A new service from the online wedding inspiration startup Loverly wants to put the capabilities of a wedding planner right in your pocket. Officially launching today, Loverly is unveiling a new chat-based “concierge” service that will send brides and grooms a list of vetted wedding vendors that match the couple’s budget, needs and who have availability for the wedding date in question. In addition to this, the company is announcing an additional $2 million in funding to support the launch of this new marketplace, from both new and existing investors.
Loverly had previously raised a $3.5 million Series A back in 2014. The new funding round, meanwhile, was led by Hunt Technology Ventures, LP with participation from Montage Ventures, GrowthX, Transmedia Capital, 645 Ventures, Great Oaks Capital and Female Founders Fund.
To date, Loverly has focused on offering a website and service that offers inspiration, through imagery, lists of products, scoops, expert advice, tips and more. However, its venture into e-commerce last year didn’t quite pan out. The company has since shuttered those efforts and returned to its roots – connecting couples with local service providers, albeit now in a different format.
The move comes at a time when a number of companies are experimenting with chat-based virtual assistants. However, some are finding that their often human-powered bots weren’t sustainable. That has led a handful to pivot to more automated systems, like on-demand assistance app GoButler did only days ago, for example, or how the new Y Combinator-backed assistance startup Prompt emerged from earlier efforts that were also less automated.
With Loverly’s concierge app, though, there’s a combination of human assistance and automation at play.
To get started, brides and/or grooms tap the concierge button in the company’s mobile app and provide information about their wedding, including budget, guest count and date. This is followed up by a 15-30 minute phone call, in most cases, where a trained wedding expert at Loverly’s headquarters gets filled in on what’s really important to the couple in terms of how they want to spend their budget and what pain points they’re encountering.
For now, this is a very high-touch process, but the company is building out technology to make this more automated, we’re told.
Lastly, by way of an algorithm that matches what the couples want with the vendor criteria on file, Loverly is able to return a list of vendors. However, before sending these suggestions over to the couple, the company will also check with the vendor to make sure they are actually available on the wedding date.
48 hours later, the concierge “bot” in Loverly’s mobile app will send the couple a package of recommendations for a given category, like flower vendors, for example. The bride and/or groom can choose to unlock this package for a $49 fee.
Explains Loverly founder and CEO Kellee Khalil, the company had tested making its consultations free, but found that more users flaked on phone calls when they weren’t being charged. With a fee, the perceived value of this service increases. But it’s also more affordable than using a traditional wedding planner, she says.
“A wedding planner costs, on average, $3,500 starting, for a full-blown one,” says Khalil, which is why only 16% of brides hire one today. Plus, one of biggest reasons couples hire a wedding planner in the first place is vendor recommendations. “That’s really what you’re paying for early on when you’re hiring a wedding planner,” she adds.
Loverly today features over 70,000 vendors in total, but only a subsection are live in the chat service at launch. The overall platform, however, sees a million and a half monthly visitors who engage with the site and its content.
Now, the goal is to move those users to the mobile app, which also lets them browse ideas and save media, images, articles and more to a mobile scrapbook.
Khalil believes that the new messaging-based marketplace will benefit vendors, too, as well as the couples hiring them, as it’s able to send vendors qualified leads. That is, it matches vendors to those who can afford their prices and can fill a hole in their schedules.
Vendors also pay $99 per month for inclusion in this new product, which is live now only in New York and L.A., with plans to roll out to other markets based on customer demand. In the meantime, couples outside these regions can use the concierge app for more general tips and advice.
The concierge service is live now in the Loverly iOS application, available here.