I recently attended the Email Evolution Conference in sunny Hollywood, Florida. The highlight of the show, besides speaking on how Content is King, was meeting and hearing Jessica Harley, VP of Customer Marketing at Gilt Groupe present.

Now if you haven’t heard of Gilt Groupe, you may’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 3 years, or you don’t shop online. However, at VerticalResponse, Gilt Groupe has a very engaged audience, starting with our CEO, Janine. And we aren’t alone. Gilt has grown fast and furious to over 4.3 million active members.

Those members produce some staggering figures:

  • Over 1/3 of members log in during any month
  • 65% of Gilt Noir members (their most loyal and avid shoppers) purchase every month
  • 20% of purchasers each month are new customers
  • Gilt has acquired only 1/3 of their members via paid marketing efforts. This does not include their uber successful referral program. In the high priced world of CPC (cost per customer) this is a phenomenal figure.

So how does Gilt tap into this voracious audience of consumers hungry for the next flash sale offering? And, what can us little guys learn from them?

Who, What, When

Gilt has focused on using an email-based model to communicate with customers on a daily basis. And they’ve focused a laser-like attention to detail on getting it right. How so? For starters, they spend a lot of energy and effort considering how their audience is interacting with their messages. Let’s begin with the when. Gilt chooses to send their emails at 12 pm ET. Lunch time for many on the east coast and the start of the work day for many on the west coast. Send messages when people have time to peruse them and act on them. Smart cookies, those Gilters.

Next, they consider how their subscribers are reading their daily Gilt email. What they’ve found is that most of their recipients are reading email on web mail or on their desktop, followed by mobile. This holds true for the weekdays. Yet, on the weekends Gilt has 73% higher proportion of sales from their mobile app relative to weekdays. They’ve also keyed in on sending home-based offers at night when people tend to be home and can take the time to measure and see if a piece of furniture or a rug will fit or suit their space. Makes a ton of sense.

Jessica also explained how important the where aspect was to Gilt, especially during the busy holiday shopping season. She advised us to “be where your customers are.” Gilt tried this last holiday season by going up against the brick and mortar shops on the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday. For an online retailer, Black Friday is not typically a huge one. Gilt aimed to change this and change it they did. They figured they could capture shoppers’ attention while they waited in lines at brick and mortar shops, so they launched a mobile exclusive doorbuster sale called Black Friday Fever. With attention-getting price points all under $100 and subject lines like, Gilt Groupe – Black Friday Fever! Dresses Under $100, Sweaters Under $100, Boots Under $100, & Much More! they fueled a 34% year-over-year growth in sales for the weekend. Not too shabby in a tough economy where, supposedly, email is dead.


But it hasn’t been all sunshine and revenue for Gilt and not everything they’ve tried has worked. Enter Facebook. Like many of us, advertising and selling on Facebook seemed like a good idea. With 800+ million users, the numbers have to be good, right? Not so much. As Jessica quoted from a recent Bloomberg.com article, “…it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”  She called Facebook the 5-minute virtual cigarette break and I thought that was pretty spot on. Gilt customers want to get their promotions via email. Now Gilt uses their Facebook page to drive traffic to their site through instant registration on Facebook and the opportunity to preview sales an hour before they go live. Lesson learned.

Lastly, Gilt does a great job with very targeted emails based on user preferences. One of their highest converting emails is one that is sent to a customer once an item is sold out. Customers have the opportunity to “waitlist” the item in case it becomes available again. Gilt will then send the customer an email alerting them to the fact that their item is available with a buy button to make purchasing easy. Totally brilliant.


What can you do with your own email marketing messages to consider and optimize the who, what and when?

© 2012 – 2013, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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