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LivingSocial: Don't call it a deals business

July 20, 2011: 2:53 PM ET

There is more to LivingSocial than meets the eye, according to its CEO.

By Dan Primack, senior editor

To many consumers, LivingSocial is Groupon with better writing. Interchangeable, and possibly disposable if someone begins offering deeper discounts for more attractive merchants.

To LivingSocial, however, a lot of people are missing the deeper point.

"If you view this as a daily deals business, you've probably lost already," said company CEO Tim O'Shaughnessy, during a panel discussions Wednesday at Fortune Brainstorm Tech. "We view this as local commerce."

Specifically, O'Shaughnessy argued that what companies like his are doing is positioning themselves as technology providers that better foster relationships between consumers and merchants. That may be daily deals via email today, but could be something much different tomorrow.

"There are a lot of technologies involved in consumer/merchant relationships... and all of them will be disrupted," he argued, using point-of-sales systems as an example.

O'Shaughnessy declined to discuss LivingSocial's rumored IPO plans, but did reveal that the company currently is in 21 different countries with around 2,500 employees (around 1,300 of whom are in sales and marketing). He also took a couple of jabs at the competition, noting that Groupon's instant deals and travel offers had come after LivingSocial had launched similar programs. "I'm merely stating two data-points," he said, while in the same breath referring to the Groupon offerings as "clones."

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