For better or worse. Bridal and tux retailers have seen both. Like many retail segments, they’re facing disruption. Even in the best of times, they’re inherently challenged to find a constant stream of new customers (who wants a loyalty card for frequent purchase of wedding dresses?). But today, new challenges are presented by demographic and lifestyle changes, technology, and demand for personalization.
Marriage rates have been falling the world over for decades as people cohabitate instead, wait longer to tie the knot, or simply choose to remain single. The good news for bridal boutiques is they’re spending more on their Big Day attire. The average bride now spends $1,700 on the wedding dress, according to WeddingWire’s 2019 Newlywed Report.
A dwindling supply of brides isn’t the only shakeup for bridal boutiques. Once perceived as the source for nuptial celebration event information, they now find themselves catering to a savvy clientele who’ve performed their own research. The same technology that informs consumers gave rise to digital native brands—some with radically different offers—that have gained a toehold on the market. But there’s good news with tech-related disruption as well: Not only are e-commerce pureplays opening physical showrooms and service centers, but traditional shops are engaging clients digitally and using technology to address the third big disruption factor—demand for personalization.
In an era when many couples write their own vows, the ability to personalize every aspect of their weddings, including the dress shopping experience, is expected. See how retailers and designers are addressing this expectation in this issue’s cover story. Here are additional ideas:
Help brides picture the scene. Install a digital screen that can serve as a backdrop when the bride stands in front of a mirror. Have the screen show scenes such as a church altar, the beach, a reception hall, or wherever brides in your area are likely to wear the dress.
Find ways to include remote participation. As people marry later in life, they’re more likely to have family and close friends in distant locales. As dress shopping becomes an event in itself, many brides might appreciate being able to share this with remote loved ones. Sure, a bride can FaceTime someone for an additional opinion on dress options, but someone has to hold the phone or tablet and the view isn’t always ideal. How about installing a camera in a twirling area that lets brides show the perfect angle of each option to her party in real time?
Brand Instagrammable signage celebrating the dress decision. Create a frame for the bride to show the digital world her search for the perfect dress is over—and she found it at your shop.
Offer creativity experiences. Let bridal parties personalize wedding party favors in the store, have them design the invitations on an in-store screen, or have the bridesmaids embellish a bridal purse a la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants while they wait to see each dress style on the bride.