To hear Timothy Chi describe his company’s role in the wedding business strips away the often-lofty language about fairy tale nuptials that usher couples into a lifetime of happily ever after.
“[I] really felt like there was an opportunity within the weddings industry for a technology-oriented solution to really create some more efficiency in the way people execute on weddings,” said the WeddingWire chief executive.
Spoken like a true technologist.
That was the impetus behind the Web site’s launch in 2007 as a place where the betrothed can find planning tools — checklists, seating arrangements, budget trackers, etc. — as well as reviews of florists, photographers and other local vendors.
Just last week the company acquired a fellow Web property, ProjectWedding.com, after its owner, dating Web site eHarmony, opted to focus its business on those still looking for a significant other.
The two companies were already partners so that their local vendors had access to a broader pool of brides-to-be. Chi said the sale by eHarmony offered an opportunity to take things a step further (pun intended).
The Web sites will remain separate with complementary, if often overlapping, services, but Chi said they will now average a combined 3 million unique visitors per month.
Web traffic tracker comScore pegged the total unique visitors to both sites at 1.87 million in June, a 50 percent increase over 1.25 million unique visitors during the same month last year. By comparison, market leader TheKnot.com tallied nearly 3.6 million unique visitors in June 2011.
Chi attributed the company’s growth to the idea that the often-arduous process of planning a wedding can be more efficient and organized when the Web comes into play. It’s a similar concept that Chi’s former employer, Blackboard, applied to the education sector.
“The real eye-opening experience for me and one of the things I thought really drove Blackboard’s success early on was the disparity in technology adoption . . . between two audiences that needed to work together,” Chi said.
In WeddingWire’s case that divide existed between tech-savvy brides and local merchants who were slow to create robust Web sites that show inventory and offer features like online ordering.
Indeed, courting small merchants has been the company’s biggest challenge, Chi said. WeddingWire counts about 300,000 vendor listings, about a third of which have actually turned into detailed business profiles.
“When you get into the business of really trying to establish successful longtime relationships with local businesses, a lot of it is about brands and building trust,” he said. “You need to show all of these local businesses that if you advertise with me I am going to deliver on what we promised.”
Sounds a bit like marriage.