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Spreets CEO reflects on two years in group buying

Two years on from launch and a year since its acquisition by Yahoo!7, Spreets CEO Dean McEvoy reflects about what he’s learnt and achieved, where he sees the business heading and how he plans to get it there amidst intense competition in the group buying industry.

Spreets is turning two, and that’s a pretty big deal.

Birthdays are typically a time to both reflect on the past and contemplate the future, and that applies equally to businesses as it does to people. Spreets has just reached its second birthday and the first anniversary of our acquisition by Yahoo!7, both of which are huge milestone for us in our fast-paced and highly competitive industry. Celebrations aside, we’ve learnt a lot of things in the past two years which enables us to be well placed to consider Spreets’ future direction. While some of those lessons are specific to the group buying industry, the majority of them are simply good sense for anyone involved in starting up or developing a business.

Appropriately enough, the first of those lessons would be that it pays to be first to market. I founded Spreets in 2010 after spending the previous six years building a Silicon Valley start-up. At that time, nobody could truly say they had first-hand experience of group buying or daily deals, myself included. The pioneers in the industry had to face a lot of uncertainty, but did so knowing that the potential rewards of being first were enormous. Spreets was the first group buying site in Australia and that initial market leadership position meant we could not only gain and hold a significant slice of market share, but also made it easier to consolidate that position as the industry matured.

Of course, that initial advantage of being first doesn’t last for long if you don’t work at it. We learnt our second lesson pretty quickly: understand your customers. In two years, Spreets has built up one of the largest group buying databases in Australia despite starting off with only a tiny amount of investment capital. We managed to achieve this kind of growth by sticking to a simple set of values in everything we did as a business: provide inspiring experiences rather than simply discounts; help merchants sustainably develop their business; and above all, be able to deliver what we promised. By making conscious decisions based on those values, we were able to establish ourselves as a business which both customers and merchants respect and trust.

On the flip side, businesses need a healthy attitude to change if they want to keep celebrating anniversaries for years to come. In the two years since our launch, we’ve seen significant changes to the sorts of deals we offer. Beauty products and services used to dominate our revenue streams; today, our revenue is more or less evenly split over a whole range of sectors, from restaurants and bars to online retail and even adventure deals.

The price of deals is going up, not down, suggesting buyers are looking for quality and newness rather than just a good bargain. For us at Spreets, that’s an indication of just how rapidly the group buying market has evolved, and an indication of how important it is to keep your business adaptable. We’ve constantly adjusted and tailored the deals being offered based on research and feedback from our customers, as well as working to improve on our targeting mechanisms so each user gets an experience which is uniquely appropriate to them.

Being acquired by Yahoo!7 last year was a major leap for Spreets, but it’s given us the opportunity to support our work with some of the best media assets in the country while retaining a unique Spreets culture. It also works since Yahoo!7 has a strong focus on understanding its users which fits particularly well with our own approach.

Finally, learning from mistakes has been instrumental to Spreets reaching its second birthday. Like any other, the group buying industry has had its ups and downs. How a company reacts to those trends determines whether it folds, survives, or thrives. For example, we’ve endeavoured to make sure that our merchants really understand how group buying deals work. That involves providing a comprehensive guide for potential sellers which we constantly update, structuring our campaigns so that merchants don’t end up getting swamped by volume, and fostering regular dialogue based around how to grow our clients’ businesses.

Two years in, what does the future hold for Spreets? We plan to stay true to our core values, but we’ll have to stay nimble as the group buying industry continues to change at breakneck pace. We expect that group buying will evolve significantly and Spreets plans to be leading the charge.

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