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The Future of Online Coupons: Scarily Personalized Offers Based on Your History

16 Feb. 2016 
Last Updated Dec 23, 2010 4:25 PM EST

Editor's Note: to see our infographic slideshow on Retail Shopping in 2015, click here.

As big retailers fight over ways to integrate smartphone apps into their brick-and-mortar stores, smaller businesses are using technology to do battle over price by offering coupons and promotional deals via discount purveyors like Groupon and LivingSocial. But those discount services could find their business models up-ended if a new crop of search engines have their way.

Why coupons still suck

So-called "group buying" sites work because they can deliver a very valuable group of customers: a group that has already agreed to buy your product at a certain price. It's a relatively efficient way of making a "smarter" coupon. But there's one major problem: the coupons are publicized very inefficiently. The only people who see offers for Groupon are people who go to the site. Relative to the entire population of American consumers, this isn't a lot of people.

That's the reason that you don't see many big retailers using these coupon services: their TV ads and newpaper leaflets get much better penetration than the even the sweetest Groupon deal.

But if discount purveyors had some way of ensuring a massive, interested audience, then all that might change.

Search engines could be the disruptors

Several "inventory search engines" might change things dramatically. is a search engine that has partnerships with Best Buy (BBY), Home Depot (HD) and Macy's (M), all of which allow consumers to search what's in stock at nearby stores so they can go buy it in person.

If gets big, this would mean it has access to a very valuable demographic. According to Milo's CEO, Jack Abraham, they would have access to consumers who are actively comparing items, but may still be influenced one way or another by an added discount.

"Eventually where we're trying to go is personalized coupons," Abraham says. Using information you provide from the social graph, he says, "we could look at your past purchase history, the retailers you like, and your location in order to let an OEM 'bid' on you with a coupon." He compares the future system to Google's (GOOG) AdWords business, which decides which ads to serve based on small automatic "bids" from advertisers.

Say you're comparing two brands of TV on Milo or a similar service. The two you're considering are Sony and LG. Somewhere in your social graph (perhaps or your Chase (JPM) credit card) there's evidence that you've bought a lot of Sony products in the last few years, and that you're in New York City. In the future, Milo's system would notify the manufacturers that a buyer is in contention, and the manufacturers could "bid" on you (using your past buying data as criteria) by delivering customized coupons. Sony offers you 10% off on the spot, but LG offers you 20%. You buy the LG. It's market-share growth by attrition.

"One-size-fits-all coupons just don't work that well," says Abraham. "If you segment the customer base, you have some very valuable customers that you can pinpoint." Home Depot, for example, might want to target contractors (who provide a majority of their business) to poach them from Lowe's (LOW). "In retail, new customer acquisition is the name of the game," Abraham says, "and large retailers have told us they're interested in this."

Yes, Google's there, too

Whisper "search" and Google appears -- this instance is no different. Google has begun making local store inventory available in its product searches, although its inventory system is not real-time, as's is, which won't make it much good for hunting-down high-demand products on Dec. 24. Still, Google's system may improve, and it won't be the only player. Foursquare (and other location-based services) are another way that retailers could blast out hyper-targeted deals to huge swaths of the population.


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CM Punk sweepstakes winner Mickey Gall talks about injury delay and UFC future

16 Feb. 2016 

Esther Lin,

Right now there's only name to associate with UFC newcomer Mickey Gall and that's WWE-crossover star CM Punk.

After all, the 2-0 mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter is only really famous for being the one hand-picked to welcome the wrestler to UFC.But as Gall tells it to reporter Hunter Homistek, that's soon hacking game going to change.

"I don't think anything's guaranteed, but I do have a longer contract than just to fight CM Punk. My thing is, right now I'm that CM Punk guy.' I'm that guy that's fighting CM Punk. I will not be remembered as that CM Punk guy.' By this time next year, I don't think I'll be known as that. I called out CM Punk because I wanted to be a UFC fighter. I wanted to be in the UFC. I wanted to excel there. People will forget that I fought CM Punk."

The two fighters were set to hook 'em up around UFC 199 (which hasn't yet been announced) but Gall, 24, learned his opponent will have to yet again delay his MMA debut to undergo "minor" back surgery.It's certainly got to disappoint Gall to play the waiting game.

But at the end of the day he says the delay is no big deal and might actually work out for the better.

"I think it's just a four-week gap that we're losing, and I think that could coincide perfectly with UFC 200. That's what I'm hoping."

Gall made animpressive debut at UFC Fight Night 82 last week by dispatching his opponent inside of 45 seconds, something he thinks may be cause for concern among certain famous pro wrestlers.

"I don't want to say I scared him. I think he should be scared. I'm sure when he saw what I did his stomach probably dropped a little bit. He got that feeling of, Alright, this is going to happen. It's real now.' From what he was saying, he was excited and stuff. I remember seeing interviews of him pumping his fist and being happy about it. He was probably putting it on a little bit, but I do believe he wants to fight and he's going to fight me."

Punk, who real name is Phil Brooks, signed with UFC in December of 2014. The 37-year-old is the second high profile WWE star to join the promotion since Brock Lesnar in 2008.

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