Gilt.com is an innovative online shopping destination that offers its members special access to the most inspiring merchandise and experiences all at insider prices. Products and deals are uploaded to the site for approximately 72 hours and only members are able to access these exclusive deals. Essentially Gilt.com reinvents itself every single day and night, ensuring the experience is always new and fresh for its members.
Cynthia Kleinbaum is the Senior Director of Marketing at Gilt.com and focuses on customer retention, managing the company’s loyalty and referral programs as well as operations and customer service-related initiatives. She also spearheads brand and content strategy and the launch of Gilt By Appointment, a NYC-based offline shoppable showroom.
6 Questions with Cynthia...
1. What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation at Gilt?
I think the key reasons for Gilt to have an innovative culture are the people, the business model and the culture of empowerment that our founders and executive team have created. Gilt recruits and hires very smart, ambitious and creative people who want to work with people like them, so it becomes a virtuous cycle that keeps filling the company with the right type of talent.
As a "flash" retailer we reinvent the site every day -- more than once a day actually -- so we get to try new things easily and with a low level of risk. We have a very disciplined approach to AB testing, so when ideas have positive results they get implemented and when they don’t, we quickly move on to the next one.
Lastly, maybe because of the speed at which our business moves or maybe because we are still very much a start-up in a lot of ways, there is a high level of empowerment across all levels in the organization. I think that’s one of the things that draw great talent to Gilt.
2. Do you have any specific rituals for re-setting your team to be creative? How does your team generate new ideas?
To identify areas of opportunity and generate new ideas we take a customer-centric approach, focusing on understanding their deepest needs and insights through multiple quantitative and qualitative research initiatives. We are also active in the start-up community, which allows us to be beta partners for new businesses and products.
As for rituals to generate new ideas, I like to identify creative and passionate people across the company and invite them to brainstorming sessions. To make sure everybody’s ideas are heard and not only those of the more senior or louder people, ideas are written on Post-Its -- that way nobody knows who gave the idea -- and everyone gets five stickers to vote for the ones they think should move forward.
3. What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?
What to prioritize! As I mentioned, Gilt is full of smart, ambitious and creative people, so there are more ideas than time and resources to implement them.
4. How do you find ideas from adjacent industries? Or do you focus mostly on your category?
We definitely look to other industries, mostly but not exclusively online. For example, we got inspired by a travel site that uses "urgency-badges" to tell shoppers when something is about to sell out and have already implemented our own version on our site.
Another initiative I am currently inspired by is the activation offer of high-end workout studios, which give you access to a second class for free, instead of the first one. They probably understand the correlation between and second visit and a higher lifetime value, so they prioritize driving that second visit above all. I think we could leverage some of those insights ourselves and drive a second purchase as quickly as possible to generate stickiness.
5. How do you ensure you are getting trends and insights that your competitors aren't?
We have a great customer analytics team that generates insights from internal and third party data as well as quantitative and qualitative research. Besides the usual ways in which companies gather feedback, we also try to talk to them in person as much as possible. For example, we organize events for our best customers and listen to them interact with each other, which is powerful because it provides us with more natural and organic feedback that we can’t get by asking specific questions. We also provide our executive team the opportunity to talk one-on-one with some of our best customers to make sure their needs are being heard and taken into account when big decisions need to be made.
6. Looking to the future, how is Gilt going to be a leader in innovation?
I think that what has gotten us to where we are -- the people, the business model and the culture of empowerment -- will continue fueling a culture of innovation. I also think it will be very important to keep being humble, disciplined on our approach to testing and agile in our decision making process, to avoid becoming bureaucratic as we grow.