Bloom.com expects to hit 100K members within six months of launch
"Our whole concept," Nick Hudson said of bloom.com, "(is) encouraging other women to help other women to find the right product to buy, and that concept we think is a huge one."
"From really a standing start basically in August to 100,000 is fantastic," Nick Hudson, Bloom.com's chief marketing officer, said in an phone interview this week. "We're really pleased with that."
On Bloom.com, a site accessible to all but geared toward women, registration is completed either by connecting to Facebook or providing an email address. Following sign up, members are given a survey about their beauty characteristics, from height and eye color to possible facial skin concerns.
Once in, Hudson said, members are looking for recommendations powered by the site's Best4You engine – which Hudson said is making 1 million recommendations per month – filling their Bloom.com "beauty cabinet" and recommending products for other women.
"They're also purchasing," Hudson said. "We're at a $3.5 million run rate." That is to say, if Bloom.com members were to continuing purchasing at the same level they had in the previous month – currently around $300,000 – member purchases would total $3.5 million by year's end. But looking forward, Bloom.com expects purchases to grow, with the past quarter on quarter growth showing a 150 percent increase.* Currently, the site features 7,000 products and 150 "top beauty brands," which will expand to more than 250 brands by year's end. (Above, an example of Best4You based off my beauty survey.)
Best4You recommendations are driven by more than 50 data points on each member, 50 data points on each product and the similarities between different members. "The personalization gets smarter over time," Hudson said, "and as the network gets larger and as it gathers more social feedback."
Hudson (left) called the company's marketing budget "nothing dramatic" and said Bloom.com has mainly relied on public relations work (InStyle Magazine recently name Bloom.com to its "Best of the Web 2011" list), social recommendations (more than 40,000 Facebook Likes) and a referral program ($25 when a referred friend makes her first purchase). The site has also offered some first-time users $20 gift vouchers.
Regarding competitors, Hudson said he hasn't seen anybody else utilize social recommendations like Bloom.com does.
"Our whole concept," Hudson said, "is we're really just trying to turn that concept of a retailer deciding which products you should buy to turning it to really encouraging other women to help other women to find the right product to buy, and that concept we think is a huge one."
Bloom.com is the first store to be launched by Xuba, an Omaha social commerce startup founded in 2010 by Julie Mahloch and Doug Nielsen, two of the three co-founders of Hayneedle. The company was initially funded by its founders, and in early 2011 it closed a $2.9 million angel round. Like most startups, Hudson said, Xuba is "always in fundraising mode in a way" and that the company is "aiming to be a very large business" and has fielded lots of inquiries.
Growing site and staff
Hudson said there are more social pieces yet to come for Bloom.com. "At the moment you can't see the people, necessarily, very clearly, you have to dig around for them," he said. "But in the future, very soon, you'll be able to actually see a lot more, see beauty trends, women's recommendations for you coming out and actually seeing who those women are."
As Bloom.com's user numbers grow and the site evolves, so too will its staff. Xuba is currently on a recruiting blitz, with an emphasis on its development and customer service teams. Xuba, which currently has around 20 employees, has posted its open positions on Careerlink.com.
*Update 10:15 p.m.: When published, the article incorrectly stated Bloom.com's expected member purchases to be $300,000 per month through 2012. Bloom.com currently has member purchases around $300,000 per month but expects an increase in 2012.