Gilt CMO discusses strategy of full-priced men’s site

Our May issue is out, which features my profile of Gilt Groupe CMO David Zucker. He’s a pretty interesting guy, as you’ll (hopefully) find in the story. But as with anyone trying to cram an 8,163-word transcript into a 900-word profile, I couldn’t work everything into the article. My top Honorable Unmentioned was when Zucker got to talking about Gilt Groupe‘s full-priced men’s site, which goes live this summer.

In researching Gilt Groupe before my sit-down with Zucker, I came across a few articles whose authors questioned a flash-sales site entering the full-price e-commerce business as counterintuitive or overly ambitious. I shared their skepticism and presented the point to Zucker. I still don’t know how Gilt could possibly compete against an Amazon, but after our interview, I’m not sure that’s even the point.

Zucker’s marketing philosophy boils down to solving customers’ problems. And a major problem facing men shopping for clothes is that we generally have no idea what we’re doing. According to Zucker, the full-priced men’s site looks to solve that problem. He said the site will feature fashion tips such guidelines on lapel or tie sizes that will educate the consumer with the hope that the now fashion-conscious man will have enough understanding of his style and clothing requirements that he can participate in the fast-paced daily flash sales, as opposed to mimicking an NFL rookie who should’ve stayed in school another year because he can’t read defenses quickly enough (looking at you, Cam).

“If we educate you as a consumer–and you have more time [in the full-priced site]–because you’re actually looking for a tuxedo or a really good blazer, we can talk to you a little about that [product’s details] in the full-price business and sell it because there’s going to be more inventory there,” said Zucker. “And then if something comes up and you need another blazer–you’re like I just spent a grand on a blazer over [on the full-priced site], and I know that brand and now that brand’s on sale at Gilt and it’s $500, I can go pick that up.”

On the flip side, he said the site could work the other way: In the event that a suit sold out in a particular size, a consumer could be directed to the full-price site. Of course that consumer will probably experience some serious sticker shock, considering the up to 70% markup from the flash-sale price. But Zucker said it comes back to solving the customer’s problem.

“We are going to do the best we possibly can to educate you on the different kinds of suits and the different things you need to consider when buying a suit–what the differences are and why that affects the price. And then we’re going to show you a bunch of different suits, and you’re going to decide on which on best fits your budget and the information that we’ve given you,” said Zucker. “And when you as a consumer know that’s where you can get that type of information, you’d be thinking this a place I want to continue to do business with.”

From a consumer standpoint, it’s a smart marketing strategy. I’m the prototypical guy Zucker has in mind when discussing the educational benefits of the full-price site. I abhor shopping to the extent that when I get a T-shirt or pair of jeans that feel good, I wear them ragged. I’m also not a member to any Gilt Groupe site and don’t plan on partaking in the flash sales anytime soon. But if I ever need to grab a tuxedo, I wouldn’t be surprised if I at least check out the Gilt full-priced site first.

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