Valentine's Day can be quite stressful, for those alone, for couples, and, especially, for businesses — the companies that make Valentine's Day happen. Here are five LA tech startups doing just that.
BloomNation: Flowers for you
, an online flower marketplace for local florists, knows the stress of the holiday. It's been planning for Valentine's Day for months, and expects the holiday to represent as much as 20 percent of business this year.
“From the floral industry perspective it is the busiest time of the year,” said COO Gregg Weisstein. “It is a super seasonal industry and Valentine's is a high point.”
Individual florists on the BloomNation marketplace will do 300 to 500 orders and the average individual will spend $109 on flowers for the holiday, according to the company.
Yet, what most people don’t know is that Valentine's Day puts florists in a tough spot.
“The majority of florists dislike Valentine's Day,” said Weisstein. “It’s a difficult time for them to turn a profit.”
As demand for flowers goes up around the holiday so too does the price of wholesale flowers, putting a pinch on florist’s profits. To prevent losses, florists have to manage inventory carefully.
“A lot of times they will do orders that won’t create any profit in hopes that customers will come back,” said Weisstein. “They really hope they convert people to buying flowers more often than Valentine's Day.”
BloomNation helps florists do that with online inventory management, sales, marketing and customer analytics features. After the holiday they help return customers with a lot of marketing, especially email marketing.
Also, because BloomNation is more like the Etsy of flowers, than traditional 1-800-Flowers, it is focused on highlighting the craftsmanship of local florists. Floral craftsmanship produces unique arrangements that are more memorable than the classic dozen roses; customers will hopefully remember that uniqueness during their next order.
Reserve: Dinner for two
hasn’t been in Los Angeles long, but the startup already is becoming a go-to for couple’s Valentine's Day plans. Backed by Google Ventures and local angel investor Paige Craig, the startup is venturing where many have tried and failed before: restaurant reservations. And the app is also a credit card linked payment app; customers can swipe to pay and then leave their table, all without calling the waiter for the check.
About a week out from Valentine's Day those features appear to be bringing in dining commitments. Reserve is seeing 10 times as many reservations over typical Saturdays.
“When you're really busy, even small things matter, like the number of taps it takes to complete a task,” said CEO and co-founder Greg Hong. “We want to make sure the solutions that we build make things easier for our partners.”
Managing tables and food inventory in the restaurant business can be notoriously difficult, especially when customers cancel reservations or show up unannounced. Reserve gives restaurants a count of reservations in advance and encourages customers to commit by creating a cancelation penalty two hours before the booking.
Reserve hopes to prove itself to a whole new set of customers on Valentine's Day. The startup doesn’t charge restaurants or users for the app, so having a surge of new sign ups will be helpful if it eventually decides to sell customer analytics or advertising opportunities.
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Fandango: Dinner, how about a movie?
“Valentine's is a big deal for us. We get a big bump every year,” said Adam Rockmore, VP of marketing for Fandango
, an online movie ticket seller. “Generally, any movie right around Valentine's you’re going to get a spike because people are looking for a date night. Even RoboCop last year did well in presales.”
This year is promising to be an especially good year as 50 Shades of Grey, the erotic novel turned movie, is being released on Valentine's Day. Ticket sales are already climbing.
“It’s already our fastest-selling R-rated movie,” said Rockmore. “It will probably be our biggest Valentine's Day picture by a long shot.”
Valentine's Day and 50 Shades of Grey makes for especially good business for a couple of reasons.
“There are two things you get on Valentine's Day: You get date night and you get anti-date night,” said Rockmore. “It’s perfect for date night and girls night out.”
Months away from the summer blockbuster season, having a great Valentine's Day weekend is a nice early revenue boost for Fandango. It also provides a new list of prospective repeat customers to market to.
“The number one thing that helps them stay loyal to us is that they are getting things that are customized to them,” said Rockmore.
Recently the company has sold special ticket packages including music tracks, movies or eBook downloads, for movies like Gone Girl and American Sniper.
Club W: I'll toast to that
Fandango’s focus on serving up unique experiences more efficiently is a trend reflected across the whole Valentine’s Day economy.
, a monthly online wine subscription startup, has made much of its business around helping its customers discover unique wines, without the headache of browsing the aisles of a wine warehouse, or the snobbery of consulting a sommelier. Club W sends at least three bottles per month customized to the tastes of individual subscribers and sees Valentine's Day as a good introduction to its service.
“We use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to introduce consumers to the opportunity to purchase incredible small-lot wines at prices that are impossible to match at any brick and mortar store,” said Xander Oxman CEO & co-founder. “Valentine’s Day provides the opportunity for us to reach out to consumers who are specifically looking for a personalized gift.”
MeUndies: Something intimate
Online underwear sales are nothing new — Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secret having been doing it for years — but the MeUndies
approach is something novel. For starters, MeUndies sells underwear to both genders, a practice that is a boon for Valentine's Day sales.
“We have matching men and female underwear, which kind of differentiates us from other underwear brands,” said Dan King, director of business development and customer acquisition. “You do see a trend of the Valentine's Day colors being bought."
The holiday’s effect on the startup has been noteworthy.
“Since February 1st, when we started to push Valentine's Day, traffic has been up 33 percent and conversion rate is up 17 percent compared to the previous month,” said King.
MeUndies is quite good at driving traffic around unique marketing moments. For example, last fall when Joseph Randle, a Dallas Cowboy running back, was caught shoplifting underwear at a mall MeUndies reimbursed him for the fine his team imposed on him and provided him with fresh underwear. And before the Super Bowl MeUndies announced they would cover the fines caused by Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch’s crotch grabbing touchdown celebrations. It’s one-off moments like those that MeUndies capitalizes on well.
When Valentine's Day comes around MeUndies thinks creatively because they know customers remember those unique moments.
“New customers get a surprise package with their first gift,” said King. “We more want to go after mindshare than some sort of sales approach. We don’t typically discount.”
King wouldn’t name the gift, as it often changes and the company doesn’t want to spoil the surprise, but the gesture gets MeUndies a lot of social media reactions.
MeUndies, like all businesses working hard on Valentine's Day, wants to be remembered long after the day has passed.
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