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The company is also taking on Evite head on with #AdiosEvite campaign
Punchbowl wants one thing to be clear: the company is ready for the big time and to be the preeminent destination for digital invitations. In order to do that, the company has made some big changes, it announced on Monday, including a new user interface, a slew of new trademarked characters and a new campaign to take on one of its biggest competitors.
The new Punchbowl user interface includes touch-friendly controls and capabilities that give hosts the ability to quickly input event details, build a guest list, and send online invitations in just minutes.
"10 months ago we started looking at the user interface, and trying to understand what customers were doing by using analytics," Matt Douglas, CEO of Punchbowl, told me. "It was a huge project and it was really incredibly revitalizing to come out with a stunning new user interface from the ground up."
One thing that was on the company's mind was allowing users to cross devices, making every page and feature optimized for the tablet, smartphone and desktop.
That has led to the introduction of what it calls, "intelligent invites," which can be created and sent on any device, without the need to download the app.
"You can do everything you can do on a laptop. The recipient gets the invite, and it gives a full invitation experience; it features animation when it opens so it feels like a real invitation," said Douglas. "We really thought hard about how it should look and feel to both the sender and recipient. We really thought hard about how to make it the most intelligent invitation."
The site has also updated the way users can navigate it. Before, users had to sign up for account before they could browse through and see the different types of invitations and characters; now, they can see everything on the site without having to sign up.
Punchbowl has gone from taking 10 to 12 steps for users to create their invitations and send them, to just three, Douglas said. All they have to do is select an invitation, customize it and send.
"This is a brand new Punchbowl. We actually feel bad for the people who have been using the old version of the site since the difference is such a breathe of fresh air," he told me.
Of course, with the overhaul, some features had to be gotten rid of to streamline the process.
"We removed a lot of features. The ones that were less used are out, and our sole goal is focusing on the online invitations component," said Douglas.
So say goodbye to features like party profiles, as well as a feature that helped people decide on the best dates for their party.
"Those features were nice but not part of the core business. Anything not in the core online invitations space, we questioned it," he said. "The majority of the market has spoken, and they want better invitations that are cross devices."
Along with the interface, Punchbowl is also introducing the new “Characters Kids Love” collection, which includes an exclusive partnership with Chuck E. Cheese, along with deals for characters from Sesame Street, Transformers, My Little Pony, Star Wars Rebels and Hello Kitty.
"We debated whether to do this as one big shock the world announcement or to announce them piece by piece," Douglas said. "With the power of the new user interface, though, part of what we’ve done is focus on these brands and allow users to easily sort through them."
These new character partnerships come months after Punchbowl signed a deal that made the company the exclusive provider of invitations with Disney characters back in February.
That deal, Douglas said, "that has propelled our business," leading to huge growth in both users and revenue (though the company does not divulge specific numbers on those fronts).
The last bit of news is that Punchbowl is now getting ready to take it right to one of its biggest competitors: Evite.
The company is launching a campaign and sweepstakes called #AdiosEvite, which encourages users on Twitter to tweet about why they don’t like Evite. The best tweet will win a $1,000 AmEx gift card.
Douglas was not shy about his feelings regarding Evite, a company that he regards as a dinosaur in the industry.
"Lots and lots of people should not be using Evite. In the past, we would have said, 'Evite does one thing, we do another.' Now we want to see their users say goodbye to Evite," he said. "Their site is generic, it's clunky, it has limited features and it frustrates users. Just Google 'I hate Evite' to see what people have to say."
He compared using the site to those people who are still using AOL dial-up or Internet Explorer 6.
"They have a business but that doesn’t mean people should be using it," he said. Around this country tons of people don’t know there’s a better alternative."
Douglas called the campaign "brash and bold" and a departure for the way the company has operated in the past: "Nobody likes Evite, they want to say goodbye, so why can't we be the ones who say that?"
Now the company is putting itself in a position where it can feel good about making that claim.
"We are doing well financially, its just a matter of how to take big leaps forward. This strategy is so different for us, and it comes out of the reality that we are not small anymore," said Douglas. "The next leap we know we have to make is for a better product, better partnerships, and to boldly say what people are thinking."
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Punchbowl is a technology company that builds products for the celebrations market. We create best-in-class online invitations and digital greeting card for events and life milestones. We believe that the details matter, products should be easy to use, and design separates great products from good ones. We’re proud to have received widespread acclaim and industry recognition. In addition to coverage in leading lifestyle, technology and business press, we’ve been honored with numerous awards and accolades. More than 45 million people a year use our products: Learn more at https://www.punchbowl.com/company
Joined Vator onMatt Douglas is an entrepreneur, investor and startup advisor with 20+ years of experience in product management, marketing and software development. He's the Founder and CEO of Punchbowl.com.