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Going digital: staying connected with your customers

As bricks and mortar shops were ordered to close, many boutique owners were left wondering how they can stay connected to their brides during this time. Danni Hesketh, owner of Y.A.P Bridal in Newcastle, has set up virtual styling appointments for brides to view potential dresses with expert guidance. We spoke to Danni to find out more. 

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Tell us about your boutique

’Y.A.P Bridal’ has been a luxurious and stylish haven for brides to be, since 2010. The studio is relaxed and welcoming - bringing a range of modern, romantic, sophisticated, classic, bohemian, sassy and refined gowns with accessories to match, from some of the most iconic international designers, to the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The boutique has an inspirational team that are full of style, substance and passion, who are so friendly & genuine, promising each bride an unrivalled & totally unique experience. The Y.A.P team are on furlough, but through this time we have stayed connected, sharing lots of positive bridal inspiration to keep us all motivated ready for when we can reopen our doors.

Did you have a plan in place for unexpected changes to your boutique?

As the owner of Y.A.P I focus on positive planning for the future - adapting to the changes that are evolving each day and how they will alter studio life. I’ve ensured business momentum is flowing over on our socials, handpicked our new season designer gowns so that we are ready for the wave of 2021 brides awaiting their appointments, whilst growing our brands online presence across the board.

These unknown times of Covid-19 are unsettling for everyone – it’s so important to support each other and remember that we’re all in this together, choosing community over competition is key.

Why did your boutique decide to do virtual appointments?

So many brides plans have been affected by the lockdown of Covid-19, whether it be their wedding has been cancelled or rescheduled, or their bridal appointments have been on pause. Our brides are our number one priority and so we must go above and beyond as always to support them.

Forward thinking is crucial and it’s so important that we show support for our brides whilst keeping our momentum going. With the current situation we need to be adapting on a daily basis to meet the needs of our business and the expectations of our brides.

Market presence is so important and so ‘Virtual Styling Appointments’ seemed the next natural step for us. Building excitement and anticipation for our brides by using methods that have put in place from the safety of our own home to ensure we secure those essential real life appointments. This will allow our business to hit the ground running once it’s safe to reopen our doors. The feedback from our virtual meetings with brides has been phenomenal.

I’ve found that virtual appointments help you as a boutique owner or stylist reconnect with studio life and brings a new sense of normality back into your everyday, which is a lovely feeling to have.

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What are virtual appointments, what’s included in an appointment and what are the benefits of running them?

Our ‘Virtual Styling Appointments’ are an online consultation with prospective Y.A.P brides.

The appointments begin with an overview of what the bride can expect from the appointment. It sets the scene before introducing myself and our business to help build rapport – taking down the basic contact details first, then delving into their venue and styling plans, before chatting through dress shapes and ideas. It’s important to feed into the conversation general info on lead times, discuss sizing, alterations and costs involved to help ease any worries ahead of their visit to the store.

After each virtual appointment we send each bride their personalised ‘#preciouspicks’ mood board, which are in keeping with our brand ‘You Are Precious’. This is a bespoke design for each bride with lots of info on inspirational styles that fit with their wedding ideas.

These appointments will benefit both our brides and our business, building a strong connection between us, growing excitement and showing that we go that extra mile. While also preparing our brides mindsets ahead of their visit towards inspirational styles that could be ‘the one’.

Where to start/setting up?

Every business will be unique in the methods that best work for you. You may have safe access to your boutique which will enable you to use your gowns during your virtual appointments as props and visual ideas. For others work with the space you have at home and setup a relaxed yet focused area to host from.

I have been using Zoom to hold our virtual appointments which is an easy, safe and professional way to host your consultations. Other apps such as Facetime, Whatsapp and Facebook video call may work better for you.

Virtual appointment top tips:
- Plan your weekly diary to ensure you have plenty of time to focus on each bride and their style ideas
- Work out the easiest method of recording and sharing your top picks for your bride to be during and after their consultation.
- Encourage your brides to book via email so you have their contact details to hand for their Zoom invitation and all their info in one place ready for confirming their real-life appointment
- Make a note of everything throughout the video chat - no matter how small a detail as this will help you suggest the perfect styles from your current and future season dresses
- Before the appointments, think about the methods you use in your real life appointments and adapt these to your virtual styling – This means your brides are still gaining a positive experience and feeling like they’re not missing out due to Covid-19.
- Most importantly be genuine in your approach and use your industry knowledge to the best of your ability – the brides will be looking to you for guidance

How do you advertise/market your appointments?

Focus on the tools you have to hand – social media platforms and website.

We have introduced a pop up on our webpage. It is the first thing the brides see, and it shows them we are being proactive. This sparks the bride’s curiosity and they will venture further onto your site, meaning they will discover more of what you have to offer.

Social media:
Start off with a post on your Instagram and Facebook pages that advertises the service. Once you have completed a few appointments, use a screengrab of your ‘Virtual Styling Appointment ‘– it shows that your boutique is still active and engaging with other brides. Our brides love to interact and see what we’re up to, so a friendly face certainly allows them to feel more connected and at ease when booking a one to one virtual appointment.

Your Instagram stories are also key during these times – keep your posts relevant and genuine with a true sense of purpose. Use the story highlights feature to ensure give brides access to the information 24/7. Keep your stories on brand and focused on what you have to offer your market and your brides will soon reach out to book in with you.

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