Inside the ‘Online Mall’ Simon has Created for its Outlet Brands

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Simon and Rue Gilt Group's Shop Premium Outlets marketplace is positioned as an online mall.

Many new marketplaces have emerged in the past few years. But even among that dense crowd, Shop Premium Outlets (SPO)It stands out. The first hint as to why comes from the platform’s owner — mall operator SimonCombined with the expertise of an ecommerce expert Rue Gilt Groupe(RGG, encompassing) Rue La LaAnd GiltSimon is now an investor in ).

Outlets are slower to move online than other verticals. This may be because they are a lower priority for most brands. But, for SPO they represent an opportunity.

Woodbury Commons in NY, one of Simon’s Premium Outlets locations.

“First and foremost, Simon cares about happy, healthy retailers because those are their tenants,”Neel Grover was interviewed by Shop Premium Outlets CEO in an interview. Retail TouchPoints. “They know that ecommerce is a big part of that so we’re trying to help brands where they may not have the capabilities to do something themselves or it may be on their roadmap for 12, 24, 36 months down the road.”

Because of Simon’s stake in the brick-and-mortar success of many of the brands on SPO, the way the company has approached its marketplace is very different.

We share a lot of the data and we move consumers into their full-price environment,”Grover. “I’ve had a couple of brand CEOs literally say this is the most perfect thing for them because they can remove that [discount] product off their site, or not even have their own online outlet, because they’ve seen their consumer move downward and not move back up. And because we’re marketing to a different consumer, we open up our customers to their brands. The brands are able to drive sales, move the [off-price] inventory and introduce [those customers] into full-price because [we enable] the brand to market to them directly. It’s a very symbiotic relationship that no other marketplace does today, not a single one.”

Grover would know — he’s spent the last 20Years spent helping to build some of America’s largest marketplaces, starting at a time when this model was not as common. In the early 2000s, he was President & CEO of Buy.comHe made the platform a primarily first-party platform and it became a marketplace that eventually became third largest in the U.S. AmazonAnd eBay. Japanese market juggernaut Buy.com acquired. Rakuten in 2010; Grover ran that company’s North American business for several years before joining a private equity firm that bought fashion site Bluefly.comHe helped to turn it into a market and then ran it.  

“I’ve done four marketplaces before; I wasn’t [really in the mindset] to go do another one, but SPO offered the opportunity to do all the things you could never do being a pure-play online retailer because of the Simon side of things,”Grover. “SPO is an open sandbox, so much of the stuff we’re doing is blue water. We get to think of solutions that help the brands and help the consumer in so many different ways that haven’t been done.

These are the differentiators:

  • The mission is to disrupt the value shopping industry by The online availability of the historically under-indexed off price category;
  • Making brands the heroes in the experience and giving them more control over their presence and how it’s marketed;
  • Collaboration with data expertsto make the partnership mutually profitable;
  • Leveraging Simon’s physical presence to offer fulfillment options and experiences that online pure-plays can’t;
  • Actively seeking out ways to move customers from SPO into a brand’s own ecosystems;
  • Helping others “light up”Outlet inventory, much of which isn’t already available online.

The Goal: To Disrupt the Online Value Shopping Market

Shop Premium Outlets was launched as an affiliate site in early 2019, where customers could find products and were redirected to the respective brand sites to make purchases. Simon came along later that year. teamed upRGG and Michael Rubin, entrepreneur and Executive Chairman at RGG, as well as the Founder and Executive Chair of another enterprising online company, Fanatics. The partnership was described by a “multi-platform venture dedicated to digital value shopping,”SPO would play a key role in this.

The online value shopping market is a massive opportunity ready for the next disruptor,” said Rubin at the time of the deal. “This transaction brings together the leaders in online and physical commerce to deliver the excitement of outlet shopping online to consumers and innovative solutions to our brand partners.”

Grover was able to bring along a few things with him. dozenSo did so colleagues from previous ventures, and made SPO into A marketplace Based on the Mirakl platform. This allowed, among other things, for the creation a Unified shopping cartSo shoppers can purchase directly from almost 250 There are many brands featured on this site.

Shop Premium Outlets advertisement at a Premium Outlets location.

We get the best of both companies — we get the benefits of the vast consumer database of Rue Gilt Groupe, all the experience they have in flash sales and their relationship with thousands of brands,”Grover. “And the best of everything from Simon, utilizing their great relationships with these premier luxury brands as well as their millions of customers who have signed up across billions of shopping visits each year at their locations.”

It’s important to note that SPO is not limited to outlet product nor to Simon’s Premium Outlets tenants. The site features a range brands offerings. Outlet, clearance and on-sale productsWhile not all brands are Simon outlet customers, they all fall within the premium or luxury tier.

The platform is commission-based. Most orders are fulfilled via drop shipping. However, BOPIS options are becoming more popular. SPO has access to RGG warehouses through the Simon partnership. This means that the platform can now do managed fulfillment for brands and ship on their behalf.

