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Punchbowl Rolls Out New, Touch-Friendly Digital Invitations, Snags Exclusive Disney Partnership

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Party planning resource and digital invitations provider Punchbowl has been betting big on the demise of paper cards. Today, it’s taking that wager a step further with the launch of a touch-friendly interface for its digital invitations which will allow guests to quickly RSVP, pull up maps, access message boards and more from their mobile devices. The company has also scored a deal which will see it becoming the exclusive provider of digital invitations featuring Disney characters for Disney Interactive’s Spoonful.com.

The partnership is a first for Punchbowl, which has previously worked with big-name brands like M&M’s, Huggies, and Better Crocker, for example, but in more of a custom sponsorship capacity. The Disney deal instead is a true partnership, which even had the studio providing artwork for the e-invites, which were designed in conjunction with Punchbowl.

Punchbowl’s digital invitations, for those unfamiliar, first launched in 2011. They’re designed to give an appearance of the paper cards they’re meant to replace, with envelopes that virtually “open up” and even optional gift card inserts which resemble their offline counterparts capable of holding plastic cards.

The company, to some extent, competes with other e-card/invite providers like Evite, Paperless Post or Sincerely Ink (which offers both digital and mailed cards). But unlike Sincerely or Red Stamp, for example, Punchbowl doesn’t currently invest in paper cards that it mails for you, citing its own research indicating a continued shift from paper to digital, especially among the “moms” demographic.

To date, Punchbowl users have sent “many millions” of cards with the service, the company said previously.

However, recipients haven’t always had it so easy when viewing these cards on mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets. They may have had to pinch and zoom to read all the info. That now changes with the new responsive design and touch-friendly interface of the upgraded product. Built using HTML5 technology, Punchbowl’s cards today will work the same whether viewed on devices or on the web itself.

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The bigger news, however, is the Disney partnership for Punchbowl invitations. At launch, there are 15 different themes available, including various Disney princesses, Frozen, Mickey Mouse, Cars, Planes, and Muppets, to name a few, and there are dozens more themes in the pipeline, we’re told. After the event host selects their preferred invitation, Punchbowl will then take the next step to recommend party supplies from its e-commerce store.

“Using our deductive commerce, we actually pair up [the invite to the party supplies] and we use smart targeting on site and via email,” explains Punchbowl CEO Matt Douglas about how the company’s recommendations work. “That’s really the holy grail of this start-to-finish party planning experience,” he adds. 

Punchbowl’s online shop saw “tens of millions” of unique visitors in 2013, Douglas says, which is presumably a larger figure than the “over 50 million” visits Punchbowl saw in 2012. This clearly makes it a viable acquisition target for larger online retailers, like perhaps Amazon. Douglas confirms they’ve had those kind of offers (“we’ve talked to them all,” he says. Of course, he declines to say who specifically.) But the company is profitable, he notes, and revenue is up 35% from last year.

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While an exit via acquisition is not off the table, Douglas explains he’s in no rush for such a thing to occur. In the meantime, the focus for the year ahead will include several more product launches. “We’re looking at a whole host of digital solutions,” he says. “We’re looking at tablet, mobile and other ways we’ll grow our marketshare.”