Era of the Social Consumer: The Rise of the Private Sale Sites

By: Kelly Ahern, guest blogger

Brian Solis said it best,

“What may sound like buzz words or mere hype, is actually the beginning of the end of business as usual. Welcome to the rise of the social consumer and a new era of social commerce”.

In today’s society there isn’t a thing you cannot find online. Shopping has never been easier—and for a fashionista with a spending problem, like myself, online social commerce has become my drug.

For the Love of Fashion

There are a variety of forms that one can get their fix; whether you take part in Solis’ discussed methods of brand socialization and geo-location incentives or simply make your purchases via the Internet and the privacy of your own home, social shopping is all around us.
The latest form of e-commerce to grab a hold is the ever popular private sale site.

Many are familiar with discount shopping sites such as ideeli , Gilt Groupe, and HauteLook. These incredible fashion gems make top designer products available at affordable prices; nearly all are 50 to 70% off the original price.

Admission to these fashion “clubs” comes with the release of your email address, a small price to pay in order to set up your bargain hunting account.

Members typically receive a daily email announcing current sales, upcoming features and a strategic reminder of when some of the best discounts will expire… forever.

Some also give you the option to pay for a more privileged membership which will allow you the opportunity to preview sales and make purchases before others; giving you that much needed head start and advantage when it comes to hot, must-have items.

It’s this idea of feeling special and important that helps these private sales sites thrive—that and the fact that they offer great credit incentives when you invite your posse of shopaholic friends.

Not only do you feel rewarded for being an “inside” member of a fashion-appreciative community, but you enjoy the sense of victory that comes with snagging a couture cocktail dress for nearly half its original price.

Almost a year ago, TechCrunch wrote about the value of these private sales sites.

The post talked about how these sites generating funding, and mentions how the sample sale site, Beyond the Rack, was seeing “4 million monthly unique visitors, with revenue growing over 50 percent per month.”

All of this was said to be achieved with its 600,000 members and after just barely cataloguing 9 months of operation.

Well a lot has certainly changed in a year, because after visiting the site myself, Beyond the Rack proudly boasts that they are currently serving 2.5 million members.

With all of that said, would you dare to believe that the constantly evolving social commerce world is progressing yet again?

Well it is, and this time it’s not fashion lovers that the site is targeting—it’s wine enthusiasts.

The Birth of Lot18

Lot18 is the newest version of the membership-by-invitation website, this time geared towards wine and epicurean products from high-end producers at very attractive discounted prices.

Following the lead of other money-making online private sale sites, like those mentioned above, Lot 18 will be offering access to fine wines and specialty foods made in small quantities and sold at affordable prices.

According to Mashable,

“For wine producers, it’s also a win.”

A recent Mashable post explained the value proposition of Lot18 stating that,

“Wineries often struggle to generate brand awareness among potential customers who have not heard of or tasted their wines.

An online presence, via a website or social platforms, can help, but even then, engagement is difficult.

The Lot18 team personally sources and reviews each wine that is presented as a deal, and the wineries manage the sales and shipping processes.

This model ensures quality wines, as the Lot18 team is well-versed in viticulture and enology, and enables wineries to reach new markets.”

Lot18 was founded by Philip James, founder of the world’s largest wine site,, and Kevin Fortuna, a veteran technology entrepreneur.

Earlier this month, the site completed a $3 million Series A round of funding, led by NYC-based venture capital firm, FirstMarkCapital.

It’s clear that Lot18 and its creators hope to make quite an impact on not only the winemaking industry but the world of social commerce as well.

If you’re interested in trying out the new site, Mashable has 1,000 invites up for grabs—give it a try and sign up here!

It’s going to be quite interesting to see how the role of the private sale site evolves further as well as the role of the social consumer. In this day and age, it’s clear that social branding is king and the more web-savvy brands get the better their chances to hook consumers online in the comfort of their own home.


Kelly Ahern is a recent Roger Williams Univeristy graduate living in New England. Graduating with a degree in Communications-Public Relations and a Core Concentration in Italian, Ahern is an aspiring PR professional who loves social networking, fashion and traveling. Currently she is a Social Media Architect for a Rhode Island-based digital marketing firm. You can find her on Twitter @Kelly_Ahern.

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