‘5 for 5’ with Craig Kapilow, Rue Gilt Groupe



We are resuming our ‘5 for 5’ series – a series that asks industry leaders to define their experiences in five answers in five minutes, although the conversations typically last longer. To kick it off, we are introducing Craig Kapliow, Senior Director of Brand Partnerships and Integrated Marketing at Rue Gilt Groupe. Under its name, Rue Gilt Groupe owns Gilt and Rue La La, two fashion e-commerce websites and the recently acquired Shop Premium Outlets. 

In this chat, Kapilow discusses the benefits of customized and engaging premium content with partners such as Alfa Romero and Dunkin’ over programmatic offerings on both Rue La La and Gilt’s websites. 

1. Introduction 

Industry Influencer: Craig Kapilow, Senior Director of Brand Partnerships and Integrated Marketing

Please tell us about Rue Gilt Groupe and your role specifically. 

Rue Gilt Groupe is a combination of three different companies, Rue La La, Gilt and Shop Premium Outlets. SPO is our newest business venture, but doesn’t apply to the conversation today.   

Rue La La and Gilt offers its customers access to the best brands in the world at a fraction of the price, but only for a short period of time. They come frequently to shop brands ranging from Golden Goose to Tumi, KitchenAid to Estee Lauder, Gucci to Moncler and more, as well to engage with compelling lifestyle themes.  Example themes include everything from Magazine Worthy Homes to One Stop Glam Shop to Luxury Holiday Essentials to Back To School and beyond. For our members, what we offer is shoppable content, an incredibly powerful form of new media.

Despite the similarity in business model, both sites speak to a very different customer, much in the same way Ulta and Sephora or Saks and Bloomingdale’s do. Gilt sits deeply in the world of luxury, with an audience that knows exactly what it wants. GIlt is very sleek, extremely elevated and a perfect channel to target a premium customer. Rue also speaks to an affluent customer, but ranges from aspirational luxury into luxury. The Rue site is colorful and playful, with a customer who truly enjoys shopping via compelling story-telling.   

I oversee our paid media business, partnering with brands and ad agencies interested in engaging with our unique, highly desirable, consumption ready audience. In some cases, this happens through full-on on site custom content integrations (from desktop to app, email, mobile push notifications, social and beyond), while in other cases we’re running paid media programs that focus on thematic story branding with a commerce component. I also oversee our in-box sampling and insert business, which is a proven medium for creating product awareness and supporting e-commerce revenue.

2. What makes Rue Gilt Groupe Unique and How Does It Benefit Brands? 

We’re not a traditional publisher serving up programmatic advertising, but rather two of the most exciting e-comm companies in the world. Our partners place a high value on the impact that engaging content can have in helping to create an emotional connection with their brand. These partners see an incredibly high value in engaging with our audience, which is largely an affluent female with high HHI, is digitally native and extremely consumption ready. Our customers engage with us an average of 20 times a month.  

3. Given the impact of the current world, how has Rue Gilt navigated this? In turn, why should brands who are starting to regain their budgets, look to work specifically with Rue Gilt Groupe? 

Despite the pandemic, both businesses are extremely healthy and growing. We’ve shifted our content strategy to be reflective of the times and have had success introducing messaging at unexpected times during the day. Our audience has responded to relevant content that gives her access to things like yoga pants on the bottom and work wear on top. We’ve seen our customers actively seek out even more from our home, beauty, comfort wear and luxury goods business as well as wanting a lot of wine. My boss (our chief merchant) really summed up our forever mission of making sure we always focus on giving the customer exactly what she wants.  If we do this – great brands and hyper relevant themes – she’ll come back for more and hopefully tell a friend.

Why should brands work with us? Content should be a core part of any brand’s marketing strategy. While I appreciate the nimbleness of programmatic advertising, I see the power in content to create an emotional response. Everyone I know is talking about the Nike ad, and I’ve never heard anyone mention the ability of a banner to create a deeper connection to a brand. I think it’s important for brands to be multifaceted in their media spend. We can help brands reach an incredibly valuable consumer through truly unique content campaigns.

4. What was the most unique activation you’ve been able to do for a client?

A few stand out. Years ago, as part of a launch partnership for The Life of Pi, we actually sold the boat in the movie. Last year, we launched Alfa Romeo on Gilt, creating an Italian luxury story, whereby customers could register to take a test drive with an incentive while shopping the Valentino, Prada and Gucci looks you’d want to be seen while driving away in a new car. Two other favorites are when we launched a season of “American Horror Story,” focused on fashionable witches. We actually sent models up to Salem, Mass., the scene of the witch trials, and allowed our customers to shop Chanel, YSL and Prada in this rich neo-gothic landscape. It supported the number two launch of the season. I also love what we did with Dunkin.’ We created a custom shoppable program called Girl On The Go, with three shoppable vignettes. Each look was paired to one of their beverages, i.e. fall layers and Hunter boots with caramel macchiato. The program earned 100 million press impressions and was a great success.

5. Anything else buyers/brands/agencies should keep in mind moving forward? 

While most people think of us for fashion, our digital partnership business has been a fit for travel, auto, entertainment, CPG, subscription and alcohol. We’re also a longstanding partner for many brands (particularly in the DTC space) interested in branding and customer acquisition.    Our sampling business is also a great platform for brands looking to put marketing materials in the actual boxes sent to our customers.  

BONUS: What advice would you give someone who is just starting out in the industry?

Know your audience and product and think about how you can help a business partner before reaching out. I’ve also learned that it’s helpful to always be flat. You’ll have a lot of wins and many failures throughout your career. If you can be flat, and not get too high or low, you’ll do just fine in the long term. 

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