Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Groupon Inc (GRPN -9.62%)
Q2 2021 Earnings Call
Aug 6, 2021, 10:00 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good day, everyone, and welcome to Groupon's Second Quarter 2021 Financial Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Today's conference call is being recorded.

For opening remarks, I would like to turn the call over to the Chief Communications Officer, Jennifer Beugelmans. Please go ahead.

10 stocks we like better than Groupon
When our award-winning analyst team has a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.* 

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Groupon wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

*Stock Advisor returns as of June 7, 2021

Jennifer Beugelmans -- Chief Communications Officer

Good morning, and welcome to Groupon's second quarter 2021 financial results conference call. On the call today are our interim CEO, Aaron Cooper; and CFO, Melissa Thomas.

The following discussion and responses to your questions reflect management's views as of today, August 6, 2021 only and will include forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in our forward-looking statements. Additional information about risks and other factors that could potentially impact our financial results is included in our earnings press release and in our filings with the SEC, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K. We encourage investors to use our Investor Relations website at investor.groupon.com as a way of easily finding information about the company. Groupon promptly makes available on this website, the reports that the company files or furnishes with the SEC, corporate governance information and select press releases and social media postings.

On the call today, we will also discuss the following non-GAAP financial measures, adjusted EBITDA, free cash flow and FX-neutral result. In our press release and our filings with the SEC, each of which is posted on our Investor Relations website. You will find additional disclosures regarding the non-GAAP measures, including reconciliations of these measures to the most comparable measures under U.S. GAAP.

And with that, I'm happy to turn the call over to Aaron.

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Jennifer, and good morning, everyone. It has been an exciting first half of 2021 to Groupon, and I'm pleased to report another solid quarter of financial results.

In the second quarter, we generated nearly $430 million in global local billings, the highest quarterly level since the pandemic began and $41 million of adjusted EBITDA. The macro recovery, as expected, is proving to be an organic tailwind as economies around the world reopen and consumers get back to enjoying local experiences. While the recovery in North America continue to ebb and flow, second quarter North America local billings grew 20% versus the first quarter and reached 67% of 2019 levels, the highest quarterly recovery rates since the onset of the pandemic. We ended the second quarter with 15.2 million active North American customers, which was stable compared to the first quarter and is an important milestone that you'll hear more about from Melissa later in the call.

For our international business, in the second quarter, countries began relaxing COVID restrictions as vaccinations accelerated. And in June, international local billings reached the highest recovery rate since the onset of wave 2 in October 2020. International local billings also stepped up nicely quarter over quarter, growing nearly 30% in the second quarter versus the first quarter. But similar to what we've seen in North America, we expect performance to ebb and flow across international market. And as we said before, we expect a longer recovery cycle in international where restrictions have been more prolonged and stricter and the vaccination rollout has been slower.

As we leverage these macro recovery trends to our advantage, we are also continuing to execute on our growth strategy. We told you that our goal was to grow high quality local inventory. So far, our efforts have centered around growing offers inventory within Beauty and Wellness and remove the restrictions on deals across the marketplace. We've also begun to modernize our marketplace with the new customer experience and new feature sets for our merchants, including expanded self-service. Overall, despite the overhang of the pandemic, we are seeing green shoots that give us confidence in our ability to reshape Groupon into a destination for local experiences, which we believe will provide a foundation for growth in the years to come.

Our growth thesis is rooted in our ability to deliver the value propositions our customers and merchants want. Everything we're doing is focused on improving these value propositions. We want to improve the ease with which merchants can interact with the Groupon marketplace, extend their reach to new and existing customers, and give them the monetization levels they need to achieve healthy unit economic. Likewise for customers, we intend to expand our wallet share by giving them the value selection and convenience they want. Expanding our inventory is a key element of our growth strategy, and our teams have been making meaningful progress on two fronts, bringing back pre COVID supply to our marketplace and growing offers in repeatable inventory.

First, let me touch on the team's progress on bringing merchants, particularly top merchants since in 2019 back to the marketplace. Many of you have been asking us about the health of our merchant base, so I wanted to provide you with some additional color to highlight our progress.

