Gilt plans to start testing its overseas expansion on Singles' Day in China. Though the New York-based flash-sales site already ships to 120 countries, it has been improving its inventory, seasonal merchandise, localized content and ability to accept local currency to make the retailer more appealing in Asia.
Michelle Peluso, CEO, has been working on overhauling Gilt since she took the company's helm in 2012, reported Women's Wear Daily.
"This is such a time of learning. I just came back from a trip to China. What we learn from China will be a proxy for our international expansion," Peluso told Women's Wear Daily.
For example, the company used to send out flash-sales emails around the world at the same time for all time zones. Gilt soon learned that it left many international shoppers losing out on a chance to get a deal in time or it offered an inappropriate seasonal product to shoppers in the other half of the world.
Peluso said that China was chosen for its complex marketplace. Once in place, she believes other international marks should be easier to navigate. Markets on the radar include the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Russia.
China has become a popular country for U.S. retail expansion due to its emerging, wealthy middle class. For example, Costco (NASDAQ:COSTCO) entered the Chinese market for the first time last month through a partnership with e-commerce giant Alibaba. The Washington-based warehouse company has opened a store on T-Mall, an online marketplace run by Alibaba.
For the Singles' Day push, Gilt is also working with Alibaba's Taobao Mall to give consumers a chance to sign up for free access to gilt.com. In addition, the company is working with Alibaba's Alipay to allow shoppers to pay with local currency and get free shipping in China. Just last month, Alibaba announced its partnership with Alipay ePass, an online payment platform that will allow U.S. and other Western retailers access to Chinese shoppers. As many as 300 million Chinese customers have Alipay accounts—which means big opportunities for other retailers. And there is an increasing desire among Chinese shoppers for Western clothing and beauty brands.
Currently, 25 percent of all Gilt sales come from overseas, including the major markets of Canada, China, Korea, Australia and Japan.
Back in the United States, Gilt will be offering free, same-day shipping from Manhattan on special items on Dec. 22 and 23, and post-holiday sales will roll out Christmas Day.
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