“[Marketplaces are] a great thing for consumers, but it can be tough for brands because they want to own that relationship, and many feel like they’re just helping strengthen [sites like] Amazon every time they work with them,”Grover. “Because I dealt with that ‘Amazon effect’ and competed with them for so many years, I really wanted to do things at SPO differently. I like to think of SPO as less of a marketplace, more of a shop-in-shop location or an online mall. We want to work with the brands directly and really extend that brand presence from what they do on their own site and their own experience onto our platform.”

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Brands are the ‘Heroes of the Experience’

Dior's storefront on Shop Premium Outlets
Dior’s storefront on the Shop Premium Outlets site.

Simon CEO and President David Simon had promised that SPO would be launched when he was named president. “the brands will be the heroes of the experience and will not get lost in the crowd.”

SPO is delivering on that promise — Each brand has its own identity “storefront,”Just like a physical mall where they can use their creative assets. Brands also get to They can decide how they want their presence on the platform marketed, or whether they don’t want it to be. “Some of our brands don’t want to be promoted and just want to be here when a consumer looks for their brand,”Grover. “Certain brands want to be behind a registration gate. All of that is totally fine with us — we’ve got our own big brand that we’re continuing to build, so we just push the customer there.”

Indeed, the SPO brand drives most of the marketing, which in addition to all the typical digital channels also includes promotion to Simon’s Premium Outlets store customer database and outdoor advertising at Premium Outlets locations.

SPO isn’t Stingy with its Data

“Being the marketplace is great, because you own a lot of data, you learn a lot about the customer and you’re helping the brands because you’re driving sales for them,”Grover. “It’s definitely beneficial for brands, they’ve got to be where the traffic is, but the marketplace itself is benefiting additionally — just look at Amazon. We share a lot of that data with the brands, and in many cases the brand can actually remarket to that consumer back to their own site as well. So we really become a collaborative partner with our brands, unlike any other marketplace.”

SPO works regularly with brands to analyze traffic and performance. Grover indicated that loyalty integrations are also on the horizon. This will allow for further expansion of these data-sharing initiatives. “We’re trying to really help you not only to sell better on our site but sell better on your own site in your own ecosystem,”Grover.

Fulfillment Options Not Usually Available to Marketplaces

Access to physical retail sites is an asset that can’t be underrated, and Simon is leveraging that advantage to the fullest. Grover believes that SPO became the first marketplace in the world to offer BOPIS (buy online, pick-up in-store) last year. at brands’ stores(Not, like other marketplaces such as Amazon) WalmartAnd Best BuyYou can find it at the marketplace banner. And the service isn’t just offered at Premium Outlets stores; in some cases, brands opt to Consumers can pick up their off-priced purchases at full-price retail locationsThese stores are usually more easily located and more plentiful than outlet shops.

SPO Wants Customers are welcome to shop at other locations

“We want to drive you into that store, because we care about the brand’s overall health and also, of course, because we’re owned by Simon,” said Grover, but that ambition isn’t restricted to Simon-owned properties. Another, broader aim is to get those customers into brands’ full-price funnel, digital or physical.

“Because we’ve got on-sale product from full-price stores, we’re dragging people into their full-price environment,”Grover explained. Data sharing allows brands to engage SPO customers and possibly shift them into their wider ecosystem. Some brands double down on these efforts. SPO offers exclusive discount prices.

Outlet Stores Offer a Unique Inventory Opportunity

Outlets also provide a prime opportunity for new products to be introduced to consumers. “outlets have a tremendous amount of inventory that, for the most part, is not lit up,”Grover agreed. “I think of it almost like our own private version of Google — there’s all this inventory that nobody else is able to light up and that we can make so much more convenient for consumers to buy.

Shop Premium Outlet's livestreaming.

“Look at the retailers that are doing so well, like Target and Nordstrom using store inventory to fulfill ecommerce orders,”He concluded. “Brands want to get there, but they’re not there yet, so we’re trying to leapfrog and help them open up that store inventory, especially because we’ve got a playground that no one else can tie into.”

SPO is unique in this way. Livestreaming events are done from Premium Outlets locations. The sessions are recorded in the store, with store associates showing products. They are then uploaded to SPO where customers can place orders directly.

“We’ve done [livestreams] all over, and it’s really fun because with every store there’s different inventory and different scenery,”Grover. “Now brands are asking to do it more often, because they’re seeing the halo effect of driving consumers into the store as well. At the end of the day, it’s about driving that store environment, driving that excitement and ultimately driving sales.”

As far as Grover is concerned the sky’s the limit for SPO, and he’s not stopping at off-price: “We’ve got 70 outlets around the country and hundreds of malls that eventually we’ll be tying into and doing things with. We’re just scratching the surface right now.”

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