Flash sales are a brilliant example of viral marketing. Access to such sites is ‘by invitation-only’ which lends an air of exclusivity (although anyone can get an account if an invite is requested). It gets referrals through users’ personal networks and offers incentives (e.g. $25 credit, Rs.1000 credit, free designer bags, etc.) to current members to invite their friends to join the community.
One of the most critical things in such a sales model is that the shopping interface be user-friendly and convey premium-ness. So most websites have used rich, deep colours to give it that exclusive feel, and ensured that the website is very easy to navigate. These websites, preferably called “premium shopping clubs” are targeting 20-35 year olds who spend a lot of time on the internet. These websites have a strong presence on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, which act as daily reminders, discussion forums for the on-going sales as well as forums to generate interest through contests, etc.
In response to the concerns of members about the site getting too crowded, the ‘Gilt Group’ even created ‘Gilt Noir’, an exclusive loyalty program, which gives big spenders and VIPs advance access to sales, and brings private promotions from designers who refuse to sell on regular Gilt.
For differentiation, some of the websites have deviated from the original model, for instance, those visiting the ‘DesiCouture’ website do not need an “exclusive membership” to view the merchandise on sale. ‘DesiCouture’ also offers the option of special ordering – either by size or if the product is sold out. In addition, it also has the option to sort the products by product type, price, designers, etc. While most other websites sell previous season Indian designer wear, ‘DesiCouture’ works towards promoting upcoming designers by commissioning garments to be made at a price point as low as Rs.1500 alongside established designer prêt lines.
Marketing expenses are at a minimum; sales are announced by email a day to a week in advance and an email reminder is sent at the time of the start of the sale. All sales start at the same time, so as to condition members to log onto their website at the same time every day – almost making it a routine for customers – simply a brilliant way to achieving repeat visits by customers. According to New York Magazine “During the hour after its weekday sales kick off, between noon and 1 pm…its site (Gilt.com) is visited by an average of roughly 100,000 shoppers.”
Most such sites have tied up with certain designers, celebrities, stores, fashion magazines and blogs, TV shows and events. These tie-ups vary from a features spread in a fashion magazine saying “available on 99labels.com”, to a small spread on upcoming sales on popular fashion blogs like highheelconfidential.com or purseblog.com. Sites also have tie-ups with TV shows like ‘LaunchMyLine’ – a show that encourages new talent in fashion designing, and with Film Festivals and fashion events, for instance, ‘Fashion and You’ partnered with Lakme Fashion Week as their official online partners. This gains them sufficient mileage without having to spend much on marketing.
These websites also have their own blogs which talk about the latest fashion trends, upcoming designers, as well as top picks for the month from their merchandising head and leading fashionistas. The blogs also link back to relevant sales that may be going on at the time. This is also a great way to keep readers returning back to the website. Here are some links…