When we think about recovery in our merchant base, we believe the fastest way for us to reenergize our local category is to reactivate [Technical Issues] so we have placed a lot of focus on this course and our efforts are beginning to pay off. At this point, we have brought many of our top merchants back to the marketplace. While we are encouraged by our progress in bringing these merchants back and retaining them, we know we have to move this number even higher. As I said, we're confident we can continue to do that, and here's why.

First, our team is in active dialog with our top merchants who are not yet back in the platform and many of them are telling us they want to come back to Groupon, but the timing is not yet right. This is particularly true among our things to do merchants, which on a billings basis was our largest vertical in 2019. We are hearing from many of these merchants that there are capacity constraints, largely driven by labor shortages, lingering COVID restrictions and high consumer demand. This has led to a supply demand mismatch. However, other verticals, like Beauty and Wellness and Home and Auto are more recovered and we have more of these merchants back in the Groupon marketplace. We believe this demonstrates that they view Groupon as a valued partner.

And second, as we continue to engage with our top merchants, we are seeing top supply metrics improve weekly across all verticals. We believe merchant capacity constraints are transient and that we will successfully bring back top supply, although the timeline to achieve this will likely extend into next year. The great news on this front is that as our top merchants return, they will be returning to a fundamentally improved Groupon experience when it does a better job of driving customers through their doors. You're hearing that we still have some work to do on this front, but our progress bringing top supply back on the platform is certainly trending in the right direction. To help you triangulate on why this is important, top supply recovery has been correlated with our bookings recovery in North America local. We believe that as high quality merchants return to our marketplace, its a stimulating consumer demand.

Beyond just our top merchants, we have broad supply with market leading selection of local experiences that support the vibrancy of our marketplace. We are leveraging our sales team, self-service and our inventory partnerships to continue to grow our inventory base and further strengthen our competitive position. While we are focused first and foremost on recovering our top supply, we are also doing all we can to help small businesses final footing as they reopen their doors. We love seeing these local businesses come back and partnering with us, which helps to strengthen our position as a destination for local.

So we talked a bit about recovery. Let me now switch gears and update you on our growth efforts. The team is making steady progress on our inventory initiatives, which we believe will allow us to transform our marketplace by growing high-quality local supply. As we've discussed in previous calls, in North America, in 2021, we're focused on removing repeat restrictions and deals across all verticals and increasing the average number of listings per Beauty & Wellness merchant.

I'm excited to announce that as of today's call, more than 70% of our deal inventory is now repeatable. This is an important milestone as we strive toward our long-term goal of increasing purchase frequency and overall marketplace velocity. Unrestricted deals will give consumers the opportunity to engage more frequently with more inventory to repeat purchases. While it is very early days, which means we haven't fully leaned into marketing these deals, we are encouraged that merchants who have lifted repeat restrictions saw an initial 2% lift in units per customer.

We have also hit our goal to increase the average number of listings per Beauty and Wellness merchants. In the first half of 2021, we grew inventory within our North American Beauty & Wellness vertical with the majority of this growth driven by offers. In fact, listings per Beauty and Wellness merchants have grown over 20% since we launched offers, which means that on average these merchants now have about four options for purchase in the Groupon marketplace. Thinking in one level deeper, Beauty and Wellness merchants who leverage offers have nearly four times more listings than merchants who own list deals. This further demonstrates that our merchant value proposition is resonating and our new offers product is unlocking Groupon's opportunity with Beauty and Wellness merchants. We will continue to focus on driving listings per merchant higher when and where it makes sense.

Let me provide some additional context for how this progress is showing up in merchant and consumer behavior as well as our business. As we look at the four cities where we tested offers, Detroit, Denver, Dallas and Seattle, during the second half of 2020, we can see the impact of offers. Offers has now been part of our sales pitch in these markets for about a year. We're still early, but we'll be seeing a positive response from both sides of our marketplace. So here's where we are today.

On the supply side, merchants are embracing offers. The initiatives we have in place are driving Beauty and Wellness supply growth in our marketplace and we are testing these initiatives and others to power supply growth, in other words. On the demand side, customers are also responding, particular high intent customers. That said, again, we're still a bit early. While we're seeing encouraging signals, we have work to do to unlock our full potential.

