Luxury Site Sees Opportunities in Aha Moments

Discussion
Jul 11, 2011
Bernice Hurst

Austerity, recession, belt-tightening and bargains have become watchwords for retailers and consumers over the past few years. But have they destroyed the joy of shopping? The flash sale website Ahalife.com doesn’t think so and has opened its doors to shoppers who shop for the love of it, unconcerned about bargains or price, but looking for sheer, unadulterated, luxurious pleasure.

Ahalife’s signature sales point is "curation," recommendations from trusted advisers for wonderful products customers might otherwise struggle to find. Entrepreneur and founder, Shauna Mei, explained to New York Times reporter, Pamela Rickman, that she "offers niche products suggested by a variety of ‘trendsetters and tastemakers.’"

"Tastemakers" are said to include Diane von Furstenberg, Wendi Murdoch, Tina Brown, Tim Gunn and Lauren Bush.

Explaining why Aha differs from women’s magazines, she added, "I haven’t read print for three years and neither have my friends. … There’s a ton of content online, but it’s not curated. We can’t separate the good from the bad." Ms. Mei’s "aha!" moment has reportedly attracted investors from banks, management consultancies and luxury retailers.

Determined to avoid targeting anyone who might resemble a "frumpy" housewife, Aha’s products are largely imported, targeting big spenders aiming to be trendsetters. Excitement and inspiration to be tempted and spend are part of the deal, along with the actual products.

Like other flash sale sites, Aha features one offer a day from categories such as fashion, food, beauty, accessories, home décor, tech and travel. Aha’s business model is based on consignment buys rather than stockholding, with potential profits coming from a traditional wholesale/retail relationship.

Courtney Boyd Myers at thenextweb.com has joined numerous bloggers singing the site’s praises, especially the Influencer Network which enables users to share their experiences and gain rewards.

Market research included an April 1 Royal Wedding package complete with London hotel room, car, driver and other accessories for $25,000. Once a waiting list had established that demand existed, potential customers were told the offer was a joke and given a free gift. Ms Mei’s gift was a conviction that she had a viable (not a joke) concept.

Discussion Questions: Is the joy of shopping enough incentive for a luxury website without any discounts or special offers? Does the value of ’curated’ selections work as well online as in high-end retail?

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8 Comments on "Luxury Site Sees Opportunities in Aha Moments"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

It all depends on the endgame. If you want to make a lot of money off of a few people the answer may be yes. If your goals are broader than that, the answer is less clear.

The value of curated selection is more dependent on the credibility of the curator than the channel the goods flow through. Trust–as they say–is blind so it probably doesn’t need physical reinforcement to succeed.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This will appeal to a specific group of consumers. However, not all consumers view shopping as a “joy” so they are not likely to be attracted to this site. There is no one-site-fits-all.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 10 months ago

Based on numerous studies that show upper income consumers are heavy users of coupons, generic brands and discount retailers, I would have to say no. Also Gallup data consistently shows that since 2008 the price-conscious “new normal” has affected upper income consumers’ daily spending habits considerably. Keep in mind that many wealthy people got that way by being careful with their money. The biggest mistake a retailer targeting high-end consumers can make is that price is no concern. It is.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
9 years 10 months ago

In a word…yes. The thrill of the unique and exclusive is indeed enough to bring the rich out to play. And frankly, this is the rarefied air that such sites need to target with lux offerings in order to succeed. While the “aspirational shopper” may be a relic of the early 2000s, the uber-rich are alive and well, according to most economic data.

Hold the discounts and heap on the exclusivity and Ahalife should do just fine.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

There have always been–and likely always will be–people with lots of time and money, but no real lives, who want to buy one wherever they can find it; so I think Ms. Mei has found a niche…until she loses interest, gets a $$$B buyout offer from Google/Facebook/Microsoft/et al, or Tim Gunn (whoever he is) ceases to be a “tastemaker”…whichever comes first.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
9 years 10 months ago

A lot of people who love shopping are “browsers” not spenders. I do not like shopping for the sake of shopping, but my wife does. And yet I am a bigger spender than she is. Unless you offer a nice product to a nice market (exotic vacations to the “money is no object” crowd), I think retailers are best to play it safe: value, compelling seasonal programs and great service.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

There are a number of upscale, lower-profile companies that recommend products and even go so far as creating custom “virtual closets” for their upscale, online customers. These are high-value, very exclusive services that come at a premium price. So, yes, the joy of shopping when tied to a value-add can help to eliminate the need for discounts. This high-level of service is the special offer and provides the value to justify the price of the merchandise.

It will be interesting to watch this endeavor to see if the model works for a single, daily product offering.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 10 months ago
One more interesting paragraph from the nextweb article: Mei believes AHAlife has the potential to be ‘the future trusted media company with a buy button.’ “If you think about the various publications and magazines out there, most of them have not really explored e-commerce,” she says. “We believe in content + commerce + curation and I think this trend will continue to last in the next five years. I see AHAlife as the go-to destination for brands to launch the coolest lifestyle products from around the world and where the most discerning consumers go to discover the best the world has to offer.” I think Ms. Mei has truly hit on something special–combining the joy of the hunt, ‘belonging’ to the cool crowd, and the desire to be noticed into one very hot shopping social site. The way she is handling curated selections is unique and exciting and will allow the site to be a key product launch platform and a place “to see and be seen.” Kudos to Ms. Mei for coming up with… Read more »
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