From Flash to Full: Gilt Groupe’s John Auerbach

by Elise Diamantini

John Auerbach is spearheading Gilt Groupe’s new full-price men’s e-commerce site.

Gilt Groupe, the e-commerce firm famous for limited-time designer sample sales, has had a major impact on online retail by introducing the flash sale model. With more than 400,000 Gilt Man customers and Gilt Groupe’s $100 million-plus men’s business, the company is launching a full-price menswear site scheduled to go live in July 2011. John Auerbach rose through the ranks at Gilt and will head up the men’s site as president.

You’ve been with Gilt since its inception. What have you learned? I was actually Gilt’s fifth employee, hired in October 2007. I’ve grown up with Gilt as it’s grown. What we’ve all learned is that it’s very different working at a flash sale site than a regular e-commerce site because you’re building out a new store every day. And that’s the beauty of the flash sale model; we have different brands, assortments and offerings every day. And now with the addition of the full-price site (Editor’s note: The new site will have a different name, but hadn’t been decided at press time.) we’ll be able to cover the whole retail spectrum for men.

What’s one of your goals as president? We want to revolutionize full-price men’s e-commerce the same way we impacted the flash sale market. No one focuses on men’s needs and how they want to shop online. It’s a challenge, but we have a great team already assembled. (Editor’s note: The new men’s team includes: men’s DMM Brooke Cundiff, formerly of Saks, and Gilt Man editorial director Tyler Thoreson, formerly of Andy Comer, another GQ/ alum, will be the executive editor, and Brian Kalma, formerly of Zappos, will head up user experience.)

How did the full-price site come about? It’s the logical next step. We were the first to launch a flash sale site with a dedicated men’s entrance with Gilt Man. We are moving into full-price for the same reason: Men shop differently than women, and they deserve an e-commerce experience designed with their needs in mind.

Will there be crossover with brands between the two sites? There will certainly be common brands between the two sites, but never the same merchandise at the same time. You can expect brands that have done incredibly well on Gilt Man to carry over onto the new site.

Other than price and time, how will the two sites differ? Content. The site will be a trusted resource—both for the world’s best clothes, accessories and gear, and also for advice and information on how guys can incorporate those things into their daily lives with confidence and style. It’s often said that women tend to buy something they like and then find an occasion to wear it, while men will think about the occasion and outfit themselves accordingly. The new site will reflect this distinction, offering guys the clothes and advice they need to look their best, whatever setting they find.

How will the sales site be integrated with editorial?Building on the successful launch of our blog, the new site will include an ever-expanding database of authoritative and entertaining how-to content, as well as smart, engaging and lushly-produced features on the latest trends in fashion and style—plus travel, culture, gear and more. Some of the how-to’s from GiltManual are relevant no matter where you buy the product and each site will have its own content strategy. There’s going to be a lot more use of video in Gilt itself and certainly in the full-price site. Being able to buy from video is something that everyone is starting to play with now and we’re definitely exploring that as well.

What about marketing strategies?We’re working through some of the specifics, but our idea is to bring the personalities here at Gilt out to our customers and interact more closely with them (using social media like Facebook and Twitter). We need to understand what they’re thinking, feeling and what they want to see, so we can be responsive to them.

Do you buy on Gilt? I’m a huge Gilt shopper. Today I have on Malo cashmere suit (retail: $1,998; Gilt retail: $998), Antonio Maurizi shoes (retail: $615; Gilt retail: $258), and a Masons shirt (retail: $175; Gilt retail: $78). And that’s just one day!