Are Gilt's Mobile-Only Sales A Wise Move?

Gilt Groupe is not your traditional retailer. Beyond the apparel merchant being an online-only site, it's also a member-only site, which certainly changes the shopper-interaction dynamics. But Gilt is trying yet another unorthodox sale tactic: Offering certain deals only via mobile. If you're a loyal member who happens to access Gilt via a laptop and you want a deal, you're out of luck. (In the olden days, a laptop would be considered a mobile device—and are today's smaller laptops truly any less mobile than the larger tablets?—but I digress.)

For Gilt, the mobile-only sales aren't new and they are simply a motivational tool to encourage shoppers to explore the mobile site. "Our members have told us that they love this feature and we see the results as our mobile customers are returning at a very high rate," said Jason John, vice president of online, mobile and social marketing at Gilt. "We're kicking off our Summer Must-Haves sales with a cross-channel campaign. Promos on our site, banners in our daily e-mails and push notifications will inform our customers when these mobile sales are live."

The mobile-only sales will include one for each of Gilt's primary categories: men, women, kids and home. On June 22, the sale for men will be shoes under $50, the sale for women will be weekend wear, the sale for kids will be 25 girls' dresses for $25, and the sale for home will be Missoni Beach towels.

Gilt's mobile focus is not surprising given it's much higher-than-typical percentage of revenue coming from mobile, which accounted for 40 percent of total revenue, according to Internet Retailer.

Given Gilt's unusually strong mobile revenue, this campaign might work well for it, but it's a big risk to try to control and dictate which channel shoppers should use. The whole point of merged channel/omnichannel programs is pure channel agnosticism, where the retailer doesn't care how a shopper shops, as long as it's with that retailer. Allowing a shopper to start a transaction on a desktop and finish it on the subway via a smartphone is powerful, as is the ability to start a transaction with a call center call and move it for in-store completion.

Having sales that only exist within one channel—especially mobile, which is not the purchase method of choice for all—is a good way to alienate shoppers who might have been very interested in that product at that special price. Trying to control or even influence channel choice is a dangerous move. Shoppers don't like being pressured into how they give you their money.

For more:
- See Internet Retailer story
- See Mobile Commerce Daily story

Related Stories:
Mobile Vendor's Survey: 88 Percent Of Mobile Shoppers Have "Negative Issues"
Starbucks: More Than 30 Percent Of All Transactions Use Starbucks Card
Will Mobile Save Groupon?