The Groupon model has been applied to many niche industries: yoga, moms, and travel to name a few. But while Pinterest has taken off with brides, daily deals don’t seem to have the same adoption with the soon-to-be-betrothed. Startup DressRush pivoted shortly after launch to become Tailored, a Pinterest for weddings. And Vancouver-based startup Weddingful just raised $500,000 from BDC for its online wedding packages startup that distances itself from the daily deal industry.
Founder Angel Pui launched Weddingful in 2009 as a wedding directory, and raised two rounds of angel funding in 2010 and 2011 from investors including Boris Wertz. Pui says in 2009 and 2010 the company was really just a wedding directory that allowed brides to filter by category and location. She realized brides weren’t just looking for listings though, they were looking for comprehensive information, and the ability to book services. “The more I was working with vendors and brides, I realized that isn’t what they want,” Pui said in an interview. “What they really need to do is have these packages in front of them so they can easily say yes or no.”
So Pui pivoted the site to focus on being an online shopping mall for weddings. Vendors can list packages in a variety of categories, and offer deals on their services. Brides can browse packages and book directly through the site, and Weddingful takes a cut of each package (Pui declined to share how much they take, but said it’s lower than the reported 40-50 percent charged by daily deal sites). Weddingful is currently in 72 cities, and operates as a self-serve platform where vendors can upload their own deals and packages. They are currently working on a review system to ensure brides know who they’re buying from, but Pui says right now users can leave public messages on a vendor’s page.
Pui and her CTO moved to Silicon Valley for three months in October 2011 to get past what she called a “plateau” in terms of traction and revenue. “We now have some revenue, it’s not super impressive, it does cover our costs, we are selling in Vancouver and Toronto, but we’re not selling anywhere else,” she said about the decision to move. She said while there she connected with entrepreneurs and investors, and based on the mentorship she received was able to triple the site’s revenue. Pui will use this latest round of funding to launch in additional cities, and to scale up the support in each supported city so there are a critical mass of packages offered.
Pui is quick to point out that though many Weddingful vendors do offer specials and deals, they’re not looking to become the Groupon for weddings. She said some merchants they’ve approached have declined because of a bad experience. “There have definitely been vendors who have turned us down because they’ve had a bad experience with Groupon, or they have too many bookings because they did a Groupon,” she said. She says it has helped vendors understand what they do though, since she can say the site is similar to Groupon but brides can shop anytime. “It’s not a daily deal, it’s not a weekly deal, because people don’t plan weddings like that.”
Pui met with the DressRush team while in San Francisco, and attributes their pivot to the fact that daily deals don’t work for brides. “They have pivoted away from it because the daily deal model doesn’t work. I can confirm, it does not work. Brides cannot make such a decision in one day.” Though there might not be a daily deal site devoted to weddings, there are certainly wedding-themed offers on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial all the time, from photographers to invitations to jewelry.
DressRush/Tailored founder Sara Morgan said she didn’t pivot because DressRush wasn’t successful. During the short time the site was active, Morgan said brides would shop with them between two to three times during the engagement process. They had over 130,000 signups and moved over $120,000 worth of product with an average price point of $81. She decided to pivot to focus on what she believed was a much larger opportunity. “If we could begin targeting products to brides based on their taste, budget, and where they were in their planning cycle, we could send our lifetime customer value through the roof,” Morgan said in an interview.
Tailored uses machine learning to recommend products and services to brides throughout their engagement period, but also makes sure brides can purchase the products quickly and easily. Just like Pinterest competitor Fancy recently added the ability to purchase items directly on the site, anything on Tailored can be purchased within two clicks. The site launched in beta a month ago, and Morgan said they have an active community and are adding a backlog of five million products.
Despite her pivot, Morgan says she does believe daily deals are viable for the wedding space if done correctly. She said because brides will only buy an item if they’re at the right point in their planning process (a bride wouldn’t be looking for invitations in month eight of a year-long engagement). “Limited engagement sales need to be targeted in the wedding vertical, making it extremely important for you to know your users.”
There’s no question that the wedding industry has huge potential when it comes to sites that tap into the interest graph, like Pinterest and Tailored, as well as shopping sites like Weddingful. Whether or not the daily deal model works, brides are constantly looking for reputable vendors and the right product – and as many grooms can attest, often price matters less than finding the perfect fit.