11 Things Bridal Stores Can Do to Adapt During and After COVID-19

Social distancing guidelines and state-mandated business closures have devastated retail shops across the country. Bridal stores have felt a particularly harsh impact given the inherently personal nature of the industry, and store owners have been forced to pivot their businesses quickly in order to stay afloat.

One of those owners is Janice Yoder of Adore Bridal in Morton, Illinois. With nearly fourteen years’ experience in the industry and nine owning her own shop, Janice is no stranger to the ups and downs of retail. But the COVID-19 crisis has presented unprecedented challenges no one could have predicted. Rather than panic, Janice decided to embrace this moment as an opportunity to experiment and has seen success with a number of new initiatives. 

Ad’dressing’ a big problem

The biggest problem, of course, is that brides cannot currently come to her shop to try on dresses. So Janice has started bringing the dresses to them. Through the Adore Bride Box program, she has been sending dresses directly to brides. Brides start by filling out a questionnaire that covers everything from their preferred style, sizing, and the people whose opinions matter to them when it comes to selecting the perfect dress. From there Janice and her team members select three to five dresses to mail to the bride. Brides pay a flat fee ($49 for curbside pickup, $99 for shipping within Illinois, or $149 for shipping to another state) and have the option of adding a virtual try-on session with Janice and the Adore team. If a bride buys a dress from the box, the upfront fee is applied to the purchase. So far, Janice has sent out twenty boxes and sold seventeen dresses through the program.

Recently, Janice participated in a webinar with Gravity Payments in which she discussed how she’s adapted her business and offered tips to other bridal store owners about things they can do to build customer loyalty and generate revenue while their shops are closed. You can check out the full session below.

Janice is quick to point out that what works for one bridal store might not be right for another. Her biggest piece of advice: just do something.

11 ideas to get you started:

  • Assess your risk tolerance. Before taking action, Janice strongly encourages bridal store owners to figure out how much risk they are comfortable taking on right now. Janice acknowledges that the bride box program presents an enormous risk to her inventory but says she has a high tolerance and would rather try something a little out-of-the-box (so to speak) than do nothing.
  • Text or message your customers. Sending a short text message asking how brides are doing and letting them know you’re here to help can go a long way in building customer loyalty. Janice said many owners assume they won’t be able to generate good reviews right now, but she’s had several brides post positive reviews simply because Janice and her team reached out. 
  • Poll your database. Does a bride need help with bridesmaids dresses, tuxes, or accessories? Now is a great time to see where your customers are in their planning process and offer to help. Doing so might also generate ideas for things your store can do to make life easier for customers. 
  • Be a bridal concierge. Many brides have had to reschedule their weddings while others are scrambling to figure out how to move forward with planning when their vendors are closed. Help alleviate some of this burden by doing some research on their behalf. For instance, the Adore team reached out to area seamstresses to see who was still available and under what conditions. They then shared the information with brides, who were extremely grateful.
  • Consider text-to-pay or link-to-pay. Text payments make it super convenient to sell items and accept direct payments. If you don’t have a text-to-pay option, you can learn more by scheduling a demo with one of our bridal team members here. Note: Text is also a great way to run promotions for accessories or bridesmaids gifts!
  • Embrace social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok are great ways to promote yourself to customers. They’re also a great way to engage with vendors by liking and sharing information. If you’re offering a new service or promotion, consider running ads through these sites, as well as Google. They’re relatively inexpensive and extremely effective. Pro tip: IGTV and story ads are cheaper than static posts right now!
  • Share your story. If you’re doing something interesting, share it. After Adore launched the bride box program, Janice reached out to a couple of local news stations and pitched the story to them. She figured the story would not only interest brides but also other area businesses owners looking for creative solutions. The story was featured on local TV and was later picked up by the Chicago Tribune
  • Plan for the future. Janice isn’t yet sure if Adore will continue to offer its bride boxes after their business returns to normal, but they are looking at every decision as a way to future-proof their business. What can you do today that will prepare you for tomorrow? Is there a system that would make your business more efficient? A service you can offer to expand your reach? Some sort of protection you can put in place so you’re not caught off guard when the next unexpected thing happens?
  • Be authentic. Now more than perhaps any other time in history we are getting a glimpse into the lives of the people we do business with. This is a good thing. People respond to people who seem genuine and real, so don’t be afraid to hide your imperfections or personality. Don’t have time to put on makeup before a video call? Don’t worry! Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be embarrassed to say so. 
  • Forget perfection. “Nobody is expecting perfection during this time,” Janice says. “They’re just thankful you can help them.” Things are happening so fast you don’t have time to think through every detail or worry about something not being perfect. Feel free to adapt in real time, and give yourself some grace if things don’t turn out exactly as planned.
  • Look for the good. Things are really bad right now, and it’s okay to be stressed and sad. Janice admits to shedding quite a few tears over the past few weeks, but she also urges people to look for the good and the small wins in every day. What is going right? How are you helping your brides? What are you doing to make your business stronger? Focus on these positives and you’ll be more prepared to face the negatives.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. In addition to the above, consider upgrading your payment systems to make it easier for customers to pay you directly. Gravity + Poppy Bridal Software offers a number of ways to make your business more efficient–from industry-specific technology solutions to novel payment options that make generating revenue a breeze. If you’re interested in learning more, schedule a call with one of our bridal-industry specialists or let us know you are ready to get started!

By Brooke Carey, Lead StorytellerOriginal post