How much clothes shopping do you do online? Personally, I’ve not been an online clothes shopper because I like to try things on AND I don’t like driving to the post office to return what I didn’t like. Apparently, I’m NOT the norm. The latest statistics show that books, clothes and electronics are the most popular items purchased online.
Just to prove how clueless I am about online clothes shopping, when the review copy of By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop showed up I had NO IDEA what “GILT” was, and why millions would shop there.
So, like any good marketer, I immediately jumped online to take a look.
WOW – they had me at “best brands at up to 60% off.” I signed up. When I got into the site, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It wasn’t just clothes – it was a savvy, trendy, bargain shoppers’ dream for an online department store.
The other interesting thing they feature on the site is a series of low-cost guides for some of the most expensive cities in the country.
Now that you and I are on the same page about what GILT is – let’s take a look at the book.
From Pastime to Idea to Major Shopping Enterprise
The story of Gilt Groupe is one any entrepreneur can relate to. Alexis Maybank (@giltfounder) and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (@giltalexandra) were friends in Harvard who loved going to sample sales. For those of you (like me) who aren’t familiar, sample sales are used by retailers to discard excess merchandise that’s been used by agencies to sell products. These sales are an opportunity to get high-end designer merchandise at just a fraction of the cost.
After both having successful careers in their own right; Maybank launched eBay Canada and eBay Motors while Wilson worked for Merill Lynch, Luis Vuitton and Bulgari. By Invitation Only is the story of how these two friends turned their passion into a thriving online business.
Sample Lessons for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs
Throughout the book there are “checklists” that will guide any would-be entrepreneur through a start-up or launch of a new business or idea.
Here are a few examples I’ve picked out from several chapters:
- Do you believe in the concept?
- Do you believe in the founding team?
- Do you bring unique capabilities to the table?
- Do people naturally want to talk about the topic with friends?
- Hire for cultural fit and not just talent.
There are many, many more items in these checklists dealing with marketing, management and relationships. While reading this book won’t take you from idea to mega-bucks, the areas covered in each chapter will give any small business owner something to think about.
Who Will Benefit Most From Gilt?
While any entrepreneur or business owner could enjoy this book, I think that women business owners will relate to this book more so than their male counterparts. I say this because my observation of women business owners is that we have to feel a connection to the “topic” of our business. In other words, if we can relate to what we’re doing and feel engaged in the content of our business, then the management and innovation that’s required to be successful almost seems effortless.
Another reason why women business owners will enjoy this book is the way it’s written. It’s really a story about relationships both personal as well as professional. You’ll get to see how Alexis and Alexandra leveraged and managed their friendship inside of the enterprise and how they enrolled others to come along for the ride.
Of course, men will enjoy this book too, but for different reasons. The biggest lesson for the guys will be in learning about how women think about business and marketing. For example, relationships and word-of-mouth are critical success strategies for Gilt and you’ll see how Alexandra and Alexis leverage their respective strengths to make the most of these strategies.
By Invitation Only Is a Good Read That’s Full of Useful Insights
I would recommend By Invitation Only as an excellent book to read as you would a novel. After all, it is a story with true-to-life characters, challenges and successes. The only difference is that when you’re done reading, you will have walked away with insights about how to turn your passion into a successful business.
After you’ve read the book, hop on over to Gilt and check out the online samples sales. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for the experience.