It's also really important to keep in mind that our markets have yet to fully benefit from our new customer experience from marketing investment. The pandemic has created a lot of noise and there's a lot of seasonality that measuring incrementality difficult. Remember, however, that we've tackled the two root causes that have prevented customers from doing more with us. With unrestricted supply, which now allows customers to buy more than 70% of our inventory again and again and we've systematically gone after full menu with merchants so they can do more with us and help get customers the broader selection of experiences they want. These are fundamental challenges that we had to overcome. Bottom line, we have high conviction that unrestricting inventory and providing new inventory products will help us drive demand over time.

As we continue to scale elements of our growth strategy, will position to leverage these elements throughout our business to create even more opportunities to drive growth, such as launching new products, focused on driving frequency, rolling out new branding and exploring new ways to attract loyal customers. Now that we are beginning to make substantial progress, both recovering our pre-COVID supply and unlocking merchants potential to do more with Groupon, we're ready to leverage proven marketplace tactics like inventory multi-packs and other merchandising initiatives that were not possible before.

Let me take you through how we are leveraging these marketplace tactics within our strategic priority to modernize the marketplace experience for merchants and customers like. I'll start with the merchant experience. We're leveraging technology across our merchant platform to deliver the ease, reach and monetization that local businesses want to revert back. We have launched new features to significantly improve our self-service capabilities and it is now much easier for our merchants to create, update and optimize listings. In short, Groupon is becoming a better partner to our local merchants around the globe.

Our best-in-class self-service options solves two key challenges for us. Number one, it addresses a key merchant paying point and number two, it creates leverage for our sales team as we expand our local inventory. New and existing merchants alike are transitioning seamlessly to our self-service platform.

Let me provide a little color and how self service is beginning to show up in our merchant data. In the past 12 months, we made strong progress getting merchants to adapt to self-service. In the second quarter alone, nearly 50% of the Deals launched in North America were launched via self-service. We expect this number to continue to grow over time. Moving forward, we believe self-service will be an important and standard way for merchants to interact with Groupon. Now that we have made significant progress optimizing our merchant platform to handle standard business operations, we are moving to enhance our feature set with capabilities that are unique to Groupon and our opportunities. For example, in the fourth quarter of 2020, we launched a new recommendations feature, which is beginning to deliver results. Among our top merchants, those that have leveraged our recommendations realized nearly 20% more bookings versus merchants who did not.

In late June, we launched a significant new recommendations feature set, the merchant advisor, a tool that further strengthens our ability to give our merchants more strategic campaign recommendations to drive growth. This new feature dynamically analyzes merchant campaign performance and provides bespoke recommendations that help merchants manage their entire portfolio of listings, such as recommending new deals to launch based on a merchants menu of services. We plan to scale this to all merchants in the third quarter and believe it will provide merchants with even more actionable insights to drive growth. A win-win for both merchants and Groupon.

In addition to self-service, we are also leveraging partnerships integrations when we see an opportunity to accelerate improvements to the Groupon merchant experience. A great example of this is our new partnership with Booksy, a popular Beauty and Wellness appointment app. Now, existing Booksy merchants can easily connect their inventory to the Groupon marketplace and Groupon will be able to offer our merchants free access to Booksy suite of scheduling and business management tools.

Bookable inventory is an important characteristic of high quality supply, particularly in the Beauty and Wellness vertical, and these types of partnerships can help accelerate growth of our bookable inventory, while also enhancing the customer experience. Offering a portfolio of free and paid merchant services is part of our overarching long-term strategy to provide merchants with a full-service platform that they can leverage build to grow their businesses. This is a great segue into our progress modernizing the customer experience. By now, many of you in North America have interacted with our new customer experience.

As a reminder, our overarching goals and new experiences to drive sell-through of our expanding inventory base, grow purchase frequency over time and begin to bend the customer perception of Groupon from an inspiration-only marketplace to a destination for local experiences. We want to deliver a modern, engaging personalized discovery experience that will give consumers highly relevant search results and recommendations to consider and interact with that will help drive conversion over the long run and drive more customer engagement with our content, which should also lead to an increase in purchase frequency.

