The Marketplace Boom   //   September 13, 2023

Zola launches new baby registry service

Wedding registry platform Zola is getting into the baby space with the launch of a new app. 

Out on September 13 for iPhone users, the Zola Baby app is a specific response to customer requests. The 10-year-old company says it has received more than 500 emails requesting a baby registry service, and that more than 1,800 users were using its wedding registry service for baby and family items. 

Co-CEO Rachel Jarrett told Modern Retail said the service aims to stand out with a hand-picked selection of baby gear that shoppers can register for, as well as the ability for people to register for services and experiences. Zola Baby’s launch features exclusive partnerships with online course provider Tiny Hood, post-natal retreats from Boram and prepared foods marketplace Stocked. 

“We carved out a differentiation for ourselves in wedding that is very similar to what we’re doing in baby. We’re not a big-box retailer. We’re a technology player, and we have used our technology to create features that are going to make this baby registry so simple, and easy to use,” Jarrett said.

While brick-and-mortar stores once dominated the registry landscape, Zola’s move into baby comes at a time when e-commerce services are becoming the norm. That’s partly fueled by the increased adoption of online shopping that blossomed during the COVID-19 pandemic; Zola users getting married between January and August of this year received about six more gifts from the service than the same time period in 2019.

But it’s also a space with increasing competition. About eight in 10 parents register at Amazon, while also Walmart and Target prove popular with Millennial parents. Babylist, launched in 2011, has a following of more than 9 million customers via its registry service and editorial content. Meanwhile, the closure of Buy Buy Baby following the Chapter 11 filing of its parent company Bed Bath and Beyond leaves a big hole in the market. Buy Buy Baby did $1.4 billion in total sales in its last full year of operation. 

Jarrett said while the closure of Buy Buy Baby didn’t explicitly play into their decision to launch Zola Baby this year, she said Zola hoped to serve customers who don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar option. It took about four months to code and launch the app.

“We have a lot of the infrastructure, we have the know-how, and many of the features from the wedding registry are being echoed on the baby registry,” she said. 

Robin Hilmantel is the senior director of editorial strategy and growth at What to Expect, which researches shopper trends in the baby space. Its most recent survey on registry usage found that Amazon dominated, with 80% of parents using the e-commerce giant. Part of this is brand affinity, Hilmantel said.

“If someone is already an Amazon shopper, it’s very easy for them to go through and register there if they’re having a baby. Or the same goes if they’re a Target evangelist,” she said.

Parents are also more likely to have a single registry, rather than going to multiple services.

As far as the registry items themselves, parents-to-be are looking for practical items, with 84% saying they want essentials over “nice to haves.” They’re also less likely to ask for big-ticket items than they once were, Hilmantel said. Gen Z parents in particular are 17% less likely to add expensive items.

Instead, many register for services or cash funds. And they’re adding practical purchases like for birth recovery products, over-the-counter medications, hand sanitizer and supplements – knowing full well they may end up  buying them themselves using the percent-off discount that the services typically offer.

“What a lot of people like about Amazon or Target or Walmart is that you can register for, say, paper towels, whether you expected to get it as a gift or use your completion  discount,” Hilmantel said. 

Jarrett said that Zola Baby aims to respond to these trends by allowing people to add experiences and services, cash funds and gifts that aren’t directly listed in its marketplace.

Registrants also have the ability to exchange gifts before they ship if they change their mind, or they can also choose when they receive the gifts – for instance, if someone is moving to a new house, they can wait to have the gifts delivered there, or until after their baby is born. People can also exchange the gifts before they ship.

Despite the launch of Zola Baby, Jarrett said the company plans to keep wedding at the forefront  of its business. Beyond registries, Zola Weddings offers website creation and local vendor shopping. 

“We’re still laser-focused on that vision,” she said.