Hey Groupon

Groupon, the newest online deal/coupon darling for consumers is now staring stiff competition straight in the face from the Web monoliths Facebook and Google.

Yes, that’s right. Facebook and Google are getting into “extreme couponing.”

For months, the word on the street was that Facebook was going to launch a second deals program to complement the platform’s original deals option, which is now being called “Check-In Deals.”

This new offering, called Social Deals, is more akin to Groupon’s daily deals, with several intriguing twists.

Check-In Deals are free to users, are mobile-centric and can be used like conventional coupons. As a point of difference, Social Deals, like Groupon or LivingSocial, must be purchased up front using real-world currency or Facebook Credits (the first use for real-world products/services). This is where individuals actually buy a voucher on the Web that can be redeemed offline.

Another differentiator between the two deal offerings served up from Facebook is that Check-in Deals are focused on both national entities and small businesses, whereas Social Deals are more focused on local businesses. Quite simply, they rely on, and encourage, friends discovering, planning and coming together for offline events and experiences.

And you make ask yourself why? Well, the sole purpose here is to take the Facebook online experience into the real world. Currently there is a five-city trial, including: Atlanta; Austin; Dallas; San Diego; and San Francisco.

Facebook is currently trying to field deals that are, by design, “social” in nature (think events) versus more traditional daily deals (like 10% off your dry cleaning bill). Making this even more robust is consumers have the ability to share, privately invite friends and ask to join or expose them to a deal. Facebook users can message each other to discuss the deal as a group before buying as a collective. And like traditional daily deals, Social Deals will not only be served up via email, but also through Facebook’s news feed and in the future also through Facebook Ads.

Perfect for small businesses, through Social Deals, they can now bait new customers to “like” them through the deal and, automatically, these businesses now have a CRM platform to spark a “conversation” with these new customers. Another plus is the ability to cap or limit the deals offered.

As for Google Offers, it’s currently in Beta and being tested in Portland, New York City, Oakland and San Francisco. Touting 50% or more off, it’s labeled a near mirror image of Groupon’s model, as it allows subscribers to see deals and pounce on them.

Perhaps the model is so similar because Google has an ax to grind for being rebuffed in their attempt to purchase Groupon.

Only time will tell if these new offerings can outpace and eventually out-perform Groupon, but I’d be willing to bet they’re going to make quite a bit of noise and help consumers save money and better connect with the brands that use these services.

What do you think about it?