Catering for brides, whoever they may be, is the key to business success, says Nova Reid, founder of multi-award winning blog Nu Bride
Before I got engaged I was a bit of a feminist – I still am – I convinced myself that after five years of being in a relationship in the absence of a proposal, that I wouldn’t get married, nor did I need to. So, when I did get engaged, I wasn’t expecting to be swept away by the romance of the wedding industry. I adore the wedding industry, but it definitely wasn’t love at first sight.
Why? As a modern British woman who also happens to be black, I felt invisible. The perception of bridal beauty is so often aligned with the classic Cinderella. It’s the first image that often springs to mind when we think of a princess. I obsessed over Cinderella as a child, but decades later when I found myself engaged, I was surprised that the multicultural and blended country I live in was not represented in the mainstream wedding industry. Even Disney had diversified its perception of beauty and recognised the powerful influence it has on educating children. I wondered why the wedding industry hadn’t caught on which led to me starting up Nu Bride: a wedding blog celebrating diversity and inspiring couples and the industry to be more inclusive.
The wedding industry has a clear image of what a bride ‘should’ look like: from body shape, ability, sexuality, age, right down to race. Gorgeous? Yes. But there is so much more than this and businesses are missing out on an enormous pool of consumers because they are simply not representing them.
“Your business is 35% more likely to be out-performed if your business is not diverse,” reveals Forbes. With Meghan Markle the first woman of colour to marry into the British Monarchy, diversity is certainly on topic. It’s in our every day and now has never been a more pertinent time to implement diversity into your business practices.
It’s important to be diverse to effectively engage with staff and clients. To have better understanding of how to reach, resonate and market.
It’s been statistically proven that consumers are more likely to engage with a product or service when they see themselves represented. As such, consumers are voting with their fingers now more than ever and boycotting brands and businesses that aren’t inclusive, and lack of diversity is reported to be costing businesses billions.
Who are you including in your marketing and who are you excluding? Consumers are becoming more conscious with where they choose to spend their money and in 2018 there is no shortage of places to buy wedding attire from. What are you doing to include modern millennial brides of different ethnicities and body shapes?
Designers often send lookbook images of one body shape or one ethnicity. So perhaps you could collaborate in shoots or commission your own so you are in control of the images you want to share on your website, social media and within your store and marketing materials.
Clear representation instils trust and it also reassures brides that you are an inclusive business that they want to spend their money with.
Don’t stereotype and don’t assume. It’s easy to make assumptions based on first impressions. How much money you think someone might spend. What type of wedding they might have. It’s easy to assume the person coming to your boutique is having a heterosexual marriage. We do it automatically – we make assumptions about someone in an instant of meeting them – it’s called bias.
Don’t assume the person coming through your door is able-bodied, don’t assume that their parents are in their lives, don’t assume they want a Cinderella dress. Get to know them, ask open leading questions that will give you information to show off your expertise. Make considered suggestions and guide them in their choices.
Weddings are indeed universal, but they are also a pertinent reminder of how richly diverse our lives are, that we don’t all want the same things and we aren’t all coming from the same background.
How do you accommodate brides or guests who are wheelchair users? Do you have access to an incredible seamstress who can help you accommodate their needs on fit, access and proportions?
Is your storefront and changing area accessible for a wheelchair user or someone on crutches?
Does your website clearly relay information about accessibility in your store? Do you display what size sample dresses are available to try on?
What about areas for privacy and modesty? Body confidence is a real challenge for brides, some women may not feel comfortable undressing or trying their dress on where others can see them. Manage any expectations about what to expect up-front. Presenting information on your website can help brides avoid having to ring ahead and ask embarrassing questions.
I say this as a simple reminder to care about including human beings from all walks of life. Brides want to feel cared for. For some, the wedding dress shopping experience is overwhelming and it can bring up all kinds of insecurities. Use your expertise to reassure them, listen and to guide them.
Brides are coming from a variety of backgrounds, for some, their wedding is romantic and euphoric and for others it is a reminder of what makes them different, it is a reminder of people whom they love who are no longer there with them.
Not only does including more diversity in your business put you at a competitive advantage, but it will create a more inclusive and positive wedding planning experience. Especially for couples where one or both are in a minority group. Taking the time to improve diversity and be inclusive will not only improve business growth, you will also be making a difference to the lives of so many couples who so often feel invisible.