With millions of consumers coming to Groupon everyday, interacting with our homepage, we have a unique opportunity to educate consumers and how they can leverage our platform to explore the world around them and participate in the 80-plus Grouponable moments happening every year. We did a lot of progress on this mission critical initiatives and as of last week, our new customer experience that launched 100% of North American users across the app, mobile web and desktop. A huge shout out to our product and engineering teams for all their hard work to get this new CX launched. We haven't profoundly changed our customer experience in over five years and this launch is an important point in our journey to becoming a destination for local. In addition, it was also completed in a much shorter time frame than any previous changes, going from concept to delivery in just six months.

Let me share a few early learnings 90 days post launch. We are prepared to see a typical drop in conversion rate, it usually happens when you launch a new CX. While conversion rates are still below pre-launch levels, we've been encouraged to see the impact to conversion was less than anticipated and we've seen conversion improve steadily since launch. Engagement is also a bright spot for us. We're seeing customers spend more time engaging with our marketplace. Our homepage bounce rate has gone down and category page views have gone up as customers spend more time browsing, exploring local experience.

Finally, the early read on our likelihood to purchase survey indicates that our new CX hopefully will shift our brand perception. While based on a small sample size, through this data we have seen that our new experience is outperforming our old experiences as customers tell us that Groupon is showing them the businesses and listings they're interested in helping them discover new experiences.

In terms of what is next for our new CX, this recent launch is only the beginning. Now that we've unlock new inventory growth avenues and have launched a foundation new user experience that is local first and showcases Groupon as a destination marketplace, we're focused on improving the way we surface full menu inventory options and building and launching more features to drive more engagement and repeat purchases.

One example of our inventory, merchant and customer initiatives are coming together to pave the path forward for the new Groupon as our recent talent of inventory method apps, which allows customers to buy multiple experiences in a single purchase from a merchant at a discounted price. We're exploring how we can leverage multi-packs and eventually bundles to drive unit growth. While this product is still in early development, the initial read from customers has been positive, leading us to believe that we can capture additional wallet share. Less than a year ago, a product like this would have not be possible. We've been able to create an entirely new product that speaks directly to our merchant and customer value propositions. And as I mentioned, we believe this is only the beginning.

With our progress on the inventory front and the rollout of our new CX in North America and as local communities continue to reopen around the world, we've begun to lean into marketing to maximize the impact of our progress. As we look to reeducate customers and expand the perception of our brand from an episodic inspirational marketplace to a destination marketplace, we are being strategic with our marketing investments and we are focusing on deploying resources in a balanced way to make all parts of the funnel work harder. This strategy also means that we'll continue to assess the impact from the Delta variant and pandemic-related constraints.

In the second quarter, we continued moving our spend up the marketing funnel with the ultimate aim of reshaping our brand perception as a destination for local. We saw some great results with our mid-funnel efforts and tested new channels to reach a new younger audience. We've also begun to showcase and leverage our brand repositioning through creative marketing. This week, we launched our new brand campaign, Grab Life by the Groupon, asking people to choose whether to do accept life as it is or grab life like their life depends on it. This campaign brings our inventory and marketplace modernization work to life and we're excited about this campaigns potential among customers who are ready to get out mixed quarter local communities.

Before I turn the call over to Melissa, I want to take a step back and remind everyone is everything were doing to transform the Groupon marketplace. If you look back over the past 10 years, Groupon was really only able to offer one local inventory product deals. Merchants had only one way to interact with Groupon and there was no opportunity for them to do more with us. With only one product and limited purchase for inventory, we trained customers to think about us only episodically. We fundamentally altered the customer merchant value propositions over the course in just the last year. We're bringing our merchants to ease, reach and monetization they need to help their businesses succeed with Groupon and giving our customers the value selection convenience that they want.

As we've shared today, we've already made significant progress rolling out our new value propositions. It will take time to influence the hearts of minds of our customers given our long-standing reputation as an inspiration-only marketplace, but we're well on our way and we're excited about what lies ahead.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Melissa to provide insights on our financial performance.

Melissa Thomas -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Aaron, and thanks to everyone who is joining us today. I'm proud of the progress we've made during the first half of 2021 and look forward to bringing this energy into the rest of the year. Today, I'll use my time to provide further insight into our second quarter operating financial results, our restructuring plan, and lastly our updated 2021 financial guidance. In addition to my prepared remarks, I encourage you to review our filings which contain additional information on our outlook for the remainder of the year.

