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The new normal - part two

After hearing Boris Johnson’s address on Sunday, it’s clear retail will look very different when the doors open again. Jo Stott completes her two part series by looking at how you can successfully move elements of your business online.

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Right now, stores should be connecting with their brides on as many digital platforms as possible. All social communication should be authentic and relevant. Being authentic is more important than ever. You must address the problem, let your audience know you hear them, and finally tell them what you are doing about it. This level of connection allows your bride to recognise your store brand as one that is appealing and versatile, during this time.

Virtual appointments are crucial right now. Visual conferencing services such as zoom, or teams work perfectly for this. As a skilled bridal stylist, you can connect with your bride and her one ‘star’ guest without them physically being in your store.

Start by sharing your website with the bride, this will excite her with your in-store collections and allow you to establish her preferred styles. Follow your full consultation procedures during all virtual appointments. Discuss your store processes and arrange your follow up appointment ready for your store opening. Virtual appointments are the perfect solution for lockdown, but they will also work when stores eventually open their doors too. Don’t forget about them, bring this line of communication into your new normal.

Should we continue with virtual appointments?

The way brides will be buying their gowns is going to be different once the lockdown is lifted. I believe that brides will no longer tour their local area visiting three or more bridal stores, so you need to establish more ways to connect with them before they choose a store to visit. Virtual appointments can be advertised alongside your store appointments on your website and on all social platforms. Each bride is different, some may want to skip the virtual appointment and head straight in store, which is fine. You just need to be versatile and flexible.

Virtual appointments may be many brides preferred way of communication for the foreseeable future. Once you are allowed back into your store, you can conduct these appointments from your boutique, which will enable you or your staff to deliver the most effective service. Have your most knowledgeable stylists take these appointments, as you want to give the bride an insight into your brand persona and hopefully secure either an in-store or a at home appointment.

How do stores convert virtual appointments into a sales opportunity?

There are two ways to convert a virtual appointment into a ‘real life’ appointment where the bride can try on dresses and you can make the sale

Read More

The new normal - part oneThe new normal - part one

Virtual to in-store appointments

At present, many stores have priority waiting lists or brides already booked into our stores in anticipation for opening. Once stores have introduced social distancing, strict hygiene and safety measures set out by the government guidelines, we can start up in-store appointments again, albeit seeing less brides than before. As discussed in part one of this series, you can achieve this by only allowing one ‘star’ guest per visit, changing your complimentary offerings, staggering/extended appointment times and managing expectations in pre-appointment communications.

I’ve outline below a simple structure on how you can turn a virtual appointment to an in-store appointment for those brides who are happy to visit your boutique.

• Your bride simply books her follow up ‘in store’ visit with her stylist for the agreed date and time with her one ‘star guest’ during your video call
• The bride receives email confirmation of her appointment straight away, so she can feel secure that her appointment to see the gowns is booked
• Communication via text the day before any store visit is crucial to manage both bride and staff expectations. In this text, outline ‘what a store appointment now looks like’. This is a very important.
• The bride is given a shortened, yet detailed consultation with her stylist. All consultations should be delivered with as much attention to detail as before stores shut. A bridal consultation is key to the sale of any gown – virtual or face to face.
- Stylists should hand-pick the chosen styles discussed from the virtual appointment before the bride arrives
- Stylists should use their knowledge to pick perfect styles/silhouettes if needed
- Stylists can move swiftly into fittings, guiding the bride on how to step in to and out of chosen gowns, while socially distancing
• Introduce tablets as ‘keep in touch tools’ to contact friends and family during appointments
• Once the bride has found her dress, you will need to arrange a no contact payment system
• Remember to keep it luxury - to celebrate ‘the one’ introduce a tipple and simple branded luxuries which she can take away with her
• Help her to reflect on her fabulous experience with a text message on the evening of her store visit

The time spent in virtual appointments will reduce the bride’s need to browse and increase the speed of in-store appointments, which will preserve your stock and allow you to see effectively schedule appointments.


Virtual to at home appointments

Safety is a number priority; for yourselves, your team, and your brides. But you also need to ensure business productivity. Offering a more comprehensive service will ensure an effective cash-flow pipeline and future business continuity. I wish we could revert to ‘normal’ however, we know that’s not reality, so we need to adapt. You may encounter brides who do not feel comfortable visiting your store. You don’t want to lose their business, so what do you do?

Allow our brides to find their gowns from the comfort and safety of their own homes?

Here’s how:

• Before you start your virtual appointments, you need to be ready for a bride to request an at home service. Set out your preferred geographic area, make sure your bride lives within this boundary and appoint a driver you know and trust.

Arranging the ‘at home appointment’
• Once again, start with an initial virtual appointment that allows the bride to discuss wedding plans, themes, size, shapes etc. It’s very important that your stylist gives a thorough consultation as she will be pulling the gowns to send to the bride’s home
• If the bride selects an ‘at home appointment’, be transparent about this process, so the bride knows exactly what will happen
• Your bride simply books her follow up ‘at home appointment’ with her stylist for the agreed date and time (set a time frame of how long you would expect the appointment to be (I’d advise approx. 2.5 hours).
• Give this type of appointment a name, e.g. ‘Allow Elaine Rawlings Bridal to come to your home’ or ‘Y.A.P Bridal at home with you’
• At the time of booking, take a card payment (you can decide what works best for you). Explain how much the service is and how much of the payment will go to the purchase of her chosen gown.

Preparing your delivery package
• Ensure gowns chosen from the VA are folded beautifully and protected with branded garment bags.
• Add one or two surprise ‘WOW’ gowns in the box. Your stylist should use their knowledge of your gowns and the bride’s wedding/silhouette
• At the bottom of the box add a preferred veil plus a veil you know will suite and deliver that once in a lifetime look, she is looking for.
• Have a bespoke accessories box which can include belts, straps, modesty panel, clamps, pins and a tape measure.
• A luxury bag enclosed in your box would be a wonderful addition for a home appointment. (Branded hygiene gifts for example and or your brides preferred celebratory drink with an ‘I said yes’ or ‘you are now a …… bride’ celebratory signs)
• You will also need to include some paperwork
a) Disclosure document signed by the bride on drop off
b) An inventory of what is in the box and costs
c) A ‘how to style yourself’ leaflet to help the bride get ready for her gown try on session
d) A ‘Set the Scene’ booklet, with a detailed ‘how to’ list of how the bride can get the most from this fabulous experience in the comfort and safety of her home.
e) The ‘Celebration’ and what happens next information
f) Purchase Order documentation for the ordering process.

The ‘at home appointment’
• Communication via text the day before any at home try on is crucial to manage your bride’s expectations. Outline ‘what an at home try on appointment looks like’ and delivery details. Communication is key
• Stylists should call the bride at the time of their appointment via video conferencing for virtual guidance
• At the beginning of the appointment, thank your bride and let her know how much you enjoy the virtual visit to her home. Let her know how excited you are to be with her, sharing in this new experience
• During the appointment stylists should guide the bride through her fittings. With virtual assistance on how to step into and out of chosen gowns
• Distanced based appointments need to resemble your in-store appointments as closely as possible, with your stylist offering their expertise and product knowledge
• Enjoy and celebrate when they find ‘the one’
• Keep it luxury - to celebrate ‘the one’ ask your bride to open her favourite tipple which has been chosen and placed in the box ready for this moment. Celebrate with boxed essentials such as ‘I said yes’ or ‘I am now a ….. bride’ logoed handheld signage. Capture the moment!
• Arrange no contact payment for her gown
• Help her reflect on her experience with a text message on the evening of her at home appointment
• Arrange for the box to be collected and signed for by your trusted driver
• When the box returns, ensure all items are checked off your inventory list and then clean/sanitse all products, ready for your next appointment

It’s important to note that if you adopt both virtual and in-store appointments as part of your ‘new normal’ strategy, you will need to slightly change how you buy your gowns. Order two of each of your bestsellers (in your preferred sizes), so that you will always have at least one gown in store and one to send to home appointments.

Finally, it’s vital that both in-store and at home appointments meet government safety guidelines to ensure brides feel comfortable while finding their dream dress.

For more information and advice, please get in touch:

Jo Stott Consultancy

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