So I’ve been reviewing the social commerce landscape for the last month – customer reviews, deal feeds, shopping widgets, social shopping…  But there is one social commerce application I’ve yet to cover, and it’s is perhaps the biggest, the private shopping club – with the fabulously successful Vente-Privée as the poster child.


Currently valued at $1.5 billion with estimated sales of €650m, and being courted by the likes of Ebay, Gilt and Amazon, Vente-Privée is a social commerce site that sells overstock luxury fashion goods online in Europe (Wikipedia article).

The social bit is that Vente-Privée is an invitation-only club, to join you have to be recommended by a member, who receives a voucher when you make your first purchase.  It’s a well oiled referral program.  More importantly, it’s a well oiled sales machine; slick online “pop-up retail” stores appear at scheduled dates at midnight, stores that are designed by in-house designers and an army of photographers, and usually by breakfast, they have sold out.

In it’s birth country of France, Vente-Privée has a ludicrous proportion of the national female population signed up (figures I’ve heard bandied around have been as high as 50%).  So successful has this form of social commerce been to Vente Privée, that it is moving from over-stock into current season luxury fashion, working for example with Chloé.  Of course overstock sites are not new – but the combination of luxury, fashion and exclusivity have made Vente-Privée one of the biggest European Web success stories.

Vente-Privée clones have been popping up all over Europe, BrandAlley (UK), KupiVIP (Russia), BuyVIP (Spain), brands4friends (Germany).  And the luxury private shopping/buying club concept has hopped across the Atlantic to the US in the form of ideeli and OneKingsLane.

Two things strike me, regarding Vente-Privée and it’s clones.

Firstly, I’d say there is a huge opportunity for these private shopping clubs to embrace new social commerce technology, that wasn’t around when they were set up.  For example Vente-Privée could significantly boost sales by using Facebook Connect, reviews, co-browsing, streaming Fashion Shows etc.  Even something as simple as offering an RSS feed or Facebook newsfeed of upcoming sales would help.

Secondly, and perhaps more interestingly, the evolution of social commerce technology into simple turnkey software makes it possible for brands to begin setting up their own invitation only private shopping clubs within social networks or even on their own sites. It would be a smart way to boost brand sales, loyalty, advocacy and brand equity.

If I had to bet on a social commerce technology for the future – the private shopping club would be it.