How David’s Bridal is revamping the online experience to drive people into stores

Fast fashion has lit a fire under David’s Bridal, incentivizing the 60-year-old retailer to modernize its approach to customer acquisition.

At the center of its new digital strategy: The company’s 330-strong store network. To compete with digitally native companies newer to bridal, like Asos, Reformation and Topshop, David’s Bridal is improving its online messaging to drive customers to make appointments for an in-store visit, where the conversion rate is 50 percent higher.

To do so, the company worked with the agency January Digital to restructure its customer data system into a single-view platform, building an online marketing strategy geared around driving customers into stores. According to Diana Takach, head of digital at David’s Bridal, the new approach had three goals: to get more customers to make appointments online, to increase revenue and to get more customers to sign up for email newsletters.

“We’re a traditional retailer — we’re talking about customer information being collected on paper, in binders,” said Diana Takach, David’s Bridal’s head of digital. “But fast fashion is happening now in bridal, and it’s throwing people for a loop. It sounds like we’re late to the game, but it’s the industry. It’s been flipped on its head.”

David’s Bridal gathers a lot of customer information throughout the purchase journey, including wedding date, number of bridesmaids, dress style preference, communication preference and information on the mother of the bride. Before revamping its strategy, David’s Bridal’s customer data was scattered across store locations and online. By shifting the data in one place, it fleshed out a sequential marketing strategy, through paid posts on social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.

According to Takach, this increase in paid social was possible thanks to a reallocation of the performance marketing budget, by moving around underperforming spend. It also rearranged its annual media spend. The company used to heavily promote itself on radio and TV between January and April, piling 90 percent of its media budget into those four months, when the most brides we’re in planning mode. Now, the company has shifted its budget away from TV and radio, and distributed its reach evenly throughout the year.

With the goal of using paid social media to get customers to make in-store appointments, during the campaign, David’s Bridal saw a 76 percent increase in appointments made from social media this year over last, and a 20 percent increase in revenue driven by social. It also reported that 93 percent of customers who made appointments in-store made a purchase. (The company did not share specific figures).

The retailer considers the new strategy to be a better long-term investment than one-off customer acquisition with prompts like promotions.

“Digital is really crowded, so the question was: how do we drive results, especially when retail is so challenged offline?” said Takach.

Tierney Wilson, January Digital’s managing director, said that getting a clearer picture of customer data across channels led to David’s Bridal finding new ways to reach them online. For instance, after tying together paid search and paid social data, the company was able to start targeting brides-to-be before they actually got engaged, getting a jumpstart on capturing the attention of a limited customer pool (according to Takach, there are 1.6 million brides in the U.S. at any given time). It also figured out how to nail the timing on different messages in the brides’ journeys, by properly spacing out messages related to bridesmaids dresses and mother-of-the-bride dresses.

Post-wedding dress purchases often happen online, which is why getting brides into stores early on through appointments is so important. David’s Bridal has moved to expand its reach through industry partnerships and acquisitions, including a joint partnership with Men’s Wearhouse and Bed Bath & Beyond, and the purchase of Blueprint Registry. It’s another way to gain an edge over digital pure-play brands.

“Even with stores remaining critical, we consider ourselves moving toward a digital-first, mobile-first way of working. We’re trying these new models that drive the best results and stay competitive against fast fashion,” said Takach. “We have a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves, and make ourselves new, cool and hip again, using this lane in the digital space to capture her in stores.”

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