A war of words has erupted in Australia’s fast-growing group buying market, after new entrant Groupon claimed it had already secured the lion’s share of local web traffic in the category, despite having only launched in mid-February this year.
In a statement issued on Friday, Groupon, which trades as Stardeals in Australia due to its trademark and domain name being held by rival Scoopon, claimed it was already out in front as Hitwise data showed it had secured 23 percent of web traffic in the group buying category — with the second and third place players picking up 14.4 and 10 percent respectively.
“We are extremely happy with the latest Hitwise data that shows we are the most popular group buying website in Australia,” said Groupon Australia managing director Patrick Schmidt. “Since launching our first deals in February this year, the team at Stardeals has been working hard to deliver great deals that provide a tangible business outcome for merchants and delight consumers at the same time.”
“The Hitwise data would appear to validate that in only a short time we’ve managed to capture a good deal of attention from Australian consumers. We put this great result down to our strategy of focusing on providing the best deals, backed up by the industry’s best merchant and customer support.”
But Billy Tucker, the chief executive of rival site Cudo, a joint venture between Microsoft and ninemsn, appeared to take issue with the Hitwise statistics.
In a post on his personal blog last week, Tucker wrote that Hitwise was “the worst of the bunch” when it came to collecting data about web traffic, as the company didn’t track individuals visiting sites, instead tracking web traffic as a whole through traffic that flows through Australian internet service providers.
“This effectively means you could hit your website with bot traffic to boost your numbers and it would show as traffic in Hitwise,” wrote Tucker. “Nielsen Australia removed 50 percent [of] Stardeals’ traffic in March because that traffic consisted largely of unsolicited clicks, meaning popups that appear as you close scurrilous ads (Congratulations, you have won $1,000,000!!!!!) – those clicks are still counted in Hitwise.”
In addition, the executive added, Hitwise’ data didn’t include traffic from Australia’s two largest ISPs, Telstra BigPond and Optus. “This is [a] major concern as a large proportion of internet users (about 58 percent) are not reflected in their data. This is a particular problem for a business like Cudo given we have a mainstream audience, and mainstream Australia do not typically use fringe ISPs.”
Tucker said he personally only depended on two platforms — Omniture and Nielsen — to measure traffic. “At Cudo we don’t care about browsers, we care about people, like the 1,000,000 plus Australians that come to our website each and every month, couldn’t give a monkeys how many bots swing by!” he wrote.
A spokesperson from Hitwise has not yet returned calls requesting comment.
The news is not the first spat that has attracted headlines in Australia’s group buying market as the sector has taken off financially over the past several years. Groupon is currently engaged in legal action to extract its domain name and trademarket from the Scoopon/Catch of the Day family of sites, and the various large players have previously taken to the pages of media site Mumbrella in posts arguing about their relative status in the local market.
In addition, in late January, Cudo itself sent local group buying aggregation site Buyii a letter claiming it was infringing its copyright by listing its deals and logo alongside those of rivals.