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Men’s Wear CEO Summit: Luring Men to the Web

Gilt Man’s goal is nothing short of total domination.

John Auerbach
Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 04/07/2011

Gilt Man’s goal is nothing short of total domination. “Beyond even what we’re offering now, our intent is nothing less than being the online lifestyle brand,” said John Auerbach, president of men’s at Gilt Groupe.

The e-tailer’s strategy involves “bringing excitement back to shopping,” Auerbach said. “The key to that is creating unique and personalized customer experiences.”

Gilt Groupe introduced men’s in April 2008. The Web site offers designer and luxury brands at up to 70 percent below regular retail prices. Gilt now has more than 5 million members, with 1 million monthly shoppers choosing from 1,500 brands. Men have a choice of 350-plus brands. During the noon to 1 p.m. hour, 120,000 people typically visit the site. Gilt Groupe’s revenues are expected to be close to $500 million this fiscal year.

Gilt Man was spun off in late 2009 in response to “a relatively sizable male population on Gilt,” Auerbach said. “I was working in customer service and marketing then, and we were constantly getting customer feedback. In late 2009, we spun off Gilt Man. We’ll continue to evolve our men’s offering with the launch in July of our first separately branded, full-price business.”

Auerbach said Gilt’s male shoppers respond to value, which has different meanings for different people. “It could be the discount off the retail price such as Gilt, or value in the form of a time-saving trusted resource for a full-price product.” Customers will shop both sites, he said, and the full-price site will appeal to men for whom the flash site holds little appeal. “Men were thrilled to have a new channel to buy designer clothing quickly and easily,” Auerbach said. “[Gilt] was the first flash sale site to offer men’s.”

A sign of Gilt Man’s success is the fact that 80 percent of men’s products are purchased by men for men. “We have a very engaged male population,” Auerbach said. “We really [personalize the shopping experience] in a very data-driven way. We built the platform from day one to look at the business intelligence and brand intelligence that we pick up to create unique and personalized experiences. The fact that the site is members-only gives us a lot of ability to glean additional data. We analyze user navigation, click-through, wait lists, size preferences and price sensitivity. Our customer insights enable us to better target communications [to consumers].”

Prior to Gilt Man, men’s online retail was treated as a commodity or an afterthought, Auerbach said. Gilt Man brings consumers “an offering that interests them housed in a store that’s exclusively for them.” Gilt has taken personalization one step further than simply gender-appropriate product. “It’s us curating the daily assortment based on our understanding of your preferences,” Auerbach said. “The personalization carries over from the site to e-mails you get. We have two sets of branding, one for Gilt Noir, our loyalty program for big spenders, and Gilt Man.”

Gilt picks six of 30 sales every day to highlight for each member and sends out 10,000 different e-mails daily. If a shopper bought size 32 trousers in the past, Gilt will send the customer a message about a sale of size 32 trousers. “That’s led to tremendous gains in conversion and traffic and a dramatic lift in sales,” Auerbach said. “It helped us take the next step to true personalization,” he added. “We’re now moving toward intervention shopping, where we can further personalize the experience based on any number of characteristics, such as style, size and fit. We’re using the data we collect to replicate as much of the [retail] sales associate-customer interaction as possible. That’s what data will help us do and that’s what we think is the promise of e-commerce.”