Starting with consolidated second quarter. We delivered $608 million of gross billings, $266 million of revenue, $194 million of gross profit, and $41 million of adjusted EBITDA. We ended the quarter with $565 million in cash. We are encouraged by the recovery trends we have seen. As expected, trends haven't been linear and recovery continue to ebb and flow in certain verticals and countries. As Aaron mentioned, in North America local, Q2 was the highest quarterly billings recovery rate since the onset of the pandemic. In International, within the second quarter, local billings reached the highest recovery rate since the second wave of COVID impacts began in October 2020.

While we are pleased with our results to date, we believe that billings recovery has been limited given the challenges that merchants are now facing due to the ongoing COVID impact, including the Delta variant, capacity restriction and labor shortages. That said, we believe these challenges are transient and we continue to be focused on what we can control.

North America active customers were stable in the second quarter and ended the quarter at $15.2 million, the same balance at the end of the first quarter. But for us, it is not just about stabilizing the base, its also about increasing customer purchase frequency which we believe starts with improving the quality of the customer base. Let me give you a little more color on the progress we're making on this front in North America. We are improving the value of our customer base, adding a higher mix of local customers. And despite having fewer customers than we did prior to COVID, we are improving the gross profit we're generating per customer. Local customers have a higher value than other customers. Local-only customers increased approximately 10% versus the first quarter and about 85% of new customers in the second quarter were local-only customer, up 500 basis point versus both the first quarter of 2021 and pre-COVID 2019 levels. International active customers have not yet stabilized. This is largely dependent on the timing and extent of local recovery, which has been more prolonged in our international market.

Next, I'll provide more insights into our second quarter result, starting with North America local. As I mentioned, we do have sequential increase in local billings in the second quarter compared with the first quarter. Looking at the trajectory intra-quarter, local bookings as a percent of 2019 levels peaked in the month of April and then pulled back beginning in May. The performance in May and June was primarily driven by our things to do category, where supply is less recovered versus 2019 levels and we didn't see the typical level of seasonal step-up in bookings for this vertical.

In international countries, he macro environment stared to improve during the second quarter as the vaccination rollout picks up and restrictions were eased across Europe. Given this progress, international local booking started to influx in May with a further step up in June. International local billings for the second quarter were 41% of 2019, on an FX-neutral basis.

In addition, it's important to note that our second quarter global local gross profit benefited from $10 million of variable consideration from unredeemed vouchers that were sold in the prior period. The majority of this benefit was related to our International segment. We are observing redemption rates that are lower than our historical estimates for vouchers sold at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that are now reaching their expiration. That said, we're encouraged that redemption rates for bookings in recent period are more in line with 2019 level. While customer redemption rates have been more volatile since the onset of the pandemic, we know that redemption is a key sign of a successful customer experience. Our efforts are focused on increasing redemption rate, which we believe will ultimately lead to increased customer purchase frequency, a win-win-win for customers, merchants and Groupon.

Moving to our goods category, global goods performance continues to be a challenge. This is driven by the intense competitive environment for goods, which includes heightened competition in paid marketing channels, ad targeting headwinds from the recent iOS updates and consumers returning to physical stores. We are redeploying marketing spend to alternative marketing channels. But we have seen ongoing impacts to goods in July. Lastly, on goods, I'm pleased to report that the international transition to third-party marketplace model, which we began in the second quarter, it's over 60% complete and expected to be completed at the end of the year. As we saw in North America, this greatly simplifies the operations of our goods category and allows us to rent goods vis-a-vis in our cost structure. This simplification will help us to remain focused on winning in local, a category where we're most differentiated.

Turning to operating expenses. Marketing expense was $44 million in the second quarter and reflects an increase in spend as consumer demand for local returned and we made investments in our brand repositioning. SG&A was $138 million. Our restructuring actions are now largely complete and we expect to achieve $225 million of run rate savings by the fourth quarter of this year. Keep in mind, as you think about the SG&A run rate on a go-forward basis, we do expect normal inflationary increases, such as merit and incremental expenses associated with our ongoing cloud migration.

