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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 03/19/2012

Groupon debuts small-business schedule helper

Groupon has launched a scheduling tool to help small businesses manage appointments, the daily deals site announced Monday.

The “Scheduler,” as it’s called, allows customers to sign up for appointment slots online and creates a Web-based calendar of appointments for the business owner. The tool will be free for businesses that use Groupon and for any business that signs up within a three-month window.

“This eases the burden when it comes to scheduling appointments,” said David Katz, vice president for retail solutions at Groupon. “Merchants can come in and discover that appointments were booked overnight.”

The Scheduler is able to book appointments when a customer buys a Groupon deal, and it can also be hosted on the merchant’s own Web site, for non-Groupon customers. The company says the Scheduler can be especially useful for spas, salons and other appointment-based companies.

Groupon, which e-mails customers coupons for discounted goods and services, said small businesses are their core clientele. The company said it also plans to roll out further applications geared toward business owners.

“We think it’s important for us to be partners for small businesses, and we hope that this leads them to run more Groupon deals as well,” Katz said.

Because of its deep discounting, Groupon has come under fire from some business owners who say the company’s deals don’t result in a significant increase in business in the long-term. In a 2010 study based on interviews with 150 businesses in 19 American cities that ran Groupon promotions, researchers found that the promotion was profitable for 66 percent of the respondents and unprofitable for the remaining third.

Katz dismissed the idea that merchants might find Groupon deals lacking.

“The vast majority of merchants that we work with are having a great experience, and we are working to make it better for every merchant we work with,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misrepresented the pay structure of the new Scheduler. The previous version said businesses that don’t use Groupon will get a three-month free trial. In actuality, the tool will be free for all businesses that sign up in the first three months.

By  |  12:01 AM ET, 03/19/2012

 
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