Last year, New York City-based Gilt Groupe wanted to expand internationally. But the online luxury retailer faced all the headaches that come from trying to move product overseas: currency conversions; language barriers; obscure and seemingly random taxes, duties and postal regulations. In addition to straightforward e-commerce, Gilt hoped to offer its famous "flash sales"--brief special offers at a particular time of day, on a country-by-country basis, adjusted for different time zones and hemispheres.
After assessing its options (including UPS and International Checkout), Gilt signed on with Columbus, Ohio-based FiftyOne. Its Global Ecommerce platform localized Gilt's shopping site initially to 90 countries. "We saw improvement right off the bat in site activity but wanted to take time to work with FiftyOne on getting the currency conversions just right," says Gilt chief supply chain officer Christopher Halkyard. So Gilt implemented FiftyOne's technology in phases; its offerings are now in 100 countries.
The e-tailer wouldn't divulge international sales numbers, but the ambitious plan to expand with FiftyOne makes it clear Gilt is bullish on going global. "We felt FiftyOne's true value was in its systems integration, and the overall ability of its software to manage the currencies, taxes and everything else on a broad scale," Halkyard says.
Now Gilt plans to use FiftyOne to help customize its flash sales. "In our next phase of international growth, we want to be able to do something special for our customers in each country," Halkyard says. "Right now, they see the same deals at the same time, which might be an out-of-season time to shop where they are."
A Second Opinion
While Gilt Groupe did consider solutions from other vendors, FiftyOne seems like the best fit for what it had in mind, says Zia Daniell Wigder, vice president and research director of e-business and channel strategy at Forrester Research.
"The most common alternative would have been to have a local presence in each country instead of shipping internationally," she says. "FiftyOne offers a low-cost, low-risk way of addressing this need, though eventually, [Gilt] might want to look to localize even more with distribution and customer-care facilities. This is really a way of testing your international appeal as you continue to grow."
Dan O'Shea is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering telecom, mobile and other high-tech topics for nearly 20 years.