I’ve always been a big fan of the motto, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As a marketing professional, I often refer back to it. As it is with marketing any client, it is important to remember that relying on one tried-and-true solution without innovation, risk management, or breaking new ground could be what ends up hurting the business the most.
In addition to what I do at Terakeet, I am also a bridal consultant. I found myself questioning and analyzing the in-depth process that goes into keeping a brick-and-mortar bridal store running year-round and how your digital marketing efforts can help make your seasonal product relevant all year. Specifically, how do you market wedding dresses considering their seasonality? Moreover, how do you push back against the supposed limitations of any seasonal product or service?
Define Your Season
To my surprise, wedding dress shops do not have a full season to sustain their profit. It’s all boiled down to one key month: January. As a consultant, I can confirm with Google Trends the very noticeable increased search interest in wedding dresses in January compared to the rest of the year. This aligns with the increase in sales that bridal shops experience in January compared to the rest of the year.
Obviously, there are factors other than wedding dresses bought in January keeping a shop in business, such as alterations (if they’re done in-house), veils, jewelry, shoes, and other women who buy dresses throughout the year. But the sales earned during the rest of the year do not compare to that spike after the winter holidays.
The trend of wedding dress shopping in January comes from a long-standing tradition of how “the next step” is planned. It’s important to understand seasonality before a business dives into its own “next steps” for planning.
Typically, engagement season peaks in autumn. According to WeddingWire’s research, they calculated that “40% of couples who become engaged do so between November and February, with 76% of weddings still occurring during the summer and fall months.” Because of this, recently engaged couples tend to spend the surrounding winter holidays with family and celebrating, which leads to the uptick in searches once New Year’s Eve has passed.
By understanding your product’s season, your team can research the interest in your product online and use this information to your advantage when you’re planning marketing campaigns for your busy season. Are people beginning to search for your product more often a few months before your busy season? How can you start to make them aware of your brand and products before they’re ready to buy?
Awareness of Current Trends
Additionally, there are 12-month wedding to-do lists circulating the Internet and in magazines outlining when and how far out a bride should be checking items off her list, with wedding dresses falling in the 7-8 month range prior to the wedding date. This, again, sets up January to be the most popular time for brides to search for a dress since summer and fall wedding dates are still very popular.
Being a fan of psychology and self-proclaimed destroyer of herd mentality, I decided to dig deeper to see what businesses can do to push back against the pattern and bring more traffic back to the store.
Plan, Plan, Plan
You need a marketing plan. It is crucial to stay on top of the trends and conversations discussed by influencers in the digital space or from experts in bridal magazines. As you can see from the Google Trends search, not only is January a peak season for wedding dress shopping, but interest in that particular search term has declined over the last five years. How can bridal shops start to use this search information and shopping trends from their own stores to plan a smart, effective marketing plan?
- Highlight what sets you apart from your competition and incorporate your strengths into your advertising and online presence.
- Find timely events, holidays, and influencers to incorporate into your brand messaging throughout the year to increase brand awareness.
- During the planning phase, include others in the company who are not usually part of the decision process to highlight purchasing trends they’re noticing.
Garner Interest During the Off-season
Another step a business should take into account is how to attract consumers when they are not typically thinking about their product. In the bridal timeline, wedding dress shopping is not usually first on a bride’s to-do list. By stressing the urgency to find a dress earlier on, especially for indecisive brides, this can help prevent them from waiting two months before the wedding to purchase a dress off the rack. What we should be asking is, “Is there a way to communicate to consumers to make them self-aware and want to shop earlier?”
It is also important for bridal shops to analyze the interactions the consultants had with their customers or potential customers that walked into the store and interacted with the dresses. What impression did they leave with? Word-of-mouth is still one of the biggest modes of communication within the bridal industry since it is so largely based off of recommendations.
Recently, bridal stores were able to competitively capitalize on Alfred Angelo’s bankruptcy by offering discounts to desperate brides and their bridal parties. This marketing move will help brides recommend the bridal shops that helped them in this unusual (and panicked) time for years to come.
Today, influencer marketing acts as the digital word-of-mouth. Connecting with targeted influencers that will integrate your product or talk about your brand will increase awareness while generating interest among their followers.
Tips to Increase Interest in the Off-season:
- Inspire consumers to think differently about your product or service by marketing the other unique ways it can be beneficial to them.
- Know your consumer’s timeline, and assist them in finding a helpful solution.
- Focus on delivering a positive experience, offline and online, to maintain a positive reputation and connect with influencers often so that the conversation about your product/service is constant.
Knowing lifestyle trends and the timeline of when specific moments happen in a couple’s life helps map out when and where your product is seen and seriously considered. When brides come into the shop, I always try to find out more about them. This is not just to build a rapport (although that is also important), but it helps me better understand the headspace of the bride, her personality, where she is within the timeline, and how a dress fits into her vision.
One of my main questions to ask is, “where is the venue?” The venue says a lot about a couple’s wedding because it is essentially the focal point of the evening and how guests usually remember the event. It is also one of the first items a bride checks off her list. Understanding the standard wedding planning timeline and how venue choices influence a wedding’s style can help you figure out how to reach new customers and market to them digitally.
Bridal shops can consider surveying their brides and pick the top five most popular venues in your area as an experiment. Use geolocation filters on Snapchat at those venues to pique interest as couples are considering the event space or as couples are documenting their day. This same idea can also be applied to local bridal expos and other wedding-related places throughout the bride’s journey.
Tips to Think Creatively:
- Think out-of-the-box marketing techniques. What will get you seen in a new way? What will make your product/service appear more attractive?
- Keep the consumer in mind. Why will they appreciate the approach you take to reach them and in a way they will remember you and want to be part of your brand more than just during a small part of the year?
For bridal shops, now is the perfect time to start making small changes that can be measured and assessed to determine your seasonal approach. For any seasonal business, slow months do not have to be a bad thing if you figure out ways to increase awareness and interest. Use seasonality to your advantage, and innovate and adjust your approach as needed in order to secure your place within your industry for years to come. The bridal industry is just one example of how sales can be extended throughout the year with simple changes.