Gillian Roberts opened its bridal shop doors 30 years ago in Eltham, South London, and over three successful decades has seen first hand the changes in the market in general and brides’ buying habits in particular. Director Hazel Edwards gets it into perspective
When Gillian Roberts first opened 30 years ago, social media did not exist, leaving magazines, wedding fairs and word of mouth the only avenues open for advertising. A bride would arrive, not with a challenging entourage, but with a proud other and father ready to put their trust in our knowledge and expertise. They browsed the rails, selected gowns, and the trying on would begin.
The average bride was in her early twenties; most were still living at home and the majority of parents paid for the wedding. The tradition of parents footing the bill if not for all, then certainly for a major chunk of the wedding budget, saw decisions made jointly or even controlled by them.
And it was expected that there would be a wait of four to six months before the beloved gown arrived. Shoes and accessories were matched up and purchased, bridesmaids colours were selected and colour schemes decided upon. Designer minimums were not the accepted norm, brides were not able to scour the internet looking for the best price, and success was easy.
Fast forward 25 years: the advent and explosion of social media and all that comes with it has changed the bridal industry as we knew it, completely and irrevocably.
The choice for a retailer is to move with the times or stagnate and fail. And this is where the most important thing that happened to our business came into play – establishing what makes the ideal client, and targeting activities that meet her needs and wants.
By trying to sell to everyone, you can end up selling to no-one. Imagine being able to guarantee the customer base that visited you, knowing their dress is nestled on your rails waiting for them to select it and fall in love with it.
This is the concept of the ideal client – being able to dictate who comes to your store; a bride who already listens intently, has fallen for your collection and needs to buy a dress from you.
Your ideal client is that carefully-selected customer who we all dream of, the one who asks questions and not only listens to the answers, but also trusts them. She’s the one who adores your designers and has to be dressed by them on her big day; the one who recommends your services to other like-minded brides. She is your greatest sales force.
To be able to define your ideal client, you need to be able to understand them so utterly that they simply can’t resist visiting your store and hopefully committing to purchase their gown from you.
Social media has many bonuses to add to your business – it has never been so easy to connect with and contact your clients, to be visible to a wide audience, to offer social proof to back up your store’s reputation for high standards of service.
However, brides are now able to compare shops quickly and efficiently, and judge you on your reviews. They can go through a designer’s entire collection while sitting at their desk during work hours; they are inspired by celebrity looks, but may not have the same budget; they are used to instant gratification – they have that order-today-get-it-tomorrow mentality.
By carefully crafting a complete picture of your ideal client, you are able to target any advertising directly to them, no longer wasting your precious marketing budget on something that will not bring a return on the cost.
You can cherry-pick the best designers with the perfect collection that will appeal exactly to your bride’s style, and even chose the most obvious repeatable styles. No longer will discontinued styles be relegated to a forgotten rail, instead you will have a ready-to-wear collection for the bride with a short wear date. On top of that, the ability to top up on best sellers throughout the year will keep your shop looking fresh, add content to your social media and compete with online shopping.
Rather than discount your products to appeal to clients, use your ideal client profile to speak directly to them. It is a known fact that people buy from people, not businesses. According to audienceops.com your ideal client is: “someone who gets their exact needs met by what you’re offering”.
Your ideal client will come directly from you, and will be one you would love to work with based on previous clients, or possibly a version of yourself. You can even go as far as to name them! The basics of starting your ideal client profile could be deciding on the simplest of details – gender, marital status, age range, income level and so on.
Once you have decided on these simple attributes, you can really explore their personalities. Where do they shop? Where do they eat? Where do they drink? Who do they aspire to? What do they value?
The more details you decide on, the better you can find your business niche.
And once you have decided on your ideal client, make up a mood board on Pinterest showing everything you know about them; choose images that not only represent your client but also their style and character. Use this to help you decide on advertising.
Is your client looking for visual inspiration? Then centre on Instagram and Pinterest. Do they love following high-end fashion? Consider a glossy magazine. Make every decision with your ideal client in mind. You may still get customers who visit your store who fall outside of the profile you have established, but by giving them the best service they will recommend you to other brides who will be the perfect fit.
After working out all the details, you may feel you have more than one ideal client but, as tempting as it is to appeal to multiple profiles, choose just one and stick to it.
Remember, in niches there are riches. To get a downloadable PDF highlighting 100 questions to help you define your ideal client, click here.
We here at Wedding Trader are interested in your own business ethos or mantra, or a personal opinion. Have you adopted a new approach to the industry? Are you experimenting with different sales techniques? Share your thoughts – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.