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The Top 10 Event Brands: #10 Gilt Groupe

Through strategic partnerships, continued expansion, and ambitious events, the online brand has used offline exposure to increase its fan base and build its reputation.

March 15, 2012
by Jenny Berg

Initially designed as a Web platform for by-invite sample sales, Gilt Groupe’s Gilt.com debuted in 2007. Since then, the brand has grown exponentially year-by-year, even amid the recent restructuring. Its revenues for 2010 were $423 million, and Reuters called it “the fastest-growing online shopping site” in 2011. In December, Gilt chairwoman Susan Lyne—the former president of ABC Entertainment—declared the company would likely go public within 18 months.

Its rapid online success has been fueled by a string of offline experiences meant to court tastemakers and press by giving them access to exclusive perks such as discounted designer merchandise or unique access to major events. In 2011, the company staged its most ambitious events to date.

The majority of Gilt Groupe’s stand-alone events are produced by Gilt City, which launched in September 2010 as a platform for luxury services and experiences. With six employees on the in-house events team, Gilt City executed 562 events and offers throughout the country in just over a year. A series of warehouse sales launched in late 2010 has proven particularly successful. Taking over raw spaces in New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami, the sample-sale-style events offer discounted designer merchandise, cocktails, and beauty treatments.

According to Gilt City events manager Cara Crowley, “The Warehouse Sales continue to be our highest member-converting event and can command upwards of 50 percent of the clicks in our emails when the tickets go on sale to the public.”

The Gilt City Hamptons House, held in August, is one event that company reps point to as particularly innovative and ambitious. The brand took over a private residence in Bridgehampton, New York, for one month. Programming for ticket holders included intimate dinners with big-name chefs, private fitness classes sponsored by Exhale spa, trunk shows from major retailers, and evening happy hours.

Crowley said that the email open rate for the Hamptons House was 20 percent higher than a standard Gilt City email, and the click-to-open rate was 40 percent higher. The event generated more than 800,000 press impressions for the brand and 50,000 social media impressions.

This year, Gilt City will continue rolling out its signature events, with an emphasis on “higher profile events around the country,” Crowley said. Included in the lineup: a national dinner series, a pop-up shop at Next Art Chicago, and more Warehouse Sales in expanded cities.

“Gilt City’s events program features truly unique, one-of-a-kind experiences for our members, offering them access to a chef, band, author, designer, or notable that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy in person,” Crowley says. “Our members look to Gilt for those highly curated offers, and our signature events program in 2012 will certainly provide them in all forms.”

The Top 10 Event Brands: #10 Gilt Groupe

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