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A photo of a clothing rack with wedding dresses hanging from it.

Wedding Dress Shopping: A New Perspective on Personalization

I recently went wedding dress shopping for the first time. Having never shopped for a wedding, and knowing a dress is a large, once-in-a-lifetime purchase, I was expecting a highly personalized shopping experience. Throughout the day I visited three different boutiques and the experience I had at each of them was starkly different from the last.

I couldn’t help but think about each visit from a marketer’s perspective. Considering I work for a company that expresses the value of a personalized experience, there were a lot of mental notes made. In this case, an individualized experience would have made a world of difference.

Boutique #1

I started the day at a smaller boutique. My mom, my maid of honor, and I were led to a back section of the store which we were told was “just for us.” I took note of the various gowns that flocked the walls as we were shown to a sitting area. Once seated, the sales associate, let’s call her Lily, asked me a slew of questions about my wedding, my style, and my preferences—some zero-party data, if you will.

Important to note is that when booking all of these appointments, I was asked to fill out a form with this same information. I noted the time I spent filling out the form only to answer similar questions in person. The appointment was only an hour long, so having to cut into my time with repetitive questioning was already a demerit in my book.

Then, Lily pulled some dresses for me based on the information she had asked. Some were huge misses, some were hits. I tried them on and gave my feedback, and she would pull more options. What was frustrating was that I wasn’t given the option to browse myself. I had to trust Lily to listen to my preferences.

After rounds of getting sort of close to what I wanted, I found a dress I loved, but it needed some alterations. This boutique doesn’t offer in-house alterations, so Lily wasn’t comfortable recommending solutions. I was told “that would need to be discussed with a seamstress.” Sigh, more people to repeat my needs to.

We left the boutique without making a purchase, but still keeping that gown in mind.

Marketing Takeaway: Data is knowledge, so use it when it’s offered up. Customers are going to get frustrated if they provide data and it’s not used to enhance the overall customer experience.

Boutique #2

The next boutique we had trouble even locating. We went into a building, got lost in a stairwell, found the elevator, entered the shop, all to be told we had to go to the bridal store, not the events store (both under the same brand name). So, we went to the building next door and finally found the right spot. As soon as the elevator doors parted, future brides were whizzing back and forth in their prospective gowns. Definitely a bit busier than the last boutique.

I was greeted by an associate at the front desk who proceeded to hand me a tablet with a form asking for basic information like my email address, home address, phone number, etc. It also asked for my preferences and wedding information. Again, I had to fill out this information when booking the appointment and had since received confirmation emails, meaning, at the very least, they had my email already.

My appointment was at 2:30 and we waited until about 2:50 until we were even spoken to by another associate. We were finally taken to another room where we waited another 10 minutes.

The sales associate that I was working with, let’s call her Sarah, came into the room and greeted us. I bet you can’t guess what she asked me next. Yep. “What are you looking for? When’s the wedding? What styles do you like?” At this point I was already frustrated and told Sarah that I had just filled out all of that information on the form about 20 minutes earlier. She replied with “oh but it’s on the computer so if I were to go read it we’d be postponed even longer.” Not off to a good start, Sarah.

A more experienced salesperson than Lily, Sarah was able to quickly help me find dresses based on the information I had told her. She also let me walk around the store and point out what I liked. This boutique did offer alterations, so Sarah was also able to show me what was possible, which helped me better envision the final product.

I found another dress I liked here but, again, left without a purchase.

Marketing Takeaway: Reduce friction for customers interacting with your brand. Take deliverability, for example. Having multiple addresses or sender names from the same brand often leads customers down the wrong path or, like in this case, to the wrong storefront.

Boutique #3

Last stop of the day. Throughout my experiences with the other two boutiques I had picked a dress silhouette I liked and realized that this last boutique didn’t carry any with this silhouette. On the way over to the store I called the associate, let’s call her Lauren, and asked about the silhouette. She confirmed they didn’t have any but, since we were already en route, we decided to go.

This boutique was also very difficult to find, but when I called, the associate walked me through how to find it and stayed on the phone with me until she greeted us at the door.

Prior to this appointment I had picked five dresses the store carried that I wanted to try on. When I walked into our fitting room I noticed the five dresses and, beautifully written on the mirror was “Congratulations, Brooke! We’re excited you’re here!” I pointed it out to my mom and maid of honor, and specifically noted how the other boutiques didn’t do that.

Lauren offered us glasses of prosecco and then helped me try on the gowns. While none of them were what I wanted, Lauren was super kind, patient, and helpful. She even let us hang out in the room after the failed try-ons so we could chat and finish our drinks. Even though I didn’t end up buying anything, or even finding something I liked, at this last boutique, I couldn’t help but compare the experience and level of personalization to the previous two shops.

Marketing Takeaway: Details matter and the little ones are what turn even non-buyers into brand advocates for others. Customers are going to compare what you do and what your customers do, so it’s important to stay ahead of the curve.

Each Customer is One-of-a-Kind

I left the day with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only did I feel rushed and pressured to make a decision, but I really felt like just another number to these boutiques—especially boutiques one and two. While they may see 20 brides a day, I’m only visiting a few boutiques and picking a once-in-a-lifetime dress. It felt like the salespeople lost sight of that and were only angling for a commission.

As a brand, it’s a good reminder to consider your customers as individuals. While you may have hundreds of thousands of customers, to them, you may be the one store they’re willing to purchase with. To them, you’re the top choice.

Be sure to deliver an optimized, individualized experience where you take their zero-party data into account and use it to inform every step of the overall experience. It can really make a difference to your customers, especially if your competitors are doing it and you’re not.

To learn more about how you can personalize your customer experience, schedule a custom Iterable demo today.

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