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Jan 23, 2007
How To

How a Test to Meld Online, Offline Made In-Store Experiences Extra Special & Increased Order Sizes

SUMMARY: Everyone is looking for ways of fusing their storefronts, Web sites, catalogs and other channels into one brand identity. But maybe multichanneling is more flexible than what many marketers think.

Following in the steps of one-stop portals, see how a wedding gown marketer implemented carefully selected online partnerships to funnel customers into brick-and-mortar outlets and keep the focus on the core product.

Plus, an imaginative test using special-care in-store reps to meld the two.
While some women get married more than once, most so-called "encore weddings" aren’t nearly as extravagant as that first trip down the aisle. So, David’s Bridal has to make the most of each experience because no matter how superb their service is, individual customers are not likely to come back anytime soon.

"One of our goals is to create a lifetime value,” says Veronica Katz, VP of Strategic Partnerships at David’s Bridal. “Girls start perhaps as flower girls, but [might] later shop for a prom dress, bridesmaid gowns and bridal gowns.”

Going into 2006, the David’s Bridal ecommerce presence was chiefly a wedding invitation service, as they kept the retail focus largely on their 260 stores nationwide. Because brides face multiple seclection processes before their weddings, Katz and her team knew they had a prime opportunity to expand their reach.

Katz wanted to increase the online component yet they weren’t ready to lose focus on the moneymaking brick-and-mortar environment. They decided a test would reveal whether a laptop-equipped coordinator might increase average order size while keeping customer satisfaction high. They followed three steps:

Step #1. Line up national partners

Once an engagement is announced, most wedding-planning purchases start with selecting the gown. That’s why Katz had an advantage of establishing their Web site as a “start portal” for an entire wedding party’s needs. They sought companies involved in other wedding-day aspects.

“If we are smart with our partners, there are things we can do to add to the bride’s experience,” she says. “Establishing relationships with these companies made a lot of sense because of their strong reputations.”

Here are details on four partnerships:

-> 1-800-Flowers.com

1-800-Flowers.com’s gigantic everyday network of local florists was trimmed to 200 to offer the services of a wedding floral director in most major and medium-sized cities.

The director met with the bride to plan arrangements, and no “sit-down fee” was involved, as often associated with such meetings. In addition, brides researched a virtual cobranded flowers catalog before the meeting.

-> Sandals.com

While Sandals.com put together a variety of honeymoon packages from which to choose, the most interesting aspect of their partnership with David’s Bridal was a localized “Caribbean Night” event.

Throughout 2006, the two companies threw parties to provide future brides an opportunity to learn about Caribbean honeymoon destinations at David’s Bridal stores around the country. Email campaigns from geographically segmented lists supported the parties.

David’s Bridal was the leading source of online referrals for Sandals.com last year. The Caribbean Nights aspect also was a huge hit. “Attendance has gone extremely well,” she says. “Sandals.com is really happy with the response.”

-> OurWeddingDay.com

David’s Bridal and Library of Life LLC launched http://www.OurWeddingDay.com, a site that allowed couples to purchase wedding products and services, including individual Web sites for brides and gift registries, and to create online photo/video albums to commemorate the day.

Katz is thrilled with the early results from the initiative, which has been in play since October. “It’s been a positive tool for our audience so far, and we are [excited].”

-> Shutterfly

David’s Bridal and Shutterfly teamed together to offer photo albums to couples. Shutterfly’s site allows unlimited photo storage. A promotion last year included a free 20-page album with purchase from David’s Bridal’s wedding invitation or gift sites.

Overall, Katz is overjoyed with the results of the major sponsorships, saying they helped David’s Bridal online assets “explode” in 2006. “We’ve thoughtfully added partnerships to our offering, and it has bolstered the bride’s experience and endeared her to the brand -- rather than distracting her from it.”

Step #2. Bring in hundreds of local partners

On the local level, David’s Bridal teamed with countless photographers, music deejays, tuxedo rental companies, spa businesses and more. Because of the difficulty in researching such local partners and knowing what their relationships would mean to one’s own brand in their communities, Katz created a checklist of points before welcoming a partner:

- The prospective partner should have been in business long enough to earn a strong local reputation and have solid financial footing.
- The partner’s presentation materials must be attractive.
- The partner must understand what kind of marketing (limited) they could do in stores.
- Preferably, the partner already has their own well-designed Web site to synch up with your system.

“Even though you are not liable for their performance, you want to make sure that you are putting people in those positions that will represent you well,” Katz says.

Step #3. Add store reps with online capabilities

With an ample number of partners saddled into the Web business and ready to be leveraged, Katz’s team ran a 15-store test that featured a computer-wielding coordinator who was responsible for helping customers fulfill any wedding needs online.

While the rep helped the wedding party take care of needs offline or in any way possible, the test was also set up to give a salesperson a multichannel role in order to see if average order sizes and customer satisfaction would increase. Incentive programs were implemented to encourage store-to-Web interaction and give the initiative visibility.

“It’s a real marriage of online and in-store,” Katz says. “There’s only so much space in your bricks-and-mortar shop, so the store rep can help people find the items that aren’t available in the stores that David’s Bridal offers online.”

Interestingly, Katz and her team didn’t hire the reps from within because they specifically wanted to bring in salespeople who might be interested in a wedding planner’s career.

The in-store Web-specialist test saw enough positive results in 2006 for her team to plan on expanding the initiative even more this year.

All in all, while marketers are routinely looking for ways of tying online to stores, Katz thinks she has found an innovative way of bringing the two together in reverse fashion. “We believe in the program’s overall sales and customer service potential.”


Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from David’s Bridal partnerships
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/davidsbridal/study.ht
l


1-800-Flowers:
http://www.1800Flowers.com


Library of Life:
http://www.ourweddingday.com


Shutterfly:
http://www.shutterfly.com


David’s Bridal:
http://www.davidsbridal.com


Comments about this How To

Jan 23, 2007 - Michael Rathman of Consultant says:
CoreSense.com has a good online and POP retail solution that ties everything together. Impressive capabilities for the small to midsized market.



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