Zola Inc. is proposing to open more pop-up registry “townhouses” in 2017 with the $25 million in funding the online registry service and e-retailer recently raised. Zola is an online wedding registry service and an e-retailer of more than 450 brands. Zola uses a drop ship model for 99% of its products, so the brand ships the product directly to the customer, Ma says.
Zola in February opened an appointment-only townhouse in New York City for couples to come in and see products Zola sells in the context of a home, says Zola’s CEO Shan-Lyn Ma. After rave reviews from its customers, she says Zola decided to expand the three-month test indefinitely and open three more registry townhouses in 2017: one each in Los Angeles, Dallas and Nashville.
Zola has just 1,000 of its 40,000 SKUs available in the townhouse, although the retailer selected products that are the most popular on its site and that often need more consideration, such as bedding, pillows and plates, Ma says. Zola limits access to the townhouse to shoppers who make an appointment and only one couple can visit at a time. This experience differentiates Zola from other retailers’ registries, as department stores don’t always arrange products as they would function in a home, and online-only registries don’t allow consumers to touch the products, she says.
Zola’s mission is to be a “one-stop” registry so couples do not have to register with multiple websites and retailers for their wedding gifts. The retailer allows couples to register for Zola’s products; honeymoon experiences, such as a snorkeling excursion; other experiences, such as a spin class at Soul Cycle; cash gifts; and for any product from any retailer. Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, also offers a service that allows couples to add products from any retailer to its wedding registry.
Here’s how adding other retailer sites works on Zola: If a registrant wants a certain bedding set from Target Corp. (No. 22 in the Top 500) she can add that product to her Zola registry via a link to the product page on the back end. She can then select if she wants to receive cash for the gift so she can buy it herself, or if she wants the bedding. If the registrant she wants to receive the product, when a gift shopper clicks on it she receives an alert that tells her she is leaving Zola.com and going to another retailer’s site—in this case Target.com—to make the purchase. Although the shopper is taken to the bedding product page, the couple’s shipping information is not saved from Zola, so the gift purchaser would have to input that information.
Zola may receive a commission from a retailer for bringing that customer to the retailer’s site, however, that depends whether the retailer is in the same affiliate network as Zola, such as rewardStyle Inc., Who What Wear and RetailMeNot Inc., Ma says. This service potentially generates revenue for Zola, but it’s more about customer service, Ma says. Plus it gives Zola insight into what shoppers want so it can expand its product assortment using this information. Zola only makes money via selling products.
Couples also have flexible shipping options with Zola. When a consumer buys a gift off a couple’s registry, the product does not ship until the couple says so. For example, many couples don’t want gifts to ship until after their honeymoon, so Zola will hold off on delivery, Ma says.
The registry also will use the funds it recently raised for marketing via Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, print bridal magazine ads and New York subway ads, Ma says. Word of mouth currently drives most of Zola’s growth, and it’s effective for a wedding registry as most invited wedding guests will visit the site to purchase a gift, Ma says.
Zola also plans to hire 15 employees throughout the course of next year, adding to its team of 52. The new staff will mostly be web developers to add new website and mobile features that are derived from customer feedback. For example, Zola only has an iPhone app, so an Android app may be in the works, Ma says.
Since the registry opened in 2013, 200,000 couples have created a registry, although Ma declines to give yearly sales data. Among its products, services and cash gifts, annual gross merchandise value this year is $120 million, Ma says.
Lightspeed Venture Partners was the lead investor in this funding round with Comcast Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Thrive Capital, BBG Ventures, Female Founders Fund and co-founder Kevin Ryan also taking part.Favorite