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Is it time for a new website?

Bridal Buyer magazine’s Editor Anna-Marie caught up with Diana McMann of The Little Pearl Bridal Boutique to find out all about her new website, including key learnings, dos and don’ts and more.

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Tell us your name and boutique details:

I’m Diana McMann, owner of The Little Pearl Bridal Boutique in Pickering, North Yorkshire. We opened our doors on Valentine’s Day 2015, so we’ve been open for nearly six years now.

Why did you launch a new site?

We haven’t had a website refresh since we opened, and in that time our branding and the direction of the boutique has evolved. The market has changed, too, so we felt we needed something more stylish to meet the needs of our customers in today’s world. Also, our old site was quite difficult to update, and in a market where you need to be very responsive, it wasn’t allowing us to operate in that way.

How did you decide on the look and feel of the new site?

We underwent a rebrand during the first lockdown, which was designed by Sarah from Design By Kinship. We got a new logo and a new set of brand colours to tie into the ‘new look’ we had given the interior of the boutique. We wanted the website to compliment this, so creating something with a clean, elegant and welcoming feel was important. The colour palette focuses on our core hues of gold and blush pink, but we have also added in the grey tone and made white more useable too.

It was key for us to create a more fashion-forward look to mirror the collections we stock at the boutique, so we have a focus on imagery. We know that more brides are buying into ‘who’ they are buying from not just ‘where’ – so offering them an experience and story of who we are was also really important.

How long did it take for you to complete the project?

We started building the new website about 12 months ago! Once the rebrand was complete we knew it was time to get it nailed and launched! As lots of boutique owners will know, it’s easy to get distracted with the everyday working within your business rather than working on it. During the first lockdown, I had just had a baby and then the second lockdown gave us the opportunity to work on all the back office stuff. This really put the focus on the website and pivoting the business where needed.

What challenges did you face as you developed the site?

My decisiveness! I am such a perfectionist and am constantly developing and rethinking ideas. I found it hard to make a decision on the smallest things and then stick to it. I’m not great with all the technical side of things, so thankfully I had my other half to deal with all of that. We had a few issues redirecting the new site once it was published but after a little patience we got there.

Do you have any project regrets?

I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get it launched! It didn’t need to at all – so don’t be put off about creating your own site. Thankfully it’s finally done, I love it and feel a massive sense of accomplishment.

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Can you tell us about the wedding dress shopping experience video?

Moving imagery – videos – are important when it comes to getting potential customers to interact with you as a boutique to visit. We have seen that in the rise of Insta Reels and TikTok. We have always had a film on the website, which introduces us as a boutique, but this needed to be refreshed. It was important for us to show to our potential brides that, even during a pandemic, we are still focused on their shopping experience and creating a welcoming, safe environment.

Our film is the best way to get across who we are as a boutique. We focused on the key touch-points, from when a bride arrives for her appointment through to finding her dream dress – all the while communicating what we have put in place to keep them safe whilst they are with us. We got in touch with a local videographer and one of our #PearlsGirls was more than happy to model for us, too!

What about the new e-commerce gift / product area?

Again, the world has changed over the past months, and online selling needed to become a part of our business model, even more so. So, the new website also features our brand-new boutique shop. The previous website wouldn’t give us this functionality, which was another reason we needed to launch the new site. At the moment we have centred the shop around our lower priced products, like accessories and gifts, which we know our customers are already used to buying online. We have some exciting plans to expand this area into other products, too. Our Instagram and Facebook pages now also have the shopping facility to make it even easier for brides to buy with us.

What advice would you give to other retailers who are about to embark on the development of a new site?

Websites can be expensive things to create, but if you are willing to put the time in to create it yourself, they can also be very rewarding. We didn’t have the budget to use a web designer to create something from scratch, so we created ours through WIX and designed it ourselves. There are lots of web design templates out there, so if you are looking to do it yourself, put in the time to research the different ones and choose something that has the functionality that works for you.

Also – be clear on the content for the website. I’d advise laying this all out first so you have a clear idea what you want to include. Try not to focus too much on the infinite detail, just get all the main elements designed and the content written. Things can be changed and adapted along the way, so remember that nothing is set in stone. Concentrate on what you want from your website; while it’s a good idea to have a look at how other business have designed their sites and the functionality, stay true to what you want to achieve.

Do you have a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for boutique websites?

  • Make it easy for brides to make an appointment online. That’s the main thing you want them to do, so have it clearly visible on all of your pages.
  • Brides want to see what dresses you stock, so have them listed on your site. You don’t have to give all of the dress details, but include images.
  • Create your database by asking brides to sign up to a newsletter, or join a mailing list, however you want to position it. Having their details is vital for future marketing campaigns.
  • Make it easy for brides to find what they want as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure your language is consistent across the website and in line with the rest of your marketing channels.
  • Include a shop if you can. This can potentially increase the market you are selling to and be an additional (much needed) revenue stream in these tough times.
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