Like many retailers, David's Bridal wants to marry the physical and online shopping experiences. Its chosen venue: social media. But rather than simply tweeting and posting to customers, the company has launched a miniature online community of its own, designed to induce a bride-to-be to share personal information as she plans--and buys for--her big day.
Many retailers are experimenting with social capabilities, but whether customers participate depends on the kind of shopping they're doing, says Jenny Sussin, an analyst at Gartner.
Levi Strauss, for example, has integrated Facebook features into levi.com to let visitors see and buy specific jeans, jackets and other products their friends have liked. But trying to spark an online conversation based on particular products is tough, Sussin says. "Jeans are not aspirational to buy. There's not a lot to talk about."
The focal point of wedding shopping may be the dress, but the event involves zillions of details and related purchases, and the bride seldom makes these decisions alone. Brides generally want to share information about themselves, their budgets and their events, says Jerry Baklycki, director of interactive technology.
In the MyEvent application, a bride and her bridal party can post updates, discuss wedding products and services, build shopping lists and even pin images of products from other companies to pages at the site.
With customer permission, David's Bridal integrates the data with any files it has about the customers from store visits, so that when people come for appointments, sales agents already know their preferences, time tables and price points.
"She will be there for a couple of hours with mama and her girlfriends, trying stuff on. The more the store knows, the easier the experience will be," Baklycki says.
Then, mixing something old and something new, David's Bridal is pouring historical sales information into databases with current sales, social media, demographic and other data to better understand customer behavior.
Adding data from the social network to the mix will give the company insights that competitors don't have, he says. If eggplant-colored mother-of-the-bride dresses are on the upswing in the Midwest, for example, matching accessories ought to be stocked.
With an estimated 60 percent of brides in the United States already shopping at David's Bridal, the company wants to serve brides, but it also wants to grow relationships with the friends and families of those brides, so they will come back when it's their turn, Baklycki says.
Down the road, David's Bridal may analyze trends in the competitors' products that customers pin, looking for ideas for future products, Baklycki says. But the short-term goal, he says, is to show that David's Bridal puts customer wishes first and develop trust. "She's going to remember her wedding day forever. And us."
Kim Nash is a senior editor for CIO Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @knash99.