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Q&A with Gilt City: Curating the Most Coveted Experiences in Boston

February 03, 2011
by Cheryl Morris

I remember when my fashion-forward former boss invited me to Gilt Groupe a few years ago. I instantly fell in love with its daily designer boutiques that featured “coveted luxury brands at sample sale prices.” I would check in literally everyday. This first love excitement returned in September when the company launched Gilt City in Boston, a city-specific version focused on offering access to the best lifestyle experiences here in the Bean.

Do you want access to experiences like a Sam Adams brewery tour led by founder Jim Koch? How about an intimate cocktail party with the founders of Vineyard Vines? Gilt City Boston should be your first stop. In its five months since launching, the site already boasts 1.2 million members. And they aren’t strapped for cash or looking to take their foot off the accelerator in 2011. Parent company Gilt Groupe has landed almost $100 million in financing, led by one of the best performing venture capital firms in Boston, Matrix Partners.

I had the opportunity to speak with Gilt City’s PR lead for Boston, Caitlyn Carpanzano, about the company’s national-gone-local strategy, how they stand out from other daily deal sites, what’s in store for Gilt Boston in 2011, and – of course – what deals Bostonians are loving most.

“Boston is such a unique and exciting city in terms of its tastes and desires. It’s a city of epicurean enthusiasts, beer connoisseurs, charity supporters, and die-hard sports lovers,” Carpanzano explained.

One of my favorite parts about Gilt City is how they display and craft a story around each daily experience. From high-res, beautiful photos of the experience wrapped with engaging copy, to the “at a glance”  reasons your should purchase,  to the must-know information like where the store or experience is located.

In short, Gilt City is eye candy for the best Boston has to offer.

This design is reflective of what Gilt views as its primary differentiator in the crowded group buying space. “We curate an experience from start to finish. Top of mind for Gilt City is offering unique, luxury, lifestyle experiences for our members,” Carpanzano stated, adding, “We are not a group buying site. Whether 10 members purchase or 200, the experience will remain the same.”

To source unique and coveted Boston deals, Gilt City has local curators who are “native to the city” and find exclusive experiences here. “We work directly with vendors to determine the quantity of offer that works best, limiting it so that we do not oversell and provide the best experience for the member as well as the business,” Carpanzano explained. With their team of natives on the ground, Gilt hopes to ensure that their offers are the best.

With regard to the relationship between their national platform and local city platforms, Carpanzano explained how the company looks to feature offers at a low price point with a mass appeal – like their recent $25 for $50 at Beauty Bar offer. These national offers act as a member acquisition point, and are also a great gauge of how a local offer will translate. “We want to re-engage members we acquired on a national level and provide them with offers that fit their tastes right in their own city,” Carpanzano explained. “If someone purchased our BeautyBar offer, for example, we will soon be able to send them other local beauty and fashion recommendations that they are most likely to enjoy.”

So how does Boston compare to other cities Gilt City has launched in? What can Bostonians expect from Gilt in 2011? What deals do Bostonians seem to love most?

In comparison to other cities, Carpanzano again spoke to the diversity of interests and culture here in Boston. In terms of price points and types of deals, she offered, “Bostonites are drawn to a medium price point and offers that have a great activity built into them. Our Sam Adams brewery tour led by founder Jim Koch, and our exclusive cocktail party at Vineyard Vines with both founders Ian and Shep are prime examples.”

In 2011, you can expect a lot more from Gilt City Boston. The company plans to increase the number of sales offered every week, offer more ticked events, and more exclusive experiences around unique “holidays” we celebrate here — like Marathon Monday and opening day at Fenway.

Outside of Boston and looking for services closer to home? No worries. Gilt Boston will have you covered in 2011, expanding into services in the immediate suburbs as well as the Cape and Islands. “Overall, we are forging new relationships with top vendors in the city of Boston, those coveted restaurants, spas, ticketed events, boutiques, and more that Bostonites desire to experience,” said Carpanzano.

As for top deals Gilt has offered to Boston to date, here is Carpanzano’s short list:

– An intimate chef’s table in the kitchen at L’Espalier where member had their own server and their own sommelier catering to them personally.

– Gilt City partnered with Status Ride, New England’s premier exotic car rental company featuring exotic and luxury vehicles from the most renowned manufacturers in the world, including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, and more.

– Oh-Ya Valentine’s Day exclusive dinner: Members gain entrance into the restaurant before it opens, a Saki 101 class, to be in the kitchen when the chefs are prepping for the evening. They then experience an indulgent meal of everything on the menu, basically! You leave with an orchid, a signed bottle of Saki, and the General Manger’s business card to gain access to the restaurant whenever you like.

Q&A with Gilt City: Curating the Most Coveted Experiences in Boston

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