Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from one of RetailWire’s recent online discussions. Each business morning on RetailWire.com, retail industry execs get plugged in to the latest news and issues with key insights from a “BrainTrust” panel of retail industry experts.
Social shopping Web sites such as Gilt.com, Hautelook, RueLaLa and Woot are the hot new thing in retailing, combining limited time sales with fashion and home goods from top luxury designers and unique boutique brands.
Pam Danziger, President of Unity Marketing, calls the new social shopping sites “the very definition of ‘sticky.’” Shoppers are sent emails inviting them to check back daily to take advantage of deals that only run for a day or two.
According to Danziger, social shopping sites combine some of the best aspects of online and brick and mortar retailing.
“They offer the thrill of the hunt, the challenge of visiting time and again until the perfect item is found, and the satisfaction of landing a deal,” Danizger said. “Plus they are destinations of choice for the smart, savvy shopper.”
According to a new report from Unity Marketing, How the Affluent Luxury Consumer Uses the Internet and Social Media, one-third of affluent consumers with an average income of $239,300 have visited a social shopping site in the past three months, compared to only 7% in 2007. Young affluent consumers, those under 45 years of age, are the biggest social shoppers, with 43% reporting they use these sites.
“Social shopping sites are going to continue to grow in popularity among the affluent market, especially among young affluents,” Danziger said. “They offer young affluents shopping experiences that they enjoy: quick action, limited access, and value pricing. For luxury marketers targeting young affluents, these are the places to be.”
RetailWire’s BrainTrust panelists generally feel that this is a new, exciting wave of retail sure to please customers. “This is hot stuff!” said Marc Gordon, President, Fourword Marketing. “It’s got all the elements that make shopping fun for those who like to shop. I think the long-term success for these sites will depend on a continued growth in product mix. I also see spinoff sites for such things as vacations, cars, even homes. Can you imagine visiting a site to buy a new car for 20% less than retail, but only within a 60-minute window? That would be very cool.”
Another panelist said this model would be a good fit for luxury brands. “Particularly for the big luxury brand stables (Gucci, LVMH) and even middle of the road players such as Liz Claiborne and Vanity Fair that are weighting their portfolios toward pure brand marketing plays and owned retail versus cumbersome, inventory-laden wholesale models,” said Carol Spieckerman, President, newmarketbuilders. “Social shopping would allow these companies to directly marketing a ‘virtual world of brands’ to loyal customers, gain valuable data about them and control promotions in the process.
Some panelists took note of the upside, or lack thereof. “The rub is that, as Gilt and the rest gain momentum, they are already working out exclusives with major luxury brands; jumping into their own social shopping ventures would have them wresting those brands back.,” Spieckerman added. “One of the brand biggies should buy the cow (a social shopping platform).”
“I think the upside is limited,” said Mark Johnson, President & CEO, Loyalty 360. “We are facing a new ‘retail’ environment where the frivolous shopping has waned and I think that will be the case for a while. People are shopping, and looking for deals, but the social aspects I must question.”