By Invitation Only

If you use the Internet, you are a) able to read this blog post and b) have likely shopped online. E-commerce on the Internet has changed the way people browse, spend and save.

While powerhouses such as Amazon and eBay dominate the online shopping scene, small local boutiques are beginning to show a demand for e-commerce websites. I consider these “traditional” online storefronts: see the product, add to your digital shopping cart and purchase electronically. Another popular mode of e-commerce is a blend of online and standard shopping: you purchase a gift card electronically and cash it in at the actual place of business.

But consumers want to feel privileged and anybody with Internet has access to a pair of shoes on Zappos or discounted gift card on Groupon. To cater to these consumers another form of e-commerce emerged – invitation-only online shopping.

Private sites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and Shop It To Me require individuals to receive an invitation and create a login account in order to access the site. Once “in” the store, discounted designer items are available to purchase, similar to a “traditional” online storefront. The difference is a member must invite you to join, the quantities are limited and items are only available for a certain period of time.

The major benefit is members have access to exclusive designer goods at discounted prices. In addition, members are often given incentives for inviting friends via email such as earning a $25 gift card when a friend makes their first purchase.

Invitation-only shopping is a successful e-commerce sales model for several reasons:

  1. The consumer feels entitled because they were invited to join and the site is not accessible to non-members.
  2. The consumer receives “exclusive” discounts on products and incentives for inviting new members.
  3. Consumers can shop for designer items from their home and avoid shuffling through the tangled sales rack at a luxury store.
  4. The items are only available for a limited time, forcing consumers to make hasty purchasing decisions.

E-commerce has changed the way Americans shop by allowing consumers to purchase products from anywhere in the country. It doesn’t matter if the nearest Neiman Marcus is 500 miles away, it’s accessible online. Therefore, invitation-only shopping’s main allure is it’s restricted accessibility.