With its third birthday fast approaching later this month, wedding content and commerce startup Loverly is gearing up for a big 2015. The early years of Loverly have been about establishing a trusted brand in the bridal community and then achieving scale, both things CEO Kellee Khalil is confident her young company has accomplished. Now, the big theme for the coming year is monetization. The company has already surpassed its total revenue for 2014 in the first six weeks of 2015, Khalil says.
In January of this year, Loverly launched its native ad product in the form of brand-curated bundles (think Pinterest-style product and image collections) that Khalil says are driving 1,000 percent more engagement than Loverly’s standard IAB-style ad units. Today, the company is taking the next step in its maturation, by borrowing a page from the Target or H&M playbook and launching capsule collections with a host of designers to sell everything from wedding fashions to floral arrangements.
The first such partnership launches today as the company rolls out a collection of bridesmaid and casual bridal dresses in collaboration with designer Eva Franko. Franko is one of Anthropologie’s number one sellers, and her vintage-inspired designs are a mainstay at both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
But the secret sauce that should give Loverly a major leg up on its competition is not its design partners — it’s data. Khalil calls it the company’s editorial forecasting power. With more than 3.5 million users engaging with Loverly’s online and mobile products each month – and more than 5 million if you include its network of wedding blogger partners – the company collects a massive trove of insights into what products and styles are trending within its industry. Loverly is feeding this information to its design partners to deliver products that address these desires.
“We know that Loverly consumers are searching for blush, mint, and lavender, and that those colors are trending upwards,” Khalil says. “We know that separates and pant suits and flower crowns are hot right now. So we’re able to take that data and incorporate those things into our collection immediately, rather than waiting to next season. When you go to Bridal Market in the Spring, the dresses there aren’t even available in salons six to eight months. Then when you order them, they’re not ready for four months. Our dresses are available immediately, and ship within four weeks.”
Better yet, for its consumers, Eva Franko for Loverly fashions will be available at accessible price points of $ 135 to $ 230 for bridesmaid styles – that many women have already commented they’d wear outside of weddings – and up to $ 480 for bride-oriented “little white dresses” (aimed at rehearsal dinners and receptions, but not most wedding ceremonies).
For Franko and other Loverly design partners, they’ll still earn more than they would selling at wholesale to a traditional offline retailer, but will get the benefit of designing based on real-time market data and will be able to batch-manufacture based on actual orders. Loverly, on the other hand, gets a low risk, high impact avenue to enter the wedding commerce space and the ability to better deliver to its consumers exactly what they’re looking for at any moment in time.
Loverly is not the first content and commerce company to be drawn in by the alure of seeing its own brand on products. It’s a risky proposition that has sunk many inexperienced operators. Where Loverly is proceeding wisely is in not holding any inventory and making production the responsibility of its design partners. Khalil’s company is simply the data origination and customer acquisition channel. It’s pretty close to a win-win-win for all parties involved.
That said, this isn’t a guaranteed home run. Where Loverly will have to tread carefully is in messaging to its consumers what they should come to expect from the site. The beauty of any traditional content community is that it should offer an unbiased viewpoint on a particular subject. If a Loverly bride or blogger partner highlights a particular fashion or brand, its most likely because they genuinely like it, not because someone is being paid to do so. Once you cross that line into commerce, particularly when you’re selling your own goods, those motivations and that trust can be called into question. Because Loverly is letting its community guide its product development efforts, it’s unlikely that it will misstep badly in terms of design. But maintaining that organic and authentic feel of the browsing experience will need to be a major point of emphasis internally.
After the Franko collection, Loverly has upcoming partnerships with additional fashion designers as well as a floral collaboration with H. Bloom, a stationary line with Wedding Paper Divas, decor and accessories from Etsy seller Morgann Hill, and a custom wedding website partnership with Slash. The company plans to roll out one new partnership every two to four weeks for the first half of 2015, with each collection aimed at catering to a different genre of bride and wedding.
In its early days, Loverly set out to redefine search for the wedding category. Now, it’s taking that a step further by fulfilling the SKUs on the other end of those search queries. Khalil’s comapny has raised just $ 5 million to date, a relative pittance for a three-year-old company competing with the likes of the Knot and a half-dozen other more well-funded wedding startups. And yet, despite these resource limitations, the company is emerging as the most complete online destination for brides. Judging by what it has planned for the first half of 2015, the momentum is building.
“We have been focused for the last two years on building out our brand and the content side of our business,” Khalil says. “But along the way, we’ve been able to identify such powerful data on what’s trending in bridal that the next logical step is for us to better connect brides and grooms with everything they need on their wedding day. We’re dipping our toe into this slowly, but our goal is to be the number one brand in bridal and to use social and data to get there. Wedding world domination is happening.”