- With engagement season in full swing, Zola is planning a temporary brick-and-mortar store, CEO and Founder Shan Lyn Ma announced Wednesday at Fortune's Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit. The five-year-old wedding registry business will open the pop-up between Jan.3 and April 15, 2019 for engagement season, a Zola spokesperson confirmed to Retail Dive.
- "We're not in the business of opening 200 stores, but we'll really get a sense of how it benefits us in terms of awareness and education for the couples," Ma said during an on-stage interview with Fortune, adding that the business will also consider a few other cities.
- The location will include 2,000 of the most popular wedding registry gifts and products, as well as stations for couples to create wedding websites and 3D print their own cake toppers, Ma said.
While Zola has previously experimented with pop-up physical experiences — as many digitally native brands do — the opening of an experiential store at the height of wedding planning season is an important milestone for a brand founded by an e-commerce veteran. Ma, who previously held executive roles at chloe + isabel and Gilt Groupe, told Retail Dive in an interview earlier this year that the best thing the company has done is develop a technology platform that easily integrates online assortments from new brands. Currently, Zola's registry business offers 60,000 products from over 600 brands. Data is critically important to Zola, which also uses it to personalize the user experience and predict its sales a year in advance.
The company has made its mark as a modern way to plan a wedding and register not only for stuff, but experiences and cash too. Even the interface with customers draws from digitally savvy consumer behavior. For instance, using Zola's mobile app, couples can use a gamified, Tinder-like feature to swipe right or left on items to add or subtract from their registry.
But in today's retail landscape it's not enough to be all digital or all physical. With that in mind, Zola has experimented with seasonal pop-ups and partnerships with specialty big-box retailers like Crate & Barrel. In September when that partnership was announced, Ma told Retail Dive it made sense because Zola isn't "in the business of opening all the stores and creating all the products that [Crate & Barrel has], and they aren't necessarily invested in all of the wedding planning."
At the time, she added that stores weren't a part of the company's expansion plan. But backed by a fresh $100 million in venture capital raised earlier this year, the company is likely under pressure to show ambitious growth on multiple channels.
Now, with more online brands in the ether than once imaginable, digitally native direct-to-consumer darlings have realized that a physical footprint (a small and highly curated one) is essential to cutting through the noise, building brand awareness and giving customers a tangible experience they'll remember. Over the next five years, former pure players like luggage brand Away, apparel brand Everlane and mattress brand Casper are slated to open 850 stores, according to a report published in October by commercial real estate firm JLL.