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Groupon Now and the Rise of the Real-Time Deal

What do you get when you combine the daily discount model with the urge of the impulse purchase? Merchants hope the answer is instant customers.

This story appears in the July 2011 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What are you feeling now? Are you hungry? Are you bored? With the answers to those questions, you've probably covered 50 percent of the basic emotions experienced daily by Americans. Add in "feeling frisky" and "hopeful the Cubs will take it all this year" and maybe you're up to 95 percent. (OK, the Cubs are a disorder localized to Chicago.)

But deal-a-day powerhouse Groupon thinks it can help its users and the merchants who want to reach them by asking customers what they want right here and right now. Currently the company is testing a feature addition to its standard smartphone app called Groupon Now. When users (so far, just Chicago-based users) open the app, they confront two statements: "I'm hungry" and "I'm bored." If they click on either, they are taken to a map of Groupon restaurant or entertainment/attraction deals that are available right then--but only for a short window. Users will buy the deals via their smartphones, then go to the merchant's site to redeem them that day.

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