VELVET ROPE RETAIL: Why Rue La La Is So Addictive For Women

Photo: Rue La La Spring Campaign

Rue La La is the second-largest flash sales site in the world. In 2011, the site saw dramatic growth and had close to $300 million in sales.In 2011, spending on flash sales on sites like Gilt (the biggest) and ideeli increased by 21 per cent, according to American Express Business Insights. While significant, that is a long way off the 92 per cent gain that flash sales had in 2010. Based on the numbers, some analysts believe that flash sites are past their peak.

But down in the trenches of shopping, it seems like these sites have never been more popular. Every day, in thousands of offices all over the country, stacks of boxes from Rue La La pile up as anxious female staffers abandon their cubicles to search the mail room.

Although the Boston-based Rue La La laid off 11 per cent of its 500-employee workforce in January, it expects similar sales growth in 2012.

Rue La La’s confidence, no doubt, comes from the knowledge that the site has gained an almost obsessive following amongst women.

Rue La La works the same way that gossip does: word of mouth.

Rue La La relied entirely on word-of-mouth to recruit its more than 5 million members. Users must be invited by a friend in order to join and have access to the sales.

And even when you are a member, some sales are only open to small groups.

Some sales are only open to small groups of members. According to its Facebook page, Rue La La tries to 'surprise and delight' all of its members with special invite-only boutiques. This makes some members feel very special.

Those who aren't invited can get pretty angry, like this woman.

Because sales start precisely at 11 a.m., and end 48 hours later, there is only a short period of time for users to buy the items before the clock runs out or the item is sold out.

'We have been successful not because we are selling merchandise at a value, but because we are creating urgency and excitement,' said CEO Ben Fischman to TheStreet.com. 'Amazon is about convenience, but great retail isn't about convenience,' he added.

And with big name brands at a discount, there is plenty of excitement.

Rue La La doesn't feature no-name brands. The company has built ongoing partnerships with some of the biggest names in fashion. Those brands provide Rue La La with their latest fashions, and in return it sends plenty of traffic to those brands' websites.

Brands that have been featured on the site lately include:

  • Hermes
  • YSL
  • Coach
  • Balenciaga
  • Lily Pulitzer
  • Chloe

They are a one-stop shop.

Rue La La doesn't only sell women's and men's clothes. You can also purchase shoes, accessories, housewares, food, wine, pet accessories, and local restaurant deals on Rue La La.

The site has even branched out to travel, selling stays at luxury resorts, like these in Greece.

And it's more reasonable than some of its competitors.

Identical items from French Connection went on sale on Rue La La and ideeli in mid-March. Rue La La sold these shirts (original retail value of $48) for $19.90 each, while ideeli priced the items at $24.99 each.

Hautelook actually undercut Rue La La's price on these same items, so it is not the cheapest of the flash sale sites. But since Hautelook was only $0.90 cheaper, we think we can call it a tie.

You can shop anywhere with your iPhone or iPad ... and women do.

The percentage of customers buying from a mobile phone has increased from 10% to 75% over the past two years.

Shoppers using phones, tablets, and computers to shop on Rue La La were 540 per cent more likely to make a purchase than those who only used one device.

For some people, shipping only costs $9.95 a month.

If you only purchase from Rue La La less once a month (or less), $9.95 is a little steep for shipping. But there are plenty of shoppers who save a lot of money with Rue La La's monthly shipping policy.

Like @YesImMeg, who tweeted:

'The UPS guy came into the office and called me 'Ruelala.' I might have a small problem.'

If there's a real problem with your order, there is a Twitter-based concierge to handle it.

Amy B. is the Rue La La Concierge. She responds to questions about orders, getting on wait lists, and any other issues customers might be having via Twitter.

Lindsey Worthy posted on Rue La La's Facebook page:

'I love Rue La La's customer service! I've had a couple issues with purchases and they're always friendly and handle them with no questions asked!!'

Rue La La relies on social media -- including Pinterest -- for almost all its customer relationships ...

Rue La La does very little traditional advertising. Instead it relies on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and its blog to reach members.

It's most recent campaign, 'mum's of Style,' is being run completely on Pinterest. Users are asked to create a board about their mum's style and the top three will be featured in a Rue La La Mother's Day boutique.

... And to build a brand that reflects our likes and dislikes.

Rue La La uses social media to show that it is just like all of us. It's obsessed with Mad Men and cake pops and bright-coloured jeans ...

The result is a growing obsession online, among women, with Rue La La.

Based on tweets and Facebook posts, there are some people with some serious shopping addictions out there. Even this little girl loves Rue La La.

And Rue is now one of the most popular baby names in the country...

We actually have The Hunger Games to thank for this, but Rue La La didn't shy away from the free publicity.

Now that you've seen why people are obsessed with Rue La La ...

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