Last week, we invited several leading bridal salon educators and experts to join us for a conversation and panel to discuss the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted the bridal salon industry. The panel included Mike Ebrahimi of SYVO, Ann Campeau of the National Bridal Retailers Association, Michelle McFarland of The Wedding Shoppe, Inc, Beth Chapman of The White Dress by the Shore, and Wendy Rivera of Do You Speak Bride. From shifts in shopping behavior and habits to virtual consultations and at-home try-ons, here are 9 top insights and takeaways from our webinar.
1. Shopping Habits Have Shifted
As a result of stay-at-home orders across the country, Gen-Z and millennials are spending more time than ever shopping and planning on their phones. In fact, whereas Gen-Z had been spending 6-9 hours per day on screens, that number is up to 15 hours per day during this time. Translation? Because they aren’t able to get out there and shop and plan, they’re spending more time in the discovery phase, shopping and dreaming.
Tip for the taking: It’s all about brand awareness right now. Because you have such a captive audience on Instagram and Facebook, take advantage by investing more of your time and energy into posting on social and helping to further establish your brand voice and personality.
2. Pick Back Up On Pinterest
That online screen time has also translated into an increase in the use of Pinterest. As a bridal salon, you have a unique opportunity to get your products and images out there into the world using Pinterest. So take the time to pin all of your latest dress designs.
Tip for the Taking: Make sure that you’re pinning directly back to the product or dress on your site. That’ll help increase your organic traffic (which in turn is also great for SEO!).
3. Step Up The Instagram Posts
Couples are spending more time on Instagram than any other platform. So for those of you who haven’t completely embraced the platform, it’s time you do. Think of Instagram as a personality and voice of your store. Consider posting more often, say 3-4 times per day, with an emphasis on real brides wearing the dress designs from your salon.
Tip for the taking: If you’re running low on content, reach out to your designers for new photos, get in contact with past couples and don’t be shy about reposting your best performers.
4. Try for 24/7 Content On Stories
One of the very best ways to bring your store to life is to use the Instagram Stories feature to help them understand what that experience is like. Keep in mind that they have a lot of options when it comes to dresses (and any product for that matter). You want to stay at the top of their list. In order to do that you have to stay relevant. That Instagram Stories feature is what keeps them coming back to you and your brand. Looking for something to post? Here are a few ideas: Polls, boomerangs, Instagram Live with stylists or consultants, or even with friends at other shops.
Tip for the taking: Time block and plan ahead by scheduling out your posts for the week. That way it won’t feel quite so cumbersome. Try Planoly or Later. Both are paid apps that help you schedule posts in your feed and on stories.
5. Stay Active on Facebook
Over the past 6 weeks, usage and engagement has picked back up on Facebook. Why? Because with Facebook, there is a built-in sense of community. So don’t forget to post there, to address any reviews or comments and just generally stay active.
Tip for the taking: Use the albums feature on Facebook to create albums of your dress designs or the latest collections. And any blogging that you do on your website should absolutely be promoted on Facebook!
6. Check Your Website
Your website is more relevant than ever and now is the perfect time to ensure that it’s working for you. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly, that there are clear calls to action (like the “book an appointment” button and a phone number are on every single page of your site), and that it is completely up-to-date with the latest styles, hours and information.
Tip for the Taking: Consider adding in an online chat bot feature to your site. Try the Drift.com. It’s free and it allows you to communicate with clients (via text from your phone) when they come to your site and have a question.
7. Consider Virtual Consultations & Try-Ons
Going virtual is a great way to continue engaging and relating to your clients while the store itself is closed. And you don’t have to go entirely virtual. There are so many ways to go virtual as a store. Some stores are encouraging their clients to book virtual consultations where they’ll set up a Facetime or Zoom call to better understand what that client is looking for for her dress. Others are taking it a step further with follow-up Zoom calls where a stylist pulls 5-7 dresses for her to look at in the store (virtually). The client can then request that her top picks be set on the mannequin or ask the stylist more about the details on the gown. Some stores are even then going so far as to send out samples to their clients for them to try on at home and then either buy their favorite right there or send them back.
Tip for the Taking: The idea here is really to find ways to establish a connection and build a real relationship with your clients during this time, not to turn into a virtual dress service! There is no right or wrong way to do this. Some stores feel comfortable sending out their samples while others don’t. However you decide to do it is okay.
8. Embrace & Plan for Smaller Group Appointments
While we don’t know when it will happen, we do know that as stay-at-home ordinances begin to loosen across the country, one of the more likely scenarios is that there will still be some restrictions on groups and that social distancing guidelines are likely to still remain in place for some time after. As a salon, this might be the right time to encourage brides to make the dress shopping experience more of an intimate one, limited to one or two other guests. While on the surface, this might seem like a hard shift to make, it’s up to all of us as experts and educators to show brides the benefits of having a smaller, more meaningful shopping experience.
Tip for the Taking: Talk about the allure of keeping the dress a secret. Talk about how special it can be to just have one or two others (rather than a large group) see you in the dress and weigh in on it. Play up the idea now on social media so that it’s part of the story and experience you’re providing down the line.
9. Be Transparent & Stay Safe
Whether you’re going the route of sending out samples for at-home try-on now, or you’re planning for the future in-store visits, it’s paramount that you stay transparent about safety measures you’re taking. So if you’re steaming all of the gowns with masks and gloves or you’re requiring that boxes sit for 24-48 hours before they’re opened, those are all measures you should talk about with your clients.
Tip for the Taking: Your site is a great place to provide any information you can regarding COVID-19. If you’re donating masks or stepping in to help local hospitals, add that to your site. If you’re offering free virtual consultations and following certain guidelines, make sure visitors see that notice front and center.
About the author: Anja Winikka is the former editor of TheKnot.com and The Knot Magazines turned educator and contributing editor @WeddingPro. She’s on a mission to help creatives, community leaders, and wedding businesses own their stories and tell the world about it (follow along via Instagram @anjawinikka).