans to make a move into this space with its own version.
"The LuLu stores already have multiple promotions running weekly or monthly and those tied into special events such as the Shopping Festival," said V. Nandakumar, spokesperson for the Group.
"With dedicated discount portals getting a lot of recent attention, we felt a similar medium could be used just as well by an established retailer and raise the frequency of promotions we have at the stores. "We can go daily with the deals."
The plans are to have the online deals tied to offers at its supermarkets in the UAE in the initial phase of the rollout. An outside firm has been contracted to manage the site.
Until now, local discount sites have been the preserve of start-ups. Over the last six months, this particular retail space has been gaining a lot of traction with the entry of more players as well as the launch by Groupon, the global supremo in this field, of its UAE services. Early this week, a US firm, LivingSocial, acquired the regional operations of GoNabit, which has been operational for just 13 months.
But most of these ventures are geared towards special deals on restaurants, travel, entertainment and spa promotions. As of now there are none offering group buying possibilities on consumer essentials. This is where the Emke Group hopes to create a first-mover advantage.
"What it all adds up to is rising consumer awareness of the group buying concept, which means that we will not have to expend much time on creating it for our own discount portal," said Nandakumar.
"And we have the advantage of our already substantial customer base and even if a percentage were to move to the online coupon site, we are in business."
At the same time, the group will offer "physical" versions of these discount coupons. "There is a consumer base that may not be as web-savvy as some and prefer the traditional formats to get a deal of their liking," said Nandakumar.
"We plan to deliver them at doorsteps and in our stores apart from having them at the website www.luluhypermarket.com."
Going forward, with the many similar portals competing for the same pie, the exclusivity of the deals that each offers will be the game-changer. And they are already working on it.
"We have a separate category for exclusive promotions which will be available only for DuBuy.ae registered users, said Shyam Kakkarayil of DuBuy.ae, which launched operations in January. "To use these, users must register on our portal, login to their secured profile page and download the discount voucher."
The portal allows retailers interested in a possible association a three-month trial period free of charge. During this phase, they are provided with complete coverage of their promotion of the portal. Later, and if both parties agree, a contract is signed for a specified period to list their promotions.
The operational coverage extends only to the UAE to date, though there have been enquiries to replicate the model in India and Singapore. DuBuy — which is owned by the advertising agency TangenC Media — claims a 50 per cent increase in traffic month-on-month, with 3,500 visits a week and 76 per cent being new ones. On average, it runs 60 promotions a month.
"DuBuy.ae serves as an alternate media for the retailer to announce product launches and promotions," said Kakkarayil. "We are also starting to sell banner space to generate income and expect regular revenues by early 2012." Clearly, discount portals are looking at premium valuations for the future.