Today, Jetsetter, the luxury vacation deals site (think flash sales on villas in St. Vincent or a pied-à-terre in Paris) announced the appointment of its first-ever chief marketing officer, Barry Herstein. A former CMO at PayPal, American Express, and the Financial Times Group, most recently Mr. Herstein was responsible for revitalizing Snapfish, the photo sharing and printing service, after a decline in revenue growth.
(Ex-Snapfishers seemed to be everywhere these days. Former Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson recently set his sights on reimagining an Ivy League experience at half the cost.)
Betabeat chatted with Jetsetter CEO Drew Patterson about the need for a CMO, Jetsetter’s role within the Gilt Groupe family, and those pesky tech blogs.
Over email, Mr. Patterson said that hiring a CMO was crucial because “investing in marketing to get the Jetsetter brand to a larger audience,” is the next stage in the company’s development. Jetsetter already has 2.2 million members since launching in the fall of 2009. Although 95 percent of travelers return to to Jetsetter after their trip, they have booked just over 500,000 nights.
Jetsetter also seems to be heading in the same direction as parent company Gilt Groupe by offering more full-price vacations–over the steep sales that may have initially lured you in. (Vendors, naturally, prefer not selling at a discount.) “I am most excited about the growth in Jetsetter’s full-price retail collection, which is contributing over 35% of revenue each month,” said Mr. Patterson, noting the 800 hotels and resorts in Jetsetter’s full-price retail collection.
Don’t let the “deals,” part fool you. Things can get pretty pricey, if you let it. The highest purchase on Jetsetter so far has been a $217,000 for renting Caribbean home for two weeks over Christmas. The highest price for a flash sale item, on the other hand, was a number of $42,560 packages for a cruise to the North Pole. Mr. Patterson also noted that the second highest flash purchase was a trip to Antarctica for $23,375. “Apparently the poles are both expensive and popular!” he said.
As for its relationship with Gilt, Mr. Patterson said setting Jetsetter up as a separate company has enabled them to offer a more tailored service. “Travel is a massive category, with different purchase behavior and product needs from fashion,” he said. “The product and technology teams spend every day thinking about how we can improve the experience of booking travel and going on the road.”
The companies still collaborate. “Gilt has been a big part of Jetsetter’s history and success, incubating the company with seed capital and introducing Jetsetter to passionate Gilt shoppers,” Mr. Patterson, said, pointing to a number of cross-category initiatives. “For example, Jetsetter destination weddings and honeymoons will be presented alongside Gilt’s wedding apparel and product in an upcoming wedding sale later this week.”
During the recent layoffs at Gilt Groupe, sources posited that there may have been too much overlap between Gilt City, an “adventures” and local lifestyles vertical and Jetsetter. When asked why Jetsetter has grown while Gilt City has been forced to close in six markets and layoff top staffers, Mr. Patterson said. “We’ve got a great relationship and work closely with the folks at Gilt City (and I happen to be a passionate consumer of their restaurant deals). My guess is that any chatter about overlap was just an attempt to drive PVs by gossipy tech blogs (which I also read passionately).”
As Jetsetter scales, Mr. Patterson said the next challenge will be around execution. “It’s hard to keep the same level of service and focus as the enterprise expands. My goal is that we maintain the same attention to detail and service level for our millionth customer as we had for our first.”