Students Gain Hands-On Experience with Groupon
As members of the Marketing Research course, five Booth marketing students applied their skills to a real-world business challenge presented by deal-of-the-day website Groupon.
When Sean Smyth, '05, vice president of business development for Groupon, Inc., wanted to better define and understand his company's VIP segment, he immediately thought of Chicago Booth.
"As start-up, there were a lot of business decisions that Groupon was trying to get its head around," recalls Smyth. "We wanted to find some smart folks who could really dig deep into numbers and make recommendations about who our best customers were and why. We thought marketing students from Booth would be particularly well suited for the task."
Then-Full-Time students Vishal Arya, '11, Dilini Fernando, '11, Jillian Gerngross, '11, Stephen Hammond, '11, and Brian Luerssen, '11, were delighted to help. Although they didn't know who they would be working with when they initially registered, the students were attracted to the Marketing Research course for the chance to gain real-world experience. The opportunity to work with the blockbuster deal-of-the-day website, Groupon, was an unexpected surprise.
Gerngross recalls, "We had all been Groupon users, so we were customers of the brand. We knew what they offered. Working with them was an exciting way to be part of something that really had a buzz."
"It was great to work on a challenge that was relevant to an actual business," adds Hammond. "They gave us an interesting problem, and the experience provided a fascinating glimpse into a very specific point in time with that company."
To better research Groupon's question, the team developed a three-step process for gathering data. They started with examination of purchasing and consumer data for Groupon customers in the Chicago area during a six-month period. Next, they used their findings to recruit a focus group comprised of Groupon VIPs. Finally, they analyzed the responses of the focus group in order to generate an email survey, which they deployed to a segment of Groupon's subscribers.
Smyth says the Booth student's findings have become part of Groupon's institutional knowledge.
"We have evolved since this project, but their findings have had a lingering effect," Smyth says. "We remember certain statements from the focus group they assembled. We still talk about those customers and their attributes."
Equally memorable was the way the Booth students worked.
"Over the lifetime of the project, we were able to see different team members come in and serve in different roles," Smyth recalls. "As a team, I think they played to each other's strengths and worked in a manner where we as a client were not wholly dependent on the insight of just one individual. They presented a true team effort, and that really worked for us."
Smyth explains that Groupon's growth generates more questions because as a company it wants to optimize and understand more granular parts of the business. "We know that in Booth we can find people who can make sense out of chaos, to take some data and make an informed decision or a recommendation for a decision," he says. "Of course we would love to have Booth come back."