Now for a quick update on the liquidity front. Earlier this year, we issued $230 million of convertible notes through April 2026. In the second quarter, we used the net proceeds from the convertible note issuance, which was included in our restricted cash balance as of March 31st, as well as cash on hand to fund our early repurchase of $250 million convertible notes due April 2022. Looking ahead to the third quarter and beyond, we remain laser-focused on tackling the most important priorities. We believe that we're taking the right steps now to position Groupon for the long-term. In light of our second quarter performance, we are updating our full year 2021 financial guidance. We now expect to deliver $115 million to $125 million of adjusted EBITDA for the full year and we remain on track to deliver between $950 million and $90 million of revenue for the full year.

Let me provide some additional context around our updated full year outlook. We expect local performance to continue to ebb and flow in the second half of the year, largely driven by factors outside of our control, such as the Delta variant and the supply demand mismatch and merchants are facing, particularly in the Things to Do vertical. With respect to goods in light of the headwinds I mentioned earlier, this performance level stepped down in July to approximately 30% of 2019 billings globally. Our outlook assumes July performance levels for goods to continue through the remainder of the year and that we will complete our transition to 3P model at the end of 2021.

Lastly, our intended for marketing as a percentage of gross profit to step-up further in the second half relative to Q2 spend levels as we invest in our brands repositioning. However, the timing and extent of the step-up of our marketing spend will depend on the macro dynamics we are observing. Given these factors and the second quarter benefit from variable consideration for unredeemed voucher, you should expect our third quarter adjusted EBITDA to be lower than the second quarter. As a reminder, our outlook does not assume a material contribution from our growth strategy.

One final thought before I turn it back over to Aaron. We are excited about our path forward and believe we are executing a strategy that will position us for growth over the long-term. While the potential resurgence of the pandemic and related restrictions is a very real headwind that may extend our recovery timeline, we see this as a transient challenge and remain optimistic about our future.

I'll now turn it back over to Aaron for some closing thoughts.

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Melissa. Before we move on in the Q&A portion of our call, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to acknowledge all of the incredible work our team has been doing. We've come a long way since the start of the pandemic and would not have been possible without their dedication, resilience and hardware. They continue to rise to the occasion and I couldn't be prouder of their efforts.

Our people are most valuable asset and our team has set out to make Groupon the place where high performing, accountable, engaged and diverse employees come to work to be inspired until connected to one another. We've recently launched a variety of new diversity equity and inclusion culture and volunteer initiatives to support these goals. Happy healthy organization is integral to our success as we drive toward our long-term vision of being a destination for local experiences and we look forward to updating you on our progress in the second half of the year.

And with that, I'll open the call for questions.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] For the first question, we have Trevor Young from Barclays. Your line is open.

Trevor Young -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great, thank you. Two from me. First one for Aaron. You're seeing some good green shoots as you put out some good innovation on product, improving CX, inventory growing, etc. But it still sounds like maybe some hesitation for merchants and even some of those larger merchants you've worked with in the past, they're some traffic trends. What does it take to get merchants to really jump in so that you can harvest some of this innovation improvements that you've put in place? And then second one, I didn't hear any mention of the $250 million EBITDA if you were to reach 80% of 2019 GP levels. Is that still one of the milestones you're aiming toward or is there maybe a change in strategy a bit here that you're going to lean in non-spend more, whether it's R&D to drive innovation or maybe on the marketing side to drive merchant and customer adoption to get that flywheel going, now that you have some of the tools, the inventory and the interface addressed? Thank you.

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. Good to hear you. Let me take the first question and then Melissa will take the second. So when you asked about all the changes we're making on the merchant side and your question related to what's going to take it -- what's going to need to happen for them to jump in. If you look at the numbers, our merchant are taking advantage of this at a steady clip. It's just going to take a matter of time, especially when you have merchants who have been working with Groupon for one way for so long, it's a matter of introducing them to our new operating and how do you get familiar with it. So if you think about the key components of what we started to do with merchants, I'd say that foundational element is self-service. For over 10 years again merchants have been using Groupon in more manual way and now they have a chance to use with self-service. Something that starts with something simple like putting up a deal or deal at it. But as a self-service tool continues to engage with our merchants, there is so much more that we can do, adding sponsored listings, which is now integrated into our self-service tool and we'll begin ramping into the back half of this year and into 2002 is one of a number of things that our merchants can now take advantage of in a far easier way, and easier for them also means it's lower cost. So there is less staffing they can put on managing Groupon and that's what they can do so.

