Looking online for essentials for her new home, our resident columnist Laura Daly found she was discarding sites that did not show prices. And that got her focused on a bride’s reaction when checking out boutiques…
This month I’m moving house. Being rather short on available shopping time, I’m having to do all of my new furniture research online and, in doing so, I’ve become the home-furnishing equivalent of a clueless bride at the start of her search for boutiques. How am I supposed to know if I can afford the shiny cabinets and the stand-alone bath, if the website doesn’t show me any prices?
I’ve found some beautiful sites, with wonderfully attractive designs, but absolutely no indication of price. I don’t have the time or the inclination to be phoning or visiting these retailers (or completing their tedious forms to find out whether or not I can even afford to shop there).
I’ve found myself gravitating towards the sites that show me clear pricing, those that explain what I’ll get for my money and exactly how I go about achieving what I want. After all, I’ll need to know that I can trust their advice and that the design they’re going to come up with will be, as a very minimum, absolutely everything I could have hoped for. I’ll also expect them to spend time with me, be helpful and affable, before I part with any money.
It got me thinking about our industry, the reticence that many of us retailers have about displaying clearly what we stock and how much we charge. I wonder how much potential business we could be losing by trying to withhold such information?
Seventeen years ago, my store was one of the first in the country to have a website that not only showcased the shop, but also displayed every dress that was on our rails. We did this against the advice of many of our suppliers and others in the industry that argued that ‘everybody’ would know what we had.
But that was the whole point!
I wanted my customers to know whether or not it would be worth making the trip. I couldn’t understand why most shops only had links to the sites of their designers. Seeing the whole catalogue may be interesting, but it wouldn’t help the bride work out if I stocked any particular style.
I was also discouraged from showing my selling prices. That used to make sense; I understood the concerns that revealing them could leave us open to undercutting. Business is fiercely contested in my little corner of Essex; there will always be those who will undercut the lowest price going just to achieve a sale. Keeping quiet about how much things were seemed logical.
But instead, should we display our prices? Our customers browse for wedding shops and wedding dresses online. If they want the cheapest retailer, they will find it, one way or another. (It may involve a considerable time – that’s not only time for the customer, but time for the retailer, too.)
There are a handful of bridal shops already happily displaying their prices online and, quite honestly, if I were a bride, I think I’d be visiting them first.
Of course, there are variables to bear in mind – such as what’s included in the way of storage or other options on a gown – so there are valid reasons why prices may vary slightly from store to store. We can only hope there wouldn’t be wild differences that might make a customer question a shop’s (or even the industry’s) integrity.
Ultimately, our service, our personalities and our own particular taste are the things that win over the vast majority of our customers. Maybe we needn’t be so frightened of making life easier for them. Maybe they’ll appreciate it. I know I would.