Mark Pearson: Britain’s coupon king

Pearson is confident that his current retail clients will stick with him around the globe. “Many of the retailers are international, so they know who the players are. In fact, many of them come to us to ask when we’ll open in this country, or that country. It’s nice.”

International business currently accounts for a third of the company’s traffic and around 15 per cent of Markco Media’s revenue. The target for Pearson’s international sites is for them to make up half the group’s revenue.

“We want to push this as far as we can, as quickly as we can,” says Pearson. “The US is happening now. France and Germany are still behind the times, but they could really take off in one or two years.”

Mark Pearson

While international expansion is his main opportunity, it’s also his main challenge. Having got in early, Markco Media is now up against a number of competitors internationally – think of Offers.com or Groupon in the US. Could Pearson’s business withstand the pressure if a giant like Google also decided to play in his field?

“Maybe he should be thinking of consolidation and exiting earlier than he would otherwise, in a traditional business,” says Lucy Armstrong, head of the CBI’s SME Council and a Growing Business Awards judge. “He’s up against a number of competitors and ‘me-too’ businesses – it will be a challenge.”

Pearson is hedging his bets globally. Markco Media won’t actually open any overseas offices to start with: the initial expansion will  be run from his Croydon base, using foreign-language speakers.

He recognises that eventually, this won’t be enough. “You can do a lot online – that was the beauty of the business that I used to run from my bedroom – but to take it to the next level, to get exclusive deals, you have to sit at that boardroom table with the retailers.”

Technology will drive the company’s global expansion. “More and more people are using the internet across the world. It’s easier than ever to penetrate a country and get there faster.”

The scale of the opportunity is large, but does Markco Media have a genuine advantage in the market? The key will be to move fast, lock in big retail customers and offer them something unique.

“If Mark gets it right, he’s in a great place,” says fellow entrepreneur Will King, founder of King of Shaves. “This is a man to watch.”

Will "King of Shaves" King

Mobile commerce could be Mark Pearson’s trump card – all analysts agree that it is ready to explode: by 2013, the transaction value of mobile payments in the UK is forecast to exceed £3.3bn. In 2014, the redemption value of mobile coupons will exceed $6.5bn in the US alone.

Pearson wants his share. “That’s where we’re going: to a place where if you don’t switch on your GPS-enabled coupon app, you’re wasting money.”

Expect more from the young man from Liverpool.

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