So for us, honestly, it's just a matter of time. The things that we're doing in the uptick that you see us getting is a testament to the fact that; one, we're hunting in the right direction. But also these are things that merchants have come to expect with any ad platform and when we put them out there, they're taking advantage of it. Melissa?

Melissa Thomas -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, thanks, Aaron. Thanks Trevor for the question. Regarding the $250 million and 80% recovery, that was intended to illustrate the power of our financial model on a significantly reduced fixed cost structure. We have not provided guidance for 2022 at this stage, but it's something that we'll look to do on our fourth quarter earnings conference call. I think what I would highlight is that we're really excited about the progress that we're making on our growth strategy and the foundation we're laying there, but more to come in terms of 2022, we'll look to provide clarity as we get closer or as we get to our Q4 call.

Trevor Young -- Barclays -- Analyst

Great, thank you.


For your next question, we have Ygal Arounian from Wedbush Securities. Your line is open.

Ygal Arounian -- Wedbush Securities -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, guys. Thanks for the question. The first one, Aaron, sorry if this puts you in a little bit of an uncomfortable position, apology [Indecipherable] It's been a year and a half since you took over as Interim CEO and I would say it was at the very beginning of the pandemic, I would say over the last year, the message and the strategy has been really as consistent as we've seen it from Groupon, the vision that you're laying out, the long-term strategy, and I think it's been the kind of really strong roadmap, its early part of the roadmap. I'm just wondering from your point of view or what investors should think of what the Board is kind of looking for to play out before you can kind of take over in a permanent role. I think from some investors that we speak to, there's always question marks around the really long-term vision and strategy that can potentially get changed under different leadership. So that's the first one.

And then on the marketing efforts early on and clearly a really important component of trying to change the brand image with a lot of things that you're trying to bring on board. What are the that you're looking for to feel like you're being successful in the marketing efforts? And you've talked a lot about the brand strategy. Is there a performance campaign around this too to drive more traffic to the app and drive more consumers to the product? Thanks.

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Ygal, I appreciate your question. So first off, as it relates to -- you're asking about like the strategy, the consistency and related to the CEO search. So no update -- new update on the CEO search. But what's most important here is that the Board, our team, they are all aligned behind the strategy. This is something that we are working on together and the strategy is not changing. So I wouldn't -- I wouldn't have any concern with that. Now you can see that from the increasing level of execution that we're getting across the board. So this is very much our obsession.

Now I will say when you asked the question, you seemed a little nervous to me, so I appreciate that. Someone who recommend for you a reflexology Groupon, I just had it a couple weeks ago, it's only about a certain massage followed by some shoulder work and it great quarter and healthy to Wellness business and reached some volumes down. Now, what we are picking up on that. It is actually awesome.

Now for your question on marketing. This is, think about the arc of what we're doing. We said and told everybody that we are going to change our merchant value proposition to get more better supply. Then we said we had to start to change our customer discovery experience and we've now rolled out our CX. That customer discovery experience is really the first part of our marketing effort because now it's more intuitively communicate what we want to be known for. I mean, if you pull up the old site, the flash -- the flash deal site that where you have the big episodic scroll oriented experience, we now have a destination oriented experience. When we put that in front of customers and we measured by the brand metrics and make sure that they understand the brand that we want to be known for on the reputation we want to have as a destination for the categories that we are just in and that's how we're seeing that performance that want, because the mission we're on is not about near-term performance marketing, which we're very good at and extremely great and always been to the execution, but it's about changing this experience so that we start to benefit from destination oriented traffic. Now that is now backed up by us launching our new marketing campaign, moving more to mid funnel, which we did in 2Q, we'll continue to do, and now upper funnel with our Grab Life by the Groupon campaign. So this long arc of our strategy very much works together. I know you're asking about the marketing portion of it. We're changing that perception for Groupon, is obviously quarter to strategy and it's something that we're working on across all components of our execution. Great questions. Thank you.

Ygal Arounian -- Wedbush Securities -- Analyst

Thanks. And yeah, I just -- I didn't want to make you uncomfortable, that's why I was a little nervous. But just a quick follow-up for Melissa on Aaron's [Phonetic] question. I fully understand that $250 million at 80 was a guidance or intended to be guidance, but are you coming off of that view or should we no longer be thinking of if you get there that's the EBITDA level?

Melissa Thomas -- Chief Financial Officer

I think the point, you got to take away is that we've created a lot of leverage in our model and significantly higher flow through to EBITDA as the result of the significant reduction that we've made to our cost structure over the last year unchanged. So, I mean that's really I think the key takeaway there, where we aren't providing guidance on 2022. But I think the big takeaway is that we create a lot of leverage in the model.

Ygal Arounian -- Wedbush Securities -- Analyst

Okay, thank you.

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Ygal.


[Operator Instructions] The next question, we have Douglas Anmuth from J.P. Morgan. Your line is open.

Neeraj -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi, this is Neeraj [Phonetic] on for Doug. So just a couple of questions. Number one is just on the on the cadence of the gross profit and EBITDA. I guess so on first quarter, you kind of provided the cadence would be improving numbers quarter-on-quarter throughout the year. So, just as you highlighted on the the things to do issue, supply demand issues. So anything else that we need to read there?

And number two would be on the goods business. You've kind of pointed out it's going to be close to 30% of 2019 levels. So how should we think about good business in the long-term? And how much are you putting forward in terms of marketing in terms of the goods business? Thank you. What a nice start. And I'll take you're goods question first and then Melissa will come back and take your first question. So as it relates to goods, the way to think about goods is pretty consistent with how we've talked about it. We have significantly reduced the cost structure of our goods business. Now winning for us is on the other side of winning in local and and so product now with the reduced cost structure in our goods business will get better EBITDA flow-through out of that business. Our focus though is on local and so you expect over time for goods to continue to kind of face the fact, but that really is just based on our focus on local and getting local growth.

Melissa Thomas -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think there -- as you think about the drivers of our outlook, there is a couple of things that I I'd highlight as you look at kind of quarterly as inflows. So first, we did have a larger-than-expected impact from variable consideration in the second quarter. So we did have a $10 million benefit come through related to prior period bookings. So that was something that we hadn't anticipated. The second point that I would call out as you mentioned, we did see a step down in our global good performance from the second quarter to July to around 30% of 2019 levels. We are assuming in our outlook that's a competitive headwinds that we've seen, we'll continue.

And then as you think about the EBITDA side, it is important to take into account our progression on marketing spend. So if you look at how that investment has progressed through the year, we stepped up investments in Q2 relative to Q1. And as we think about the second half, we expect to further step up our investment in marketing and we would expect marketing as a percentage of gross profit to be higher than it was in the second quarter. And as you think about that, you're seen local demand continues to return. But in addition to that, we are stepping up our investments in our brands repositioning. So that's what you'll really look to see from us in the second half is that higher level of marketing investment.

On the local side, we are encouraged by the recovery that we saw in the second quarter, but we do remain cautious in the near-term just in light of the spread of the Delta variant as well as the dynamics within our things to do category that we mentioned, where our supply is less recovered in that vertical relative to 2019. So those factors are taken into account into our guidance. And then as you think about seasonality, things to do category is an important category for us typically in the second and third quarter. So keep that in mind. And then I would say bigger picture on to the point that Aaron made, local is really where we're focused, that's where we're most differentiated to remain positive on our opportunities in local even as we face the transient headwinds that we're seeing now.

Neeraj -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Thank you.


There are no further questions at this time. Thank you, presenters.

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 46 minutes

Call participants:

Jennifer Beugelmans -- Chief Communications Officer

Aaron Cooper -- Interim Chief Executive Officer

Melissa Thomas -- Chief Financial Officer

Trevor Young -- Barclays -- Analyst

Ygal Arounian -- Wedbush Securities -- Analyst

Neeraj -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

More GRPN analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo