Google going after Groupon, LivingSocial with Google Offers

After being turned away last month in its $6 billion attempted buyout of Groupon, Google is now busy developing an online coupon site of its own, reports indicate. According to Mashable, like competitors Groupon and LivingSocial, users receive e-mail notifications of local deals and have a set time to act.

Activity in the online deals sector has been heating up, with Amazon investing some $175 million into LivingSocial in early December. The fruits of that partnership came to a head this week, when the site offered $20 gift cards at $10. Reports indicate that as many as $1 million in cards were sold in a 24-hour period.

Google has all but confirmed the initiative's existence. "Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program," a spokesperson told Mashable. "This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways."

Social networking capabilities would allow participants to share deals through Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and Google Buzz, and the payment side looks to be controlled by Google Checkout, the Mountain View, Calif. company's own payment service.

It is believed that those who run deals on the new service would receive 80 percent of their sales within three days, with the remaining 20 percent held in escrow for up to 60 days in order to cover any possible refunds.

This would be slightly different than LivingSocial, which makes payments within a month of the deal's run; and Groupon, which pays its participants on a bi-weekly basis.

More information on Google Offers can be found on this fact sheet obtained by Mashable.

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