Gilt Groupe is an invitation-only retail site that specializes in limited-time sales of fashion and luxury brands at prices up to 70% off retail. Jyothi Rao oversees Gilt’s women’s business, working closely with the company’s merchandising and marketing teams on demand planning, online advertising, social media and developing features for the site’s customer interface.
eMarketer: What is your outlook for the upcoming online holiday shopping season?
Jyothi Rao: On a macro-level, we’re really not out of the woods in terms of the economy. Consumers are going to be discerning, looking for unique experiences and products. Value is still going to be very important this holiday. We're well-positioned on all of those accounts at Gilt Groupe. We provide value every day with our sales, but more than that, we take a lot of time to curate our sales. Each day at noon, we present an edited assortment of great brands and products to our membership base.
It’s very important for retailers to have a focused point of view and not just compete on price and promotions, but to really think through the entire customer experience. As an online retailer, we know a lot about our members and their preferences and can customize their experiences on-site.
eMarketer: How are your customers’ shopping behavior and attitudes different vs. last year?
Rao: People are going to be a little bit more willing to spend but they’re going to be looking for great products, service and value. Customer service, which we have in-house, is a very important component.
eMarketer: Will Gilt introduce any new features to make it easier for customers to shop for friends and family in advance of the holiday shopping season?
Rao: Last year, we set up a kind of “buy for yourself” mentality and that's really what our business has mostly been. This year, we’re making a big push on a gifting strategy. Quite frankly, we weren't set up for that last year. Although we’ve done some gift work, our interface and the mechanics of how we sell weren’t set up for it. This is really the first time we’re entering this space in a serious way. Since we know so much about our customers and their preferences, we can personalize what we're putting in front of them each day.
eMarketer: What types of tools are you putting in place to facilitate the gifting idea?
Rao: I can't divulge too much about it because we're still working through some of the details of our strategy and we don't want to give away too much. But if you go on our site today, it’s really like a sport or a form of entertainment since you’re competing for products. You want to get things in your cart as quickly as possible and check out. If you want to buy products for others, you can do it, but it's not as efficient a process as the rest of our interfaces.
We're really looking to change that and make the experience of buying for others as simple, fast and fun as it is buying for yourself. We're also going to focus on personalizing the experience of being on-site and coming in through a mobile device as well.
eMarketer: What is Gilt doing with mobile shopping?
Rao: We launched our iPhone app last year. The iPad lends itself so well to what we do at Gilt Groupe because our sales are presented in a very magazine-like way. They translate beautifully on the iPad. We recently launched an application for Android as well. Mobile will be a huge component of what we're going to leverage this holiday season. We didn’t really have a mobile component last holiday season.
eMarketer: Friends can greatly influence each other’s style preferences. How is Gilt participating in social media marketing to fully leverage this influence?
Rao: The most important thing with social media is not just to be pushing information out, but to be engaging in a dialogue with your customers. That’s at the core of how we're going to engage with social. We want to provide some level of expertise to help customers, whether it's in selecting gifts, outfits to wear to parties for the holiday season or whatever it might be. You’ll see us in the role of trusted editor, engaging in two-way communication with our membership base. We have wonderful relationships with bloggers. Of course Facebook and Twitter continue to be very important instruments.
eMarketer: What online shopping strategies does your consumer make use of?
Rao: Peer reviews. People are looking to communities that they either have decided to belong to or that they've decided to create themselves to advise them on what it is that they should be doing or buying. This trend is evolving in the social space. People are looking for a variety of references to make their buying decisions.
eMarketer: Gilt is largely a women’s business for apparel and accessories, but it’s expanding into new areas. Tell us about that.
Rao: In the last year, we expanded into different businesses, including a men’s business, and established ourselves as a lifestyle brand. We launched Jetsetter, a luxury travel site where we sell travel packages, predominantly rooms in fantastic hotels around the world. We most recently launched Gilt City, which is for local services like restaurant reservations, theater tickets and things of that nature.
We feel we have a much larger breadth of products and experiences to present to our membership base. We’re going to make the holiday shopping experience much more lifestyle-oriented and not just about very narrow individual items.
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