Gilt.com, the 10-year-old flash sale site, looks to refuel its business with a redesigned web site.
Gilt Groupe was sold to Hudson’s Bay Co. in February 2016 for $250 million. Since then, it’s been an ongoing process to integrate the planning, marketing and merchandising teams for Gilt and Saks Off 5th to gain buying power and share brands, leverage Gilt’s mobile and personalization technologies and bring Gilt brand into the physical space.
Over that time, Gilt surveyed its membership to find out what it liked and didn’t like about the site. While the new site will continue to feature daily new arrivals and flash sales — starting at 8 a.m., rather than noon — customers wanted easier navigation, more exclusive offerings and a more tailored customer experience. Gilt has nine million members, and 70 percent are under 45 years old, said Jonathan Greller, president of Gilt and Saks Off 5th. He said more than 50 percent use the mobile platform.
“We have a loyal and devoted Millennial following. The new Gilt is about flash forward, paying homage to being pioneers in the flash business, but knowing that we needed to move this business forward,” he said. He said Gilt’s customers want to shop where they want and when they want. Previously, Gilt overwhelmed its customers with 40 flash sales a day by business unit. Under the new redesign, each of the categories will have six flash sales a day, he said.
Gilt saw rapid growth after the recession when it was able to snap up excess inventory, develop significant scale and expand into additional categories. But the company lost its momentum over the last few years as suppliers had less inventory to get rid of and has been trying to regain their footing in the marketplace. Faced with competition from numerous other flash sale sites, retail web sites, Amazon, and the proliferation of off-price channels, the business has gotten increasingly difficult. Once valued at close to $1 billion, HBC acquired Gilt for a fraction of its previous valuation.
Asked what he attributed to the slowdown in flash sales over the past several years, Greller explained that the sales method was exciting when it started, but everyone jumped on. “When something is new and exciting and no one else is doing it, it becomes exciting. As you can see over the years, many people do flash. Almost every site today has some portion of their business being flash. But again, the customer has evolved. Doing business today is much tougher. And the customer’s expectations are much greater. Flash will be a very important part of our site going forward, but won’t be everything. We’ll have intent, great events, longer lasting editorial and category shops,” he said.
The company doesn’t break out figures for the individual businesses, but for the first quarter ended April 29, lower traffic at Saks Off 5th and Gilt drove comparable sales down 6.8 percent at HBC off-price, although Gilt accounted for an outsize portion of the overall account, HBC reported.
The four pillars of Gilt.com’s redesign are Intent, Events, Editorial and Lifestyle.
One of the key features of intent-based shopping is a more robust navigation bar and expanded category tabs that include women’s apparel, shoes and handbags, jewelry and accessories, men’s, home, kids, city and designers. Customers can shop by general merchandise category, specific brand or one of Gilt’s featured shops. Customers also have access to more products and can narrow a search via filters such as brand, size, color, price or item type, even including material of a top or sleeve length.
Further, the site is more tailored to customer’s likes and tastes with additional personalization elements. For example, customers will continue to receive customized e-mails, but they now also can see specialized new product feeds, shops and editorial stories based on shopping patterns, search habits and profile preferences. Custom recommendations and similar products can now be viewed throughout the shopping experience through the use of updated visual recognition and machine learning technologies.
As for the new editorial section, the site will have longer lasting content and showcase curated shops, category boutiques and designer offerings. Trend-based stories, such as ““How to Dress for Date Night,” can stay up longer online and don’t have to change every 24 to 48 hours.
Another addition is the integration of relevant Gilt City, which includes a range of services and experiences such as spas, restaurants and Pilates classes, suggestions alongside related product categories. For example, a Gilt City offer from a local yoga studio can now be found alongside a women’s activewear sale. At the end of the year, Gilt plans to launch a tab called Gilt Life, which will house content on collaborations, events and editorial campaigns.
Along with the site changes, Gilt will update some of its policies, including free shipping on orders over $99 and more convenient and quicker returns, both in-store — at Saks Off 5th — and online. Customers can expect in-store refund processing within 24 hours when returning Gilt.com purchases to any of more than 100 Saks Off 5th stores in the U.S.
A key change is rather than host flash sales at noon, the company changed that to 8 a.m. to have four extra hours to shop. If a customer misses a flash sale, she can still buy the product anytime if there’s product left.
The merchandise is still at a discount. For the most part, merchandise on Gilt.com is up to 70 percent off retail prices. Gilt is working with designers to create exclusive merchandise, as well as carrying on-trend merchandise from various designers. Greller noted that Saks Off 5th and Gilt share 80 percent of their top 100 brands. But Greller sees big opportunity in in-season full price merchandise. The firm will introduce customers to up-and-coming designers and full-price luxury brands. Before there was a very small percentage of regular price merchandise on Gilt. They think now it can be more than 10 percent.
“We’re not done. This is just the beginning of the Gilt experience,” he said. Greller said he has a dedicated team working on collaborations such as the one it had last February with Ashley Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s daughter, where they launched her sweatshirt line called Livelihood on Gilt. One hundred percent of net proceeds from the sales of the hoodies went to Livelihoods’ community development initiatives.
Opening more Gilt shops within Saks Off 5th is another part of the strategy. There’s only one Gilt shop, at the 57th Street Saks Off 5th shop in Manhattan, which holds a rotating assortment of merchandise from Gilt.com. The shop features different seasonal themes, trends and other ongoing initiatives and partnerships. Greller said, in the future, they plan to have Gilt shops throughout all the Saks Off 5th units, which could include Gilt Home.
Personalization is a big part of the Gilt experience and was one of the key reasons why HBC purchased the company, he said. Gilt sends out two emails every day. “Depending on what your preferences are, we’re going to learn your behaviors and we’re going to send what’s important to you, and your e-mail will look very different from someone else’s. We’re always looking for ways to further personalize the site,” Greller said.
To acknowledge the new redesign, Gilt is offering all shoppers $30 off any purchase of $150 or more, from Sept. 5 to 7. It is also hosting “The All-New Gilt Sweepstakes” with one winner receiving $10,000, and 10 runners-up winning $500 each. All prizes will be valid for use on Gilt, Gilt City or Gilt Travel purchases.