In this fast-paced industry, retailers need to evolve their approach in order to keep up, but do old marketing methods get modern brides through the door? We asked bridal boutique owners how they bring brides into their shops. Jennifer Grimble investigates
The bridal sector is ever changing, with trends coming and going with the seasons. Quickly too, do bridal shopping habits ﬂuctuate. Keeping up in this unpredictable industry is crucial to running a successful business, but do old marketing strategies still get modern brides through the door?
There was once a time when sales ﬁgures would soar following one designer day, but in an increasingly digital climate, modern brides are looking elsewhere for inspiration. Thanks to the rise in internet search engines, social media and sites like Pinterest, savvy brides are cluing themselves up on costs, labels and services.
Shopping around has become part of the dress hunt process, with many brides visiting numerous boutiques in order to compare prices and designs. It seems obvious then, that shrewd retailers are on the hunt for new ways of securing sales.
Encouraging brides through the door is the ﬁrst obstacle, something which award-winning boutique owner, Emma Hartley, knows all about. Her store, Emma Hartley Bridalwear, is located in Colne and beneﬁts from a prime footfall location. “We are fortunate to be positioned on a main road so our window display is a key customer driver,” Emma explains, creating inspired window dressings to attract passers-by.
Some boutiques are not lucky enough to be street-facing, something which Rashida Agboke of Lily Christina Bridal Collection understands: “We have no passing trade because we’re located in gated premises in the countryside. So for us, the marketing of our brand is really important.
We pride ourselves on customer service and the majority of our brides hear about us through word of mouth.” For Rashida, replying on positive feedback is an essential part of getting customers through her door: “We have excellent relationships with local wedding venues and we are often the recommended supplier, which helps spread the word,” she explains, building such relationships during events and wedding fairs.
This is an approach that Emma Draper of award-winning LOVE Bridal Boutique has come to rely upon too: “Our strong service levels have been recognised by our suppliers, who continue to recommend us to brides, creating a constant stream of new clients.”
So, could it really be as simple as maintaining a strong reputation? Starting from the bottom and establishing fantastic customer service deﬁnitely enables your store to beneﬁt from recommendations, because one thing we know is that brides talk, particularly if they have had a bad experience.
So, if word of mouth is like wild ﬁre, how can your store stand out from the hundreds of others within its radius?
Everyone knows the importance of online reputation management and Emma Draper explains her approach: “Social media is so important. We have made a move away from print advertising and now solely focus our eﬀorts on our digital channels. This continues to work well for us and it’s measurable too.” With social media, you can see how well your content is working. Are people liking, commenting or sharing?
Kimberley Fairfowl of Eden Bridal is also a ﬁrm believer in the digital approach: “We are very active on social media because we want Eden Bridal to spring to mind every time. Women may not need our services right now, but we want them to remember us in years to come.”
Kimberley visualises her brand on any platform that is available to her. “Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and spend money. If you’re going to do something, do it well.” She suggests. Plan a digital strategy and make time each week to maintain it.
Respond to comments and complaints and make sure everything you post highlights your brand in a positive light. Spend money, but manage adverts and amend them little by little, observing measurable results.
Read more: Improving Your Social Media Strategy
For some, radio advertising and digital billboards have helped spread the message locally, while for others, taking an altogether more dramatic approach has proved fruitful, as Kimberley Fairfowl explains: “The North West 200 motorbike race takes places every year on the coast of Northern Ireland.
“Hundreds of thousands of people attend. We arranged models dressed in bridal gowns to walk around the event with huge Eden Bridal banners,” she says, “We made it onto BBC sports news!” Such tactics can gain a lot of publicity fast, while grabbing the attention of brides in the local area.
Being pro-active and taking risks can pay dividends, but you need to be sensible and stick to events that complement your store’s style. And be aware that permission may be needed beforehand, too.
Read More: 10 PR Tips for Your Bridal Business
While some opt for marketing stunts, others stick to more traditional strategies, like Emma Hartley: “We hold regular designer events and twice-yearly discount sales, all heavily promoted through social media. Special events like these still work for us.”
In-store events are proving eﬀective for Lily Christina Bridal too, as Rashida explains: “Last year we had an Atelier Pronovias launch party with a catwalk show, nibbles and drinks. We invited past, current and future brides, as well as local suppliers. It was great for networking and it didn’t cost much to run.”
Trunk Shows are still on the agenda too, with Alison Parish of Aurora Bride experimenting with in-store concepts to engage new clients. “Early next year we will host open evenings for bridal parties, with models and champagne,” Alison explains.
Joanne Stott, founder of award-winning Y.A.P Bridal Boutique, also stays true to tradition: “We have a yearly marketing strategy, where we plan for luxury advertising, annual wedding fairs, bespoke branding and dressing experiences.” Having such a thorough plan in place can help you stay on track with your yearly progress.
Meanwhile, Emma Draper and Alison Parish make informed decisions based on customer feedback: “We ask brides how they like to be approached and advertise accordingly,” Alison says. While Emma tackles knock-backs head on: “We gain feedback from brides who didn’t buy from us, so we can continually develop.”
So, while it is clear that new techniques and the digital marketplace are essential success tools, tying them in with tried and tested strategies can lead to a rewarding bridal business. Stay up-to-date with sector changes and dare to be diﬀerent!
Need more advice? Take a look at our Seven Easy Ways to Revamp Your Business