In its beta stage, the Groupon Scheduler allows users to book appointments for haircuts, massages, how-to classes and other coupons offered through the daily-deals website. The new tool does not apply to restaurants and hotels.
Customers can book an appointment when they purchase a Groupon or later. They can also change or cancel appointments.
The online scheduling tool is free to small businesses in the United States and Canada, except Quebec, that offer deals through the website. During a limited trial period, it will be free for all businesses that can use it to book appointments not offered through Groupon. The company did not specify what the tool would cost later.
It was initially launched in Sacramento and Miami in December.
"Managing appointments and staffing schedules is critical for small businesses, but it takes time and energy," wrote David Katz, vice president and general manager of retail solutions at Groupon. "Scheduler is designed to be clean, simple and easy to use."
The tool will allow merchants to track their customer appointments, including previous appointments and how much they spent. Merchants can add a button to their website to allow customers to book online, which will automatically link to the scheduling tool. It will also send email reminders to customers to avoid no-shows.
Groupon, which is based in Chicago, hopes the new tool will encourage local businesses to partner with it.
The tool is based on technology developed by a Canadian company, OpenCal, which Groupon acquired last fall.
Do you buy Groupons? How has your experience making appointments with merchants been? Are you a small business-owner? How might the appointment tool help your business? Let us know in the comments section below.
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