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How Gilt.com dresses up its sales to Chinese web shoppers

April 27, 2015 10:58 AM
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Gilt.com sells the kind of Western brands China’s increasingly affluent consumers covet, such as Balenciaga, Valentino and Armani. And the web-based retailer’s sales to China have grown since taking steps to make it more comfortable for Chinese shoppers to purchase.

One big step was adding as a payment option Alipay, the PayPal-like online payment service offered by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. that Alibaba says boasts 300 million users. Gilt.com, the flash-sale site operated by Gilt Groupe Inc., No. 68 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, added Alipay to its checkout page in October, and saw the impact on Nov. 11, the big online shopping day in China known as Singles’ Day: Sales to China were 10 times greater on Singles’ Day last year than they were a year earlier, Marshall Porter, Gilt’s senior vice president of international, tells Internet Retailer.

“Alipay helps Gilt grow our business faster in China,” Porter says. “Now half of our Chinese customers pay by using Alipay, while others use credit cards of international card organizations like Visa and MasterCard.”

Gilt, which has an international team of 20 employees, has also taken other steps to make purchasing more appealing for Chinese online shoppers. Gilt translates all the pages in the checkout flow into Chinese, and lets consumers enter such information as name and address in Chinese characters, instead of forcing them to use the Roman characters of Western languages.

“At this time we can’t translate every product description on our site, as Gilt.com uploads 3,000 to 5,000 new product listings every day,” Porter says, “but we have Chinese consumer service representatives who can answer questions from Chinese consumers instantly through live chat.”

Gilt does not disclose its sales from China, but the web-only retailer says about 20% of its sales come from consumers outside of the United States.

While Gilt doesn’t operate in China, it is getting out the word in China about its U.S.-based site.

“We have opened accounts on Chinese social networks Weibo and Wechat,” Porter says. “We also purchase ads on Chinese search engine Baidu.com and on Alibaba’s online ad platform, Alimama.” He says referrals from friends have proven to be the best form of marketing, and Gilt.com now provides a $25 credit to Chinese consumers who recommend it to their